O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  THERE'S A THING THAT sometimes happens in your brain when you're the only survivor of a horrific accident. Part of you is happy because you're alive, but the rest of you is devastated. Then the sad part beats up the happy part until nothing is left, until all you feel is terrible sorrow for the people who didn't make it. And guilt. Guilt because you wonder if the Universe made a mistake. Guilt because you know you're not any better than those who died.

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

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“People keep telling me that time heals all wounds, but it's been almost five years and I can't even make a scab grow.” 


It takes a lot for a contemporary to jump out at me from the shelf. GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE was this month's lucky winner! I'd just finished reading anther contemporary (DEFENDING TAYLOR by Miranda Kenneally, which I'll be reviewing on tour this Thursday!), and I wanted to read another. Both books featured sports, which I liked, because there aren't enough sports in YA, yet there are so many readers who want them there. 

When I received GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE for review asking with some other titles, it wasn't at the top of my TBR. I'd never even heard of it. Mary from Mary Had A Little Book Blog said it was one of her favorite books of the year so far, so I bumped it up my stack. When I was deciding on my next read, I looked at Jaime from The Perpetual Page Turner's Top Ten Tuesday and saw that the book was on her list of 2016 favorites as well. 

It was a beautiful, sunny day. I wanted to eat some ice cream, then sit outside with a contemporary book. I narrowed it down to two orange books that screamed contemporary with a splash of sunshine:

You can guess the winner! (I'm reading the runner-up now, actually!)

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE centers around a girl named Maguire who believes that she's incredibly unlucky and that the Universe hates her. Five years ago, she was the sole survivor of an accident that took her father, uncle, and brother. Then, she was barely injured after a freak roller coaster accident. She was the only one without food poisoning at a sleepover party. She left a lit candle by the window and burned the neighbor's house down. Maguire tries to keep to herself so that nobody else can be injured by her bad luck. Now, her family wants her to take a cross-continental flight to a fifth anniversary memorial service....but she's afraid she'll cause a plane crash. She's working with her therapist to branch out and start living. Living means caring, though, and Maguire is afraid she'll destroy the new people in her life.

GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE isn't the light, fluffy read its splashy orange cover suggests, but it still had a lot of fun and lightness in it. It's a good mix of somber and cheery, and is a great summer read. It's about family. About friendship. About first relationships. About discovering yourself. About so much more!

The first few chapters revolve around Maguire's therapy sessions with her therapist, which doesn't sound interesting, but becomes such an important aspect of the story. Most teens think therapy is a punishment. They don't want to talk to someone. Maguire feels this way at first, too, but then you can really see how therapy and her goals help her begin to heal. It's a great look at therapy that makes it so much less scary, and will really resonate with so many teens facing their own uncertainties. The therapy sessions also lead to goal lists, and contemporary novels that revolve around checking things off a list are always popular and fun!

I also really like the way the book isn't ABOUT the accident, since it's been five years, but about learning to move on now that you've come to terms with what happened and are living again. Not enough books take place in this time period, and it will resonate with so many.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the sports aspect. Especially because it's focused around tennis, which isn't a sport you see as frequently in books outside of something to do on a lark on your trip to the country club. This is competitive tennis, and that's awesome! Through her rediscovery of tennis, Maguire finally begins to make friends, to be brave, to try new things. She needed tennis in her life, and I'm so glad her therapy seasons helped push her toward it!

There are so many great things that bring a powerful message to GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE, and one that a lot of teens need access to! Definitely a great contemporary read  this summer!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 ( kissing; a make-out scene on a bed that doesn't go further, though a parent does get upset )
Language: PG13 ( A text about not being a girl who sleeps around--who hasn't even been kissed, a comment about a boy who used to hook up at parties. I think the "worst" words I saw were bitch and shit. Other than these three lines, I didn't notice anything major, just a few one-offs of innuendo here and there that will go over young heads! )
Violence: PG ( A car accident and a roller coaster accident; not super graphic )
Other:  PG ( PTSD fueled by survivor's guilt; visits with a therapist )

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

If you take the cover off this one, you get a really cool surprise:

The tennis court lines are hiding here!!! And they align with the lines on the dust jacket!!!

Pretty cool, right?

This cover is bright and cheerful, perfect for the summer. It screams, "Take me outside to read!" Perfect for a book that features tennis.

I also really like the way that three fonts were used for the title, pitting GIRL....well, against UNIVERSE! It's pretty perfect!!!

I also like that the girl on the cover is next to a tennis racket and has some tennis balls scattered around her, because it will appeal to sports fans. There aren't enough sports in YA! I also like that the girl is at rest right now and not actively playing, which shows that it's not just a book about tennis. Plus, that open book beside her? Well, maybe she's a dreamer?

It's definitely an intriguing cover.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Paula Stokes
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: For Review

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 rollercoaster 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 meeting 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 is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.