“Girl Against the Universe” by Paula Stokes

Girl Against the Universe written by Paula Stokes

Published by: Harper Teen on May 17, 2016

Review Source: Publisher, Edelweiss

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Plot: Due to a set of freak occurrences Maguire now believes that she is cursed, bringing danger to all those around her.

Review: I had a really hard time with this one. The concept had SO MUCH potential. Want to read about a girl that keeps surviving random catastrophes? Yes. Want a little romance? Yes. Like Tennis? Not really, but I’m open to it. Did it work for me? Sadly, no. Here’s why (and maybe I’m a dirt bag for saying these things):

  • I hated the character names. The main protagonist’s name is Maguire Kelly. Nope. Her love interest is named Stanford Jordan Wheeler, but he goes by Jordy. He’s a budding tennis pro and is portrayed as this suave guy who is up to his armpits in girls. I’m sorry, but all I can see is Jody from Star Trek in tennis gear. This does not move me.
  • I dislike tennis more than I realized. I am not athletic and I don’t particularly enjoy sports stuff. However, it doesn’t really stop me from reading about them. I think the problem with one is that a) I felt zero excitement for her tennis struggles, and b) it felt like an overwhelming part of the book that came across as filler instead of relevant to the plot.
  • It all felt really dysfunctional. Maguire and Jordy meet at the therapist’s office which kicks of an insta-romance. As I was reading Girl Against the Universe, it felt like Stokes’ ultimate objective was to address how people cope with trauma. You see that Maguire struggles with making healthy choices, her setbacks, etc., which is reasonable enough considering what she has been through. Then you have Jordy, whose issues stem from his struggle to balance his budding tennis career with just being a teen. Basically, he wants more free time. The two of them are thrown into a relationship and use each other to get through therapy in twenty sessions or less. It just felt really shallow and unhealthy, with the implication that a new love interest can fix the trauma of have three people in your family killed in front of you. Mental illness is serious. It is also something that is shrouded in misconceptions and stigma. I felt like this book did less to propel the conversation forward in a healthy way, and more to support the unrealistic expectations that often plague the subject.

Does it have some redeeming qualities? Yes. Can it work better for you, than me? Yes, if you:

  • Enjoy neatly sewn up endings
  • You fangirled (or boyed) really hard for things like If I Stay or The Fault In Our Stars
  • Find tennis players or characters from Star Trek attractive.

Ultimately, I felt a bit let down. I think I would have liked this one more if Stokes had built up the “bad luck” suspense more and the tennis babble less. I hope others have better luck with it than I did.

Rating: (2.5, but I round up) 3 out of 5 stars

Who Should Snag It: Fans of tennis and light romance will connect with this one.

*I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*

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