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Girl Against the Universe Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-The past few years have been hard on 16-year-old Maguire. She escaped injury in both the car wreck that killed three of her family members and the roller-coaster accident that injured two of her friends. Nor was she injured when a candle she left lit in her windowsill burned down the neighbor's house. Maguire believes she is a jinx. To cope, she has developed a litany of compulsive behaviors, not the least of which is isolating herself from other people lest she harm them inadvertently. When Maguire gets the opportunity to fly to Ireland to visit her deceased dad's family, she is determined to overcome her fears. Therapy and Jordy, a cute guy she meets at therapy, help her carry out her plan. A fledgling romance with Jordy, crippling emotional issues, a new town and school, and terrifying goals-this is a lot for Maguire (and readers) to manage. Throw in Jordy's reasons for needing therapy, and the story gets a bit dense in places. Still, teens will find in Maguire a compelling heroine. Her obsessive behaviors are depicted in convincing detail-the luck notebook she keeps, the periodic five-second checks she does of her surroundings, the ritualistic behaviors. Maguire's forays into wellness are anything but pat, giving her story additional credibility. The novel is written in first-person present tense, which may be distracting because it simply does not work in scenes such as the roller-coaster ride and the car wreck. VERDICT Teens who enjoy emotionally charged stories will appreciate this novel about resilience.-Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NCα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Maguire deals with PTSD, panic attacks, and other related mental illnesses, and a good portion of her story revolves around going to therapy and doing personal challenges to help her heal. I deal with severe depression and anxiety, and I’ve been to therapy many times, so I immediately felt a close connection to Maguire. What I didn’t expect was the way her healing and her mindset mirrors my own in many ways. Maguire is very self aware, often recognizing when her thoughts or thought patterns aren’t healthy, but still believing them on a level that strongly effects her. She feels an intense desire to control the space around her, which is horribly difficult because no one can control the Universe.
One of the ways Maguire’s story is so special is because of her willpower. There are many times she feels weak and scared, and there are many times she responds to those emotions in a negative way. However, she challenges herself to keep going. A method of therapy used in this book (which rings extremely true, as I’ve used similar techniques) involves setting a big goal and creating several steps (or even mini-goals) to work yourself up to being ready for the big one. This of course doesn’t mean that the accomplishment of the Big Goal will solve everything, and that there will be no more panic attacks or rough times. A prominent message for anyone with mental illness is that there will be good and bad days no matter what. Therapy can accomplish many things, one of which is restructuring your thought process and coping methods so that the bad days can be handled in a healthy manner.
As I’m still going through my own healing process, I had a resounding thought while reading Maguire’s story: This is it. This is what I want my own healing to look like. Healing is different for everyone, but what I find so meaningful in Maguire’s is the way she starts to work with her fear and slowly, very slowly, accepts both that she cannot control the Universe but also that the Universe can’t control her. Some days, I feel as powerful as Maguire is, ready to choose happiness and lean on my support system when necessary. Other days, I am Maguire hiding in her room, under the blankets with a book, knowing that one room absent of other people is far easier to control than the rest of the world. Either way, Maguire has without a doubt become a character that feels like a friend, one I will likely find myself turning to again and again when I need to.
Moving away from the mental health part of the story, and on a much lighter note, this book has one of the best romances I’ve read in a long time. Both Jordy and Maguire are working through their own issues, and they never let the state of their mental health rely solely on the other person. They support each other and encourage each other, but neither uses the other as a distraction or puts the weight on their happiness on him/her. Their flirting is adorable and goofy, and I officially declare Jordy as my Personal Book Boyfriend™. Maguire’s family is also a lovely part of the story, and her discussions with her stepdad are some of my favorite in the book.
Overall, Paula Stokes writes a forceful, compassionate, and hopeful story about a young woman who learns to meet the Universe on her own terms, as best she can.
I rarely read contemporary/romance books but I had heard so much about this book that I wanted to read this!
This book is about a teen struggling with believing she is bad luck, blaming herself for bad things happening that those around her and yet she walks away, the biggest - an accident that took the life of her brother, father and uncle.
Maguire sees a therapist and meets Jordy. And well, I won't say any more, you just need to read the book!
What I found extremely refreshing in this story is that Maguire has a supportive family - her mom, younger sister, an amazing step-dad (yes, you read that correctly, a step-dad that is amazing) and friends that really fit the definition of friendship. It also deals with mental illness in a very positive way!!!
This book took me on an emotional roller coaster and I still find myself thinking about this book, weeks after reading it!
*This review was posted on GoodReads in March. It can be found here: [...]