Joint Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Marianne’s Review:

I have read other Paula Stokes books before, but I have to admit, that I think this one is my favorite. And when I say “favorite”, I mean one of my all-time favorites.

Girl Against the Universe tackles the topic of mental illness so refreshingly well. While other mental illness books are sad and have sometimes tragic outcomes, this book is very upbeat and fun. For the record, I’m not saying that sad books are bad, but sometimes you’re just in the mood for pure quirky fun, and that’s exactly what GATU does.

I’ve said this plenty of times in regards to this book, so I’ll say it again. This book seems to meet every single demand I have when reading books about mental illness:

  • Relatable Protagonist
  • Strong Family Presence
  • Strong Relationships
  • Non-Dependent Romance

I think the fact that Maguire’s visits to the psychologist were an integral part of the story made the book that much better. It’s important for people with mental illness to know that therapy isn’t something to be ashamed of, and this book does exactly that.

Maguire has a wonderful relationship with her family, one that grows and transforms as the book [and herself] progresses. I loved that so much. I even teared up at certain parts, because they were so well written and heartfelt.

There’s no slut shaming, no rivalry, no instalove. The romance in this book isn’t a “you love me so now I’m cured” kind of romance; it’s much more than that. The characters support each other to get better, and try to make each other understand that illness isn’t a defect.

Reading Girl Against the Universe will truly change your life. It’s a perfect summer read, a perfect rainy day read, a perfect read for any moment. It’s utterly engrossing; you’ll be well into half of the book before you realize it. Definitely pick this up!


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Jennifer’s Review

Before Girl Against The Universe, I had not yet read any books by Paula Stokes. But after this, I’m reading every single thing she does because her writing here was simply that good. The way the book was, it reminded me of K.A. Tucker’s book Ten Tiny Breaths but in YA.

Both of these books tackled the topic of mental illnesses in a way that shed light into this taboo that society sees as something bad and doesn’t require therapy. Mental therapy is an important part of a person’s health as much as checking a broken bone or stomach pain with a doctor, and I enjoyed how uplifting and normal it looked in this book. Many think that a “shrink” makes you a crazy person, but it’s quite the opposite. They are there for a reason, after all.

Maguire from the start was very relatable as well as a strong character but also someone with a vulnerability that doesn’t make her weak, but stronger as a person as the story progresses. Her interaction with the other characters was amazing for many reasons, so let me make a list here:

  • No slut-shaming
  • No back-stabbing double-faced “friends” to thicken plot
  • Present and supportive parents
  • Not clingy or fantasy romance

I am trash for romance. It’s probably one of the main things I look for in books and movies (though not always). Maguire’s and Jordy’s romance was slowly built with trust and mutual understanding, plus they supported each other with their problems. There wasn’t a delusion that their love was strong enough to conquer PTSD or any other mental things. It wasn’t toxic but sweet and real.

I have read a few books that have serious themes and are often sad or bittersweet, which is okay because sometimes it can be like that. But Paula Stokes made this book into something that transcended that by giving us a gem that will make you smile when characters become vulnerable and connect, when someone reaches a goal, and when we see our main character go through her many hardships and struggles as a winner. I’m glad I read this. This is a book for everyone to enjoy. 

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