Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
HarperTeen | May 17th, 2016
Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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 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.
Imagine being overcome with fear at the thought of being in public; or going through the motions of making sure there are no hazards before starting any tasks – even menial ones. Imagine believing in every superstition that would prevent any possible disasters that could happen to those around you. Imagine such a life.
Maguire Kelly lives that life day in and day out. The accident that took the lives of her father, brother and uncle was only the beginning of all the bad things that made her believe she was cursed. There was also the roller coaster incident, the sleep-over incident, and the neighbour’s house burning down incident. Ever since then, she isolated herself from people; convinced she’s the harbinger of bad fortune. She walks around with a journal chronicling every single incident that she blames herself for.
Maguire lives a sad, lonely life.
During her therapy session, she meets a boy who would help her with some of the challenges she’d set out to do. And as she learns to deal with her fear, she’ll learn that courage comes from accepting things that she can’t control.
I used to be so terrified of sleeping when I have a headache. I always think – what if I have a brain aneurysm? What if I don’t wake up? I would fight it off and refused to take any aspirins. I would lay there wide awake, thinking of what would happen should I die. What would my husband do? Would he get married right away? What would happen to our kids? Will they forget about me? My thoughts processes would just snowball from there. So I can relate to Maguire (to some extent). I know what it’s like to be overcome with fear – irrational, though as they may be. I can’t even begin to imagine what she goes through every day. The amounts of checks and double checks she must do to placate and silence her fears. And to live a very lonely life because you think you’re doing the world a favour. My heart went out to her.
Thankfully, Maguire had herself a very good support system. The people around her understood her, love her, and made sure she was comfortable with whatever she was doing. I especially love her family – her mother whom, although would seem a little out of touch with her daughter’s needs at first, was there for her anytime she needs it. Her adorable half-sister who adores her unconditionally. Her step-father who only ever wanted to be a part of her life. And of course, her small circle of friends.
Paula Stokes’ portrayal of a girl suffering from a number of mental illness was very well done. Maguire realistically showed us what it would be like to live with that kind of trauma that led to her obsessive compulsion. I easily identified myself suffering the same kind of irrational fear from time to time. Sometimes, I get this feeling that I left my boy in the car, so I would check to make sure even though I know for sure I didn’t.
Maguire is also a positive role model even though she’s a little broken. She’s got a great attitude despite everything. She showed great courage and faced every single challenge head on. And the presence of a supportive family structure is wonderful and almost rare in YA.
Overall, I’m so glad I finally read this book. The thought of missing out on this great story is unthinkable. I love the tentative and gradual romance between Maguire and Jordy. They both had issues to work through so I’m glad they both realized how important it was to resolve those first before anything. Girl Against the Universe is wonderful, tender and very sweet. It’s about a girl’s courageous attempt to live a fearless life. Triumph is the sum of small braveries and Maguire is the perfect example of why we should never quit.