Blog Tour: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, realistic fiction
Format/Source: ARC, from the author
Status: standalone

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Irish Banana Tours

Maguire is 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 the rollercoaster 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 meeting 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 is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.

asdfjkl; This is one of those moments when my brain doesn't want to brain and put together an actual review because, I'm being totally honest here, how on earth do I review a book as phenomenal as The Girl Against the Universe?? Seriously, I don't know.

Okay, so let's break it down. First of all, obviously, YAY for the positive portrayal of therapy/characters taking care of their mental health. Not only do both Maguire and Jordy willingly participate in their therapy sessions, both sets of parents encourage and support them in this undertaking. The only way mental health is going to lose its stigma is if all people are supportive of the efforts others make to take care of themselves mentally. As someone who did see a psychiatrist for a couple years when I was younger, I think Paula did a fantastic job portraying realistic therapy sessions. I appreciate that Dr. Leed was not a flat character, but a dynamic complex side character with a life outside of the main plot, and I love the way he challenges Maguire but also helps her when things don't go as well as planned.

10/10, would read again for both Maguire's mom and stepdad. YA contains stories of teens growing and developing and reaching for independence, but I still appreciate when parents in YA are still active participants in the main characters' lives. I know it's not always the case because families can be very different, but my parents were a huge part of my daily life up until I moved to Dallas, and I was TWENTY FOUR when that happened (granted, there were breaks because college, but still). I like that Maguire, who has had some really crappy things happen in her life, has adults in her life to provide support, advice, and love. I'm sure Maguire's mom is frustrated and even disappointed when things aren't going well. I'm sure she's thought "not again," but she NEVER takes it out on Maguire. She never voices those thoughts and never allows Maguire to feel like things are her fault. And Tom. TOM. Best stepdad in all of YA-dom period dot end of paragraph the end forever (okay, Emily's stepdad in Nowhere But Here is also amazing, but still. TOM <3). So there's this one scene in GATU where Tom and Maguire have a chat, and holy sweet baby kangaroos, it's the most adorable scene of all time. Those of you who have read it KNOW which one I'm talking about, and those of you who haven't read GATU yet, trust me when I say you need to read this scene because it's Important and Full of Feels. Here's an awesome quote THAT I LOVE:

"She's [Maguire's mom] not the only one who has me, okay? I know your therapist has you completing specific challenges to help you [Maguire's goal in the book]. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know." - Tom, Girl Against the Universe, page 301

Like, seriously, could you die because I totally could. Not only does Tom love Maguire's mom and the two children they have together, he loves and supports Maguire in all her undertakings. Not because he's obligated, but because he just does. YAY SUPPORTIVE PARENTS AND NON-PARENT ADULTS (because Coach Hoffman

As always, I am always blown away by Paula's ability to write Amazing Lady Friends. I am 100% here for kissing in YA, but I also love when female characters have at least one fantastic female friend. It's important! Jade is a breath of fresh air and keeps things light when Maguire feels really stressed out, and Penn is a character that I like but I would totally like to know more about (HINT HINT PAULA SPINOFF PLZ). I even don't mind Kimber much. She's ambitious and driven, and while she's not outright welcoming and bff-ish with Maguire, I can understand it. She's not a villain, and thank you, Paula, for not making her one. It's a cheap shot to make non-mc female characters the bad girl because she and the mc are fighting over a guy, and Paula never takes that easy way out. *high fives Paula*

As for Maguire and Jordy, well:

I'm not really in it for books where the characters NEED one another to change, where love and/or sex "save" one or both parties and suddenly life has meaning blah blah blah. But I do think Maguire and Jordy needed each other. Not for the romance, necessarily. I'd ship them even if things stayed platonic and friends is all they'd ever be. Jordy needed a girl who would treat him normally, like a regular teenage boy. Maguire needed someone, anyone, to show her the good things in life, even the small ones like ice cream and dolphins, and especially the big ones like roller coasters and tennis. They're sweet and funny and sassy and adorable together, but instead of lightning and electric tingles, Maguire and Jordy feel like that feeling you get when you're sun-drunk in the late afternoon of a beautiful day and everything feels squishy (in a good way) and warm. That's not to say the kissing isn't A++ because it totally is. They just feel so comfortable together. <3 <3 <3

I really really loved Girl Against the Universe. It's smart and funny and emotional. It'll make you think. It'll make you laugh. It'll make you cry. Well, you might not be a big crier, but I cried. I cried looking up that quote! It'll make you want to play tennis! (or just watch Wimbledon or something) Girl Against the Universe is exactly the kind of book we need more of in YA. If I'm not making sense now, here's the blurb I wrote for Paula a couple months ago. Past Mary was quite eloquent!

"An emotionally complex tale, Girl Against the Universe explores one teen's touching struggle with past trauma. Readers will laugh, cry, and root for Maguire as she fights to reclaim her life with the help of a dynamic supporting cast." - me

Book Buy Links:

Tour Schedule
Week 1:
5/16: Reading Teen - Review
5/17: In Love With Handmade - Deleted Scene
5/18: The Irish Banana Review - Review
5/19: Snuggly Oranges - Guest Post
5/20: Fiction Fare - Review

Week 2: 
5/23: Bookiemoji - Playlist
5/24: Mary Had A Little Book Blog - Review
5/26: Lili's Reflections - Review
5/27: Please Feed the Bookworm - Dream Cast

About the Author:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres.

When she's not working (rare), she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She's petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant's trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with Great White sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

Author Links:

1 - $25 B&N gift card, or in the event of an INT winner, choice of one book from The Book Depository or Wordery.
2 - Swag pack winners

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Seriously amazing review Mary! I adore Tom and his interactions with Maguire, even on my like 6th re-read they make me tear up!!

    1. Thanks, Pili! I'm so glad you're still loving the book after so many rereads! I definitely need to pick it back up again myself. Also, congrats on the cameo! ;)

  2. Great review! I frequently feel like I have a lot of bad luck, but I never feel like I'm bad luck to others. Thanks!

  3. Great review! I also love when an author can create characters who are friends and truly are meant to be friends. I've never read this author's work, but from you review, I think I'll love her writing skills.

    1. READ PAULA'S BOOKS! She's an incredibly talented writer, and her characters' relationships—familial, friendly, or romantic—are so very well written. Seriously, give her a shot. I bet you'll be hooked!