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The (Un)Luck Of The Irish

The main character of Paula Stokes’ Girl Against the Universe might be the unluckiest girl in the word, or she might just have some growing to do.

The (Un)Luck Of The Irish

BOOK REPORT for Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Cover Story: Clay Court Drams
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Play the Game
Bonus Factors: Irish Names, Tennis
Relationship Status: Spring Fling

Cover Story: Clay Court Drams

Although I have to giggle at the “woe is me” dramatic placement of the girl on this cover, I really like it, on the whole. I’ve recently become obsessed with watching handlettering videos on Instagram, and so the title really speaks to me. And illustrations are better than stock photos, any day.

The Deal:

Since a car crash five years prior in which Maguire Kelly was the sole survivor (out of herself, her father, her older brother, and her uncle), Maguire has felt cursed. She possibly could have chalked the one accident up to a terrible twist of fate, but then there was the roller coaster crash, the food poisoning at a sleepover, etc.

Now, Maguire’s not so much afraid of living life as she is causing those around her harm. So she stays in her room and shuts herself away from the world as much as possible. But then her mom comes to her with a dream vacation, and Maguire must force herself—finally—onto the path to healing. And it doesn’t hurt that she finds some (good looking) help along the way.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

Maguire is a broken girl. She feels like the universe is out to get her, and no matter what she does, it’ll end up badly and hurt others. In the five years since the crash, she’s become a shell of herself, preferring the company of books to people. While I certainly can’t blame her for loving books as much as she does, Maguire’s not an ancient hermit. She’s a young woman with a lot of great qualities, and it’s a total shame to see her so hidden away from the world. She might find it hard to believe me if I told her that she’s not as unlucky as it seems, but I would certainly try my hardest to help her regain her love of life.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

The first time Maguire and her suitor in Girl Against the Universe meet, it’s a total Meet Cute, one of those random incidents that proves—at least to me, the reader—that the universe wasn’t as out to get Maguire as she thought. I worried at first that it was going to be a little too instalove to really be swoony in the end, but, thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Talky Talk: Play the Game

I’m admittedly not very familiar with the game of tennis, but I do know that it’s a game that features long stretches of steady back and forth play punctuated by even more intense moments of action. Girl Against the Universe (which isn’t all about tennis, I promise), follows that pattern. The book is a steady back and forth of Maguire’s struggles with her personal issues with PTSD, OCD, and grief, and attempts from people outside her bubble to be involved in her life. It’s punctuated by intense moments of relationship and family drama or meaningful moments of growth. And yet, it’s a bit of a fluffy read, and I read it in one evening. In Girl Against the Universe, Paula Stokes has done a great job of mixing serious shizz with the softer side of life.

Bonus Factor: Irish Names

Maguire Kelly is definitely an Irish name, and—as a person of more than half Irish descent with family members named Padraig, Nuala, and Mairead (and the maiden name of Murray)—it was fun reading about a character with a pretty unusual name who had ties to the same kind of ancestry that I do.

Bonus Factor: Tennis

One of the ways Maguire challenges herself is trying out for the tennis team at her new high school. I don’t know a lot about tennis, nor do I know a lot of tennis terms, but it certainly felt like Stokes did a proper job of portraying the sport. (Please feel free to let me know if this assumption is wrong.)

Casting Call:

Eve Hewson as Maguire

(Bono's daughter!)

Relationship Status: Spring Fling

I thought I might be in for a bit of a downer when we first got together, Book, but I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet you actually were. You’ve got some growing to do, but I see good things in your future, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it, at least for the short time we spent together.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Harper Teen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Girl Against the Universe is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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