“Once I accepted the fact that I was bad luck, I shied away from group activities. And groups. And activities. I started spending a lot of time in my room, tucked under my covers reading books. There’s only so much damage a book can do, and I wasn’t worried about hurting myself. Accidentally hurting yourself is way better than hurting other people.
Sure, I got lonely for a while. But getting invited to slumber parties just wasn’t worth the stress of wondering if I might accidentally burn down the house with my flat iron or be the only survivor of a freak sleepover massacre. And loneliness is just like everything else—if you endure it long enough, you get used to it.”
Maguire has always had bad luck – she was in a car accident with her father, brother, and uncle after rock climbing one day, and she was the only survivor (she walked away without a scratch). Soon after, she was on a roller coaster when it careened off the tracks. Then she accidentally left a candle burning in her window, causing a fire. Since then, Maguire is convinced that she is pure bad luck, and her anxiety and PTSD causes her to spend a lot of time alone in her room, doing her “five second checks,” where she makes sure there aren’t any impending disasters, and refusing to go anywhere with lots of people (or even in a car if she isn’t the driver). It’s at these therapy sessions that she runs into Jordy.
Jordy is the boy that comes in after her for therapy sessions, and the two of them strike up small conversations here and there. Since Maguire seems to be the only person Jordy has met that doesn’t know who he is (a well known tennis player), Jordy uses that to his advantage and enjoys the time he can spend with someone who isn’t a swooning fan. When Maguire starts back up in school and tries out for the tennis team, she is shocked with it turns out that Jordy will be helping coach the team for the season. While the other girls find him attractive and would love the attention that he is giving Maguire, she convinces herself to stay far away from Jordy – for his own good.
However, as Maguire keeps attending her therapy sessions and spends more time with Jordy, she beings to tackle things she never thought she would be able to do again – riding in a car with him, going places with other people – all part of her therapy plan to work up to a plane trip to Ireland with her mother at the end of the year.
As Maguire starts to fall for Jordy, she begins to discover things about herself and the world around her, and she starts to see that maybe she isn’t such bad luck after all.
I really enjoy books that manage to tackle real issues – such as anxiety in PTSD in this case – and write a beautifully detailed story about what it is really like to live with these conditions. The way Girl Against the Universe is written really allows you to get access to Maguire’s deepest fears, feelings, and accomplishments, and feel all of those emotions right along with her. Jordy isn’t your average YA cookie-cutter boyfriend either – he has a strong personality and is very easily likable. He’s encouraging to Maguire and he helps her with some of the more difficult tasks she faces – tasks that most people think nothing of (such as getting into a car with a friend). Even Jordy’s little sister, Penn, is wonderfully written and adds a lot of depth to the story.
I really enjoyed the moments that Jordy and Maguire shared in the beginning of the book, when they didn’t really know each other and spent a few minutes talking after Maguire’s therapy sessions. I loved how it wasn’t an insta-love situation – instead it took a while for them to really get to know each other, and even then, Maguire wasn’t sure she could handle a relationship, so they took things slow.
While I tend to stay away from really hyped-up books (I never enjoy them as much as everyone else seems to, and I always feel disappointed), this is a case where I feel that Girl Against the Universe deserves all the hype – and then some. It’s so realistic – Maguire didn’t instantly lose all of her fears and fall in love on the first page just because a boy talked to her – instead, she had to work to make even the most tiny of accomplishments, and because of that, the story didn’t feel fake or rushed. It really was nice reading about Maguire and watching her step in and take back her life.
This is definitely one of those books that you really should not miss. If you pick up some books for summer reading, let this be one of your choices. It’s raw, real, and it will leave a lasting impression on you.