Author: Paula Stokes
Type: Young Adult
Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
Some people seem to have all the luck. They’re the ones who win sporting competitions with what looks to be no effort, always ace the test, receive two items out of the vending machine for the price of one, and find money lying on the side of the street. The average person has neither a high amount of good or bad luck, rather life that goes along as it’s going to. Then there’s Maguire, the protagonist of Paula Stokes’ newest young adult novel, Girl Against the Universe. Maguire is the poster child for bad luck for bad luck seems to follow her everywhere she goes like a faithful dog, despite all the good luck charms she buys and rituals she follows.
Maguire traces the start of her bad luck back to when she was a young girl and the sole survivor of a car crash that took the lives of her father, brother and uncle; a car accident which she walked away from with barely a scratch. Since the car crash, Maguire has managed to escape: food poisoning at a slumber party, a roller coaster going off its tracks and injuring the other riders and her neighbors house catching on fire. Having escaped all of these events with little to no damage to herself, Maguire has come to the conclusion that she is bad luck and needs to do all she can to limit other people’s exposure to herself.
With the start of the new school year, at a new school, Maguire finds herself trying to overcome her fears and experience more in life with the help of newfound friends, especially the ever stubborn Jordy who is convinced that he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak.
From the moment I receive an email with tracking information for the shipment of my Uppercase Box, it’s all I can do not to check the tracking of the box every hour. Having seen that my book subscription had been delivered to the mailbox one afternoon in May, I immediately jumped up and headed out the door to retrieve my package so as to discover what that month’s book would be. Having torn open the package and retrieved the book, I proceeded to read the description before even looking at the other items included with the book. As I read the book jacket, I was immediately intrigued and excited to read this book for I recognized that it was not only a unique story but that it would make one think about the different ways humans find to cope after tragedy.
Unlike Maguire, I have never been the sole survivor of a car accident, been in a roller coaster crash, attended a slumber party where everyone but me got food poisoning and I’ve never had my neighbors house catch on fire. I have however been in a restaurant eating lunch when there was a gas leak and the building exploded with myself and others still inside. Like Maguire, I walked out of the building physically unharmed, while others who had been in the restaurant did experience injuries and have to be taken to the hospital. Reading of Maguire’s experiences and the resulting survivor’s guilt and anxiety in public places which resulted, I found that I was able to empathize and even relate to many of the feelings Maguire was dealing with. It was because of similar shared feelings following a tragedy that I enjoyed the book as much as I did, even going so far as to read the book cover to cover in one sitting.
Just like attending therapy for myself following my own experience helped me to learn to cope with and deal with what I lived through, Paula Stokes’ book also helped with my ever continuing healing process. It helped to remind me that I will never forget what it was like to be in that situation and to think back on the what ifs; to have moments of anxiety when I experience something that reminds me of the sights, sounds or smells of the explosion; and that to still dream about and occasionally have flashbacks to that day are normal and part of the healing process. Girl Against the Universe reinforced that despite the horrific memories that with the help of family and friends, I can continue to not only move forward, but that I don’t have to fear that anytime I leave the house I’m going to have a similar experience. It’s okay for me to eat in restaurants, it’s okay for me to be in public places, and not every work crew I see is going to mistakenly cut the gas line and cause an explosion.