Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Total Pages: 382
No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.
It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.
I’ll admit, Girl Against the Universe wasn’t even on my TBR list until it showed up in my Uppercase box in May, at which point I felt obligated to read it. It had nothing to do with what this book was about (I actually can connect quite a bit with the anxiety and feeling like bad luck), had nothing to do with the author (I read Liars, Inc. and was totally into it), and it had nothing to do with the cover being unappealing (so much orange, and I love orange). It had EVERYTHING to do with the references to tennis that I knew were going to be in this book. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a tennis hater, I have so much respect and give mad props to people who are awesome at and enjoy tennis, but that just isn’t me. I tried to play tennis one time in college, and my roommate and I literally took up three courts because we were that erratic when hitting and chasing the ball. I just couldn’t get the hang of it and therefore never got into it. Anyways, I ended up picking this one up because I let my husband pick one from my shelf for me because I was undecided. After a very heavy groan, I cracked the book and went into it expecting to get really annoyed with the tennis talk and to not connect to the characters or the story because of it. HAH. I was wrong.
(Yes, Hermione, I was an idiot for judging this so hard for no reason whatsoever)
One of the biggest surprises that I got out of this book (besides being okay with the tennis references, of course) was how much I could relate to what Macquire was going through. Though I was nowhere near where Macquire was, at one point in my life I related to her feeling like a bad luck charm. When I was in high school, my best friend and I went through this phase where we literally referred to ourselves as “The Black Plaque” and told people that they shouldn’t be friends with us. Yes, I know teenagers are weird, but we had good reason! Long story short, within a span of a few months someone she was close to passed away, and then a short time later someone that I was close to passed away, and then she lost another person, and then I lost another person. Death is hard enough to deal with as a teenager, let alone SO MUCH DEATH. Though we ever got to the point that Macquire did where we were scared to do things or be around people, our feelings of being bad luck were serious, and we alienated ourselves for quite some time. Luckily for us, it never escalated out of control, and we eventually got over that grieving phase and let ourselves loose back into society, but I can remember how painful it was during that time, truly believing that somehow we had been cursed, because there was no other way to explain why we would be experiencing all these awful, awful things.
Another way that I can connect with Macquire is being unable to live life because she’s constantly terrified of the consequences. I’m not sure what happened to me, if anything, at some point in my life, but I’m CONSTANTLY living in fear, and it’s one of the biggest things that I dislike about myself. For example: I love dogs, even more than I love humans. I grew up with dogs, at one point my family had five dogs. I consider my dream job a place where I can get paid to cuddle with dogs, drink chai tea lattes, and read. Now I’m a grown up, I have my own place, and I don’t have a dog. Do you want to know why? Because I’m horrified of something bad happening. I can’t stand the thought of getting a puppy, loving it, and then losing it. I know it’s irrational, because I’m depriving a dog from a happy home and love, and I’m depriving myself, but I’m just so scared. I know bad things happen, and loss is inevitable, especially with dogs, but I can’t get past it. Like I said, I don’t know where this fear of anticipating bad things originated, but it’s something I’m working on. I’m trying to teach myself to live in the moment, to stop worrying about things that are out of my control, and I think I’m getting better. Though I was already aware of this in myself, reading this book reaffirmed the irrationality of being scared of the unknown, and helped me to again begin to focus on taking back my own life before it’s gone. When I put this book down, I wanted to throw a middle finger at my irrationality and go and buy a puppy (I didn’t, because my husband would have freaked… but I almost did)!
The above help explain why I enjoyed this book so much. Even for people who don’t connect quite at the level as I do with what Macquire is dealing with, the “take back your life” and “live your life for yourself” themes that are sprinkled throughout, these are good lessons for everyone. Alright, enough about me and why this book resonated with me so much… moving on!
I found all of the characters in the story quite likable. You would think that Macquire, given her “issues”, would have had more of a personality that pushed people away, but she was funny and seemed awesome to be around, even if she wasn’t trying to be. Jordy was just a swoon, so liking him was a given. One con that I have is that I wish there was more Jade and Penn, Macquire’s newly acquired friends. I think that they were very important to Macquire, her healing, and acceptance of herself and life, but Jordy got most of the credit for helping her. Jade and Penn got the shaft! I get that the story of falling in love is usually more fun to read than new friendships being built, but I thought Jade and Penn (freaking LOVE that name, by the way) were pretty damn awesome and I wish we got a little more of them.
To sum it up, I found Girl Against the Universe really enjoyable. It was a fast read with good lessons to learn, and I promise to never judge a book by its – uhhh – sports references, again!
Do you have any good luck rituals like Macquire?