Last weekend, I got bad dose of depression. It was hard for me to be productive during those days. All I kept on thinking was, "I need to get up and do my thesis manuscript" but I got stuck in bed, feeling hopeless about everything. Then, I decided to take a break and read. I picked up several books but none of them appealed to me that time... and then, I finally opened Girl Against the Universe, just because I thought the universe was against me.
The first chapter got me really hooked and I loved it from the start. Paula's writing style is fluent and gripping at the same time, one of the main reasons why I got hooked into the book. I previously enjoyed Stokes's Liars, Inc. that's why I was really looking forward to reading this book. Glad to say it didn't disappoint.
Maguire, the main character, thinks she's bad luck. A lot of bad things happened around her ever since her dad, brother, and uncle got killed from a car accident. Every bad thing that happened, she always get out unscathed, which led her to believe that she brings bad luck to people. She shut herself out from the world, while also trying to help herself by seeing a therapist, until she met Jordy.
Jordy is an aspiring tennis star, who's also got his own problems. He's always been pressured by his family to focus on tennis and his academics. So when he met Maguire, he's determined to take a breather, help Maguire in tennis and prove to her that she's not bad luck as she thought she was.
The book is actually better than what I expected. Sports might be a typical part of a YA novel set in high school, but there are only a few that nails it perfectly and this book is one of them. It might actually be the first book I've read which features tennis and it's pretty refreshing to read.
“How can something feel so crucial in the moment and then seem completely trivial after the fact?”
The characters are easy to get into. Maguire's thoughts are very interesting to read and it was easy to follow her. She's definitely relatable, also considering my mind's state at the time I was reading the book. It actually helped me figure out my own thoughts as well. Maguire is very smart, vulnerable yet strong. Her inner conflicts are easy to understand considering her background. Her determination and courage are just some of her most admirable traits. I also love reading about Jordy. He's very very very sweet and easy to love. I think he possesses traits which can lead to people labelling him as the cliche male lead, but really, I think we all need a cliche in our lives sometimes. Actually, the only cliche thing I could see from him is that he's the sporty rich guy that hooks up with girls (which turns out to be a stinky rumor by the way), running in for the pro leagues. Jordy turns out to be this multi-faceted character that I learned to love and I really appreciated his character. Another thing I appreciate is the chemistry between Maguire and Jordy. I do believe I squealed "JOOOOOOOOORDDDDYYY" many times throughout the book, everytime Jordy was being super adorable.
The other characters in the story are perfect fits and they create a balance in the story. I do believe that no character has been left behind in the story. Penn, Jordy's younger sister, is also a tennis player and I do love her character so much. She's that cool younger sister who can be sarcastic and adorable at the same time. Same goes for Jade, Maguire's best friend and fellow tennis player.
The tackling of issues such as death and mental health is really impressive. I think that this book stands far out from Paula Stokes's other novels. She was able to write a book that perfectly depicts a teenager who's trying to help herself overcome something big and traumatic. I also loved how healthy and positive the friendships and family relationships were depicted in the story. Maguire's stepdad, Tom, really surprised me. This is actually the first time I've read a book wherein the main character and the step-parent has a good relationship. It might have started a bit shallow, but I loved seeing it grow. They actually got me teary-eyed. Maguire also has an excellent relationship with her mom and her step-siblings.
Overall, this book is really enjoyable to read. It contains complex characters, healthy family relationships, strong friendships and most importantly, it presents hope. Hope that will make us think that everything is going to be okay even if it seems like the universe is against us. I definitely recommend this book!