Girl Against the Universe: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Girl Against the Universe by Paula StokesMaguire is cursed.

It all started when her brother and father died in a car crash that left Maguire without a scratch. Then there was the time a roller coaster jumped its tracks. And Maguire was fine. Everyone at a sleepover was hit with food poisoning. Except Maguire. Before their latest move, the house next door caught fire. Because Maguire had left a candle burning on her windowsill.

Maguire tries to mitigate her bad luck with dozens of good luck charms and rituals. She also checks her surroundings for accident potential and tries to stay away from other people to limit the damage. She won’t drive anywhere with her stepfather or stepsister because she’s terrified of hurting them. Even driving with her mother is a cause for slight panic.

Talking through her curse in therapy, and hoping to get past her fears so that she can visit family in Ireland, Maguire tries to make some plans to change her luck. Jordy, a lucky (cute) tennis star, is sure that he can help even as Maguire worries that her bad luck will rub off on him.

Maguire is used to keeping to herself and trying to survive alone. But as she gets to know Jordy and makes other friends, Maguire starts to realize that there’s more to life than just surviving in Girl Against the Universe (2016) by Paula Stokes.

Stokes balances Maguire’s genuine grief with bright moments of humor. Although Maguire is understandably frustrated by the limitations on her life because of her bad luck, she is still shown as a capable and strong heroine throughout. She reads a lot. She is well-versed in survival practices (forewarned, is forearmed). She’s athletic with a love of rock climbing and, as she discovers during the novel, has potential as a promising tennis player. Maguire’s own belief in the curse is never ridiculed. Her family and friends all try to convince her that she is suffering from survivor’s guilt (not a curse) but they also respect Maguire’s concerns.

Both Maguire and Jordy see a therapist in Girl Against the Universe and these scenes are informative and thoughtfully portrayed as Maguire works with her doctor to figure out how she might conquer some of her bad-luck-related fears with small, practical steps building toward her dream of flying to Ireland.

Maguire’s growth as a character is highlighted throughout the novel with her therapy, her growing support system as she gets to know Jordy and other new friends, her changing dynamic with her family, and her time playing tennis as part of her school’s team.

Girl Against the Universe is an unexpected and delightful contemporary novel. A funny, heartfelt, and ultimately optimistic read. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Tumbling by Caela Carter, Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti, Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt, Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider, My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne, Lucky in Love by Kasie West, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

The Art of Holding On and Letting Go: A Review

The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley LenzCara Jenkins is a nationally ranked competitive climber. Homeschooled by her mountaineer parents, Cara has always felt at home on rock faces and cliffs. When disaster strikes during a climb in Ecuador, Cara’s carefully ordered world is completely upended.

While her parents struggle to move on in Ecuador, Cara finds herself living with her grandparents in Detroit and entering a traditional high school for the first time.

Determined to give up climbing in her grief, Cara will have to figure out who she is on the ground as she makes new friends, discovers first love, and tries to figure out how to move past the one climb that changed everything for her and her family in The Art of Holding On and Letting Go (2016) by Kristin Bartley Lenz.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Art of Holding On and Letting Go is Lenz’s first novel.

Cara is a thoughtful and methodical narrator with a voice that is as measured as her rock climbing paths at the start of the novel. Lenz expertly conveys the world of rock climbing and complex terminology while expanding Cara’s world with her move to Detroit.

While this story starts with a tragedy, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go is ultimately hopeful as Cara learns that there are many ways to find her place and leave her mark on the world.

Possible Pairings: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes