Paula Stokes’s Girl Against the Universe is easily one of my favorites this year and one that has resonated with me the most.

Maguire Kelly is a seventeen-year-old who feels like the universe is against her. After surviving a car accident that killed her father, uncle and brother, she feels like she brings bad luck wherever she goes. A series of bad experiences, including a roller coaster crash and accidentally burning her neighbors house down due to an unattended candle, has only added to Maguire’s anxiety. To keep herself on track, she keeps a luck journal to document her experiences and does luck rituals every day. When an opportunity comes to visit her grandmother in Ireland, Maguire decides to try to take back her life by making a list of goals that she wants to do, with the help of her psychiatrist.

As part of her first step, Maguire decides to try out for the tennis team at her new high school. It’s there she meets Jordy Wheeler, a tennis star, and discovers that he has the same psychiatrist. The two of them become friends and end up helping each other out in unlikely ways.

I related to Maguire right away. I played tennis during my junior and senior years in high school, so the tennis tryout scenes felt very familiar. Part of my heritage is Irish, as is Maguire’s.

When it came to Maguire’s anxiety, that’s where I felt the most connected to her. I struggled with anxiety throughout high school and college. I sometimes felt like I wanted to control certain parts of my life, and wanted to stop bad things from happening. I also went to see a psychologist, as Maguire does. Maguire’s decision to try something new reminded me of my decision to study abroad during my junior year of college, wanting to make a change in my life. More about that can be read here.

I love that Paula Stokes was able to capture the experience of having anxiety so realistically and wasn’t afraid to show the effects it can have on one’s lifestyle; the constant struggle it can be. I definitely recommend this book, as it’s an accurate portrayal of something serious that affects millions of people every day, all over the world.

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