ARC Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

ARC Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Girl Against the Universe
by Paula Stokes

Genres: Contemporary, Mental Illness, Young Adult
Publication date: May 17th, 2016
by Harperteen

Format: ARC


Amazon | Book Depository

Maguire knows she’s bad luck. 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 her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Girl Against the Universe is a clear indication of how much Paula Stokes has grown as an author since The Art of Lainey came out. I really liked The Art of Lainey and I loved Liars, Inc but Girl Against the Universe was a phenomenal novel and one I am proud to claim as a favorite of 2016. Through this novel, Stokes beautifully explores mental illness and grief. Also this novel is full of a lot of fucking emotions so please be prepared. I haven’t had such a strong emotional reaction to a book in a while. I spent a good chunk dry crying and PAULA STOKES, YOU ARE AMAZING.

I tend to be picky about books that deal with grief because I always feel like there is an element of ‘romance cures all’ but that didn’t happen in Girl Against the Universe. Jordy and Maguire share a therapist and thats how they meet. For the past couple of years, Maguire has avoided people because she thinks she is bad luck. She doesn’t meet Jordy and change overnight. In fact, she makes it clear that she won’t just get better by being friends with him. It’s a process that happens through therapy sessions, help from friends, conversations with parents and she is not magically cured ever.

Healthy depictions of therapy and parental relationships is one of the things that makes this book stand out in general but Maguire really steals the show. Her journey to accept this terrible tragedy that happened to her and her interaction with the people around her is amazing. The way she slowly starts to heal and learns to seek help is SO IMPORTANT. I am probably going to phrase this terribly even though I am trying but I love the ways in which her mental illness is depicted. It is realistic and not at all seen as ‘quirky.’ There are people around Maguire who are genuinely worried about her and pay attention to her behaviour.

When your father and brother die, you don’t just magically heal. Even if it was years ago. The way Maguire deals with her grief is really what makes this book special to me. No one in my immediate family has passed away recently but this year has been full of a lot of death for several of my close friends which is why this book really hit home with me. The way Maguire deals with her grief is heartbreaking and honestly made me want to curl up in a ball and cry (and I mean, I did dry cry.) UGH. I am tearing up thinking about this book.

JORDY AND MAGUIRE ARE THE CUTEST COUPLE EVER. Their romance is slow burn and I LOVE that even though they like each other, they are friends before they are anything else. Especially since Maguire isn’t ready for a significant other at the beginning of the book (she has spent years avoiding people, so she definitely needs friends more than she needs significant others.) Jordy is just so precious and I LOVE that he respects Maguire but also calls her out when she does something inexcusable, hurts him or when she is making bad decisions.

Jordy is also a well developed character outside of his role as a friend/boyfriend. He has his own problems and I love that Stokes takes the time to explore those as well. Maguire may be the main character but Jordy is also important.

Basically, this is a wonderful book with well-written characters, heart-warming relationships and realistic explorations of grief and mental illness. Please read it?

Rating Report
Overall: 5
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Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).


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  1. says

    I am so glad I have an arc of this! By reading the synopsis, you have no clue that so much happens in the story, especially the death of her father and brother. I’m a little nervous about starting this, but only because I lost my brother 6 years ago and the emotions from the book would probably send me into a weeping fit, BUT this is what people that are still grieving need. I’m definitely picking this like ASAP, it seems like such a genuine story!

  2. says

    I am so excited for this one! It’s really great when authors get better and better at their craft, and it sounds like Paula Stokes is doing just that. Definitely going to have to give this one a try! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
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  3. says

    Woah, this book seems amazing. I’ve been hearing loads about it recently, and I want to read it so badly. I don’t usually go for books about grief, because often they’re not done well, or are just too emotional. This seems like a heartbreaking read, but so important too. I really want to read it, especially as it has such high praise from you, Rashika! Lovely review ♥

    Denise | The Bibliolater
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  4. says

    Wow, a full 5 Stars? This is already on my TBR since I love Stokes but I’m so glad that this book was just perfect for you in every way. Wonderful review, Rashika–I can’t wait to pick this one up and am especially glad to hear that the romance isn’t the type that magically cures all (seriously, what a terrible trope!).

  5. says

    Yep you convinced me in about 2 seconds of talking with you the other day that I needed to read this book, I’m so glad that I was still able to grab it. I do love my raw and realistic stories, but more so when real life issues are depicted well and it sounds like Stokes does a wonderful job with these characters. I for one can’t wait to meet them! Also I think I’ll have to get to The Art of Lainey straight after! Fab review darling! :)
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  6. says

    For whatever reason, with school and i stuff this new release by Paula Stokes did not make it on my radar and i’m terribly sad that it didn’t earlier. I’m so happy you had a wonderful time with this one because i love the synopsis and everything you said about it and can’t wait to begin reading it.

    I’m so thrilled that you felt the difficult subject of ‘grief’ was handled well in this book and that the romance didn’t suddenly cure the MC overnight. That’s definitely one of my pet peeves when it comes to books. Lovely review Rashika!

  7. says

    How much I love this cover. I enjoyed The Art of Lainey, though I had several issues with it. I’m so glad to hear you consider Girl Against the Universe as your favorite of 2016. I’m totally agree with you comment about ‘romance cures all’ in books about grieve, and it’s great that Paula Stokes didn’t go that road. Wonderful review, Rashika. I added this book.
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  8. says

    I’ve read some of Paula’s books but I have a feeling this is a little different. Mental illness is a serious issue and I loved how she portrayed it in a realistic light where readers can relate to it. I think more books should tackle issues like this and use it to help those who suffer from the illness to feel empowered and deal with each day with a positive mindset. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. says

    I LOVED this one so much too, Rashika. It’s my favorite book of the year so far. I loved what you said about the therapy and the family because you’re 100% right. It was explored beautifully and I loved that it was positive. And of course, the romance was the best. Jordy was so kind and understanding. I wanted to hug him and keep him for myself. Maguire was the star for me though. I was so happy to see her growth throughout the book and ugh, she’s so precious!
    Lovely review, Rashika! This review is the best!
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