Shattering Stigmas: Jamie at Books and Ladders’ Review of Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Welcome to the tenth day of Shattering Stigmas! From now until October 22 I’ll be highlighting voices from the book community on mental health. I’m co-hosting this event with Taylor from Stay on the Page, Shannon from It Starts at Midnight, and Amber from YA Indulgences so make sure to check their blogs out each day to see different content.


Title: Girl Against the Universe
Author: Paula Stokes
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 382

Content Warnings: death of family, survivor’s guilt, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), hospitalization

This post does contain affiliate links. I will receive a small amount from any purchases made through Book Depository at no extra cost to you.

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.

Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

I pre-ordered GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE because I had heard such EXCELLENT things about it from some trusted reviewer friends. And there was a great pre-order incentive for some signed swag so that was an added bonus! BUT THE BOOK WAS SO AMAZING THAT I WANT TO BUY IT A BILLION MORE TIMES AND JUST HAND IT OUT TO RANDOM PEOPLE WALKING DOWN THE STREET. The main thing about this one that I liked was that it looked at risk and taking chances and how your mind can play tricks on you but that shouldn’t stop you from moving forward.

The main reason I wanted to read this one is because it deals with a girl who has a mental illness and is trying to get better. Tick all those boxes and you’ve got me tbh. Maguire has a traumatic past and this causes her mental illnesses to come to the forefront and as events in her life occur, it just tacks on to what her beliefs are. And while she in theory knows it is a mental illness, that doesn’t mean that she still doesn’t have problems. So she goes to therapy to get help so she can conquer her fears and really live life.

Good aspect #1 of a billion: Positive. Therapy. Depiction. Way too often in media therapy is seen as something “bad” or that the character doesn’t actually get help from the therapist because they know themselves so much better or the therapist doesn’t really care about the character and is just in it for the money. But that wasn’t the case in GATU which I LOVED IT FOR. Maguire’s doctor was invested in her life, her goals, and made sure that she was doing things for herself and not just for other people. He helped her take baby steps and larger leaps but was there to support her no matter what — and even ensured she got in to see him when she had an emergency. POSITIVE THERAPY FTW.

Good aspect #2 of a billion: While Maguire and Jordy did things to help one another to be stronger, they were also focused on doing things for themselves. They didn’t need to spend 24/7 together or be constantly in touch, they just wanted to do what was best for the other person — even if it meant some tough decisions for themselves. Maguire and Jordy were supportive of one another, allowed each other to take the steps they needed to cross off their therapy goals, and also pushed each other to do more than they were anticipating. They had such a healthy relationship. I love Maguire and Jordy.

Good aspect #3 of a billion: Maguire. She did things for herself, asked her friends for help when needed, and made sure she was doing right by herself. She also grew so much as a character in terms of how she interacted with people and the risks she took, but she had the courage to do so deep down all along. I liked that she knew her limits and didn’t push herself — and that no one forced her to push herself — but she still was able to do the things she wanted, even if it was really hard. Plus, she realized that not everything is solved in a day and that no matter what she will still have some issues to work out but she KNOWS she can do it now. I cry happy tears for Maguire.

I would have liked just a tad bit more from the side characters, especially Kimber. I think she had a good dynamic with Jordy and that Maguire could have spent more time with her to understand her POV. She was kinda added in as a mean character with more depth because she cared about Jordy as a person rather than a player. I also would have liked more Jade and Penn because they were there and involved in Maguire’s life and I just wanted more about what made them tick.

I LOVED that everyone was super supportive of Maguire and her issues and that no one rolled their eyes or told her to suck it up. I loved how understanding everyone was and that they did what they could to make it easier for both Maguire and Jordy. If you are looking for a book that will lift your spirits up high and make you soar among the clouds, GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE is the book for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to buy the rest of Paula Stokes books.


Jamie is a 20-something blogger from Ontario, Canada who loves to read, binge watch TV shows, and play video games in her spare time. She can be found in the wilds of Windsor-Essex County, but mostly stays in her apartment curled up with a cup of tea and a good book.

You can find her talking about books on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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