Hey everyone! We’re so excited to have Paula join us today to share some secret stuff about her upcoming release, Girl Against The Universe… it arrives on May 17th and I was lucky enough to read and early copy and absolutely loved it (watch for my review soon!).
Here’s a bit about the book …Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Also by this author: Liars, Inc., Girl Against the Universe, This Is How It Happened, The Key To Everything
Published by HarperCollins on May 17th 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Friendship, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Maguire is bad luck.
No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.
It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.
From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.
Seven “Secret Messages” in Girl Against the Universe
Paula: Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain what I mean. No, if you read the book backward, it won’t tell you to worship me as a goddess. If you start on page three and read every third letter, it doesn’t say you should buy all my books. (Although, now that I’ve thought of that, I reserve the right to try it next time. Just kidding… probably ;D) What I mean by “secret messages” are things I hope readers of the book will pick up on, even though I didn’t spell them out or address them directly. It’s the ultimate “show, don’t tell.” Here we go.
First impressions are often incomplete or wrong.
We often make snap judgments about people. It’s psychology. It’s how our brain works. I’m not saying we’re all racist or sexist or anything, but there’s a reason people say first impressions are important. Maguire makes assumptions about everyone from her therapist to Jordy to his sister to the closest thing this book has to a “mean girl.” All of her initial thoughts are wrong or incomplete.
The needy one in the relationship is not always the girl.
I HATE the way women are portrayed as the whining, crying, demanding, stalking members of relationships. I dated a guy who got jealous if I spent a whole day with my family because he felt neglected. I dated a guy who creeped through my phone “just to see.” I dated a guy who threatened to kill himself if I broke up with him. [Sidebar: some of these guys are why I don’t care if I’m single forever.] In fairness, Maguire does a teensy bit of “online research” about Jordy, but she has good reasons and she later apologizes. Otherwise, throughout the book, Jordy is clearly portrayed as the needy member of this relationship.
It’s okay to enjoy being alone.
I like being alone sometimes and I don’t like being made into a freak for it. Since I like it, I assume there are others who like it too. Maguire spends a lot of time by herself because of her anxiety, but she also chooses to eat lunch by herself because she likes to have that time to read. If you want to eat lunch by yourself—at school, at work, in a restaurant—that is fine and it is normal. If you want to hang out by yourself, then you should do so. You do not have to explain why or apologize to anyone for needing time alone.
Not everyone drinks. Not everyone cares if you drink.
There is only one scene with alcohol in the book, but Maguire makes it clear she doesn’t drink. Kimber, the tennis team captain, also doesn’t drink. Both of these girls have their reasons, and it’s not because they’re fanatically religious or “good girls” or any other non-drinker stereotype. No one cares that they opt not to drink. In real life, most people aren’t going to care if you don’t either. When it comes to alcohol, the idea of “peer pressure” is way overblown. If you go to a party and don’t drink that means more booze for everyone else and that also you might be able to serve as a designated driver. It’s a win-win situation.
Girls can acknowledge their physical differences without being catty and envious.
I feel like girls get a bad rap, in movies especially, for feeling the need to compare themselves to other girls and then hate a girl who is thinner/prettier/whatever. Comparing, again, is psychology. We do it almost instinctively. But the bad feelings and envy part—that is not the default female response. Maguire notices the girls who are thinner than she is. She likes Jade’s hair and admires Kimber’s muscles. But she does so without needing to tack on a catty internal comment like, “I bet she has it professionally straightened” or “I bet she doesn’t even have to work out for that body.”
Rumors are often exaggerated. If you want the truth, ask the person in question.
There are rumors about a couple people throughout this book. I won’t say what they are or how they shake out, but the only way Maguire is eventually able to find out the truth is to ask the people being gossiped about.
Therapists aren’t just for people with life-threatening mental illness who have completely lost the ability to function.
Jordy and Maguire are both doing “okay” in this book before they seek treatment and I know some readers will roll their eyes and say these kids are being silly and just need to “get over it.” I understand. For a lot of people, the term “mental illness” conjures up suicidal ideation and hallucinations and shock therapy a la One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But like many physical illnesses, mental health is a continuum, with mild to severe cases. The National Institute of Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness both estimate that at any given point in time at least one in five Americans is suffering from a diagnosable and treatable mental disorder. Just because you’re getting up in the morning and surviving your school or work day, doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from talking to a professional. You wouldn’t skip out on seeing a doctor if you had mild diabetes or moderate high blood pressure right? If you think you need to see someone, you probably do. Reach out to a trusted parent, teacher, counselor, primary care doctor, or religious leader, or visit www.nami.org to find support.
Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about these issues specifically if I care so much. Simple—because they wouldn’t have fit. This isn’t a story about the way girls treat other girls. It isn’t a story about the stigma of mental illness or of being an introvert or of choosing not to drink. If any of the characters had launched into a lengthy monologue about these issues, it would have felt out of place, like author intrusion. By keeping these messages under the radar, ideally people will pick up on them without being distracted from the overarching narrative.
We’re giving away a signed ARC of Girl Against the Universe. This contest is open internationally. Enter via the Rafflecopter below. The entry for leaving a comment is a question about what subtle ideas you guys include in your own creative works or what messages you wish were included in books more often. I’m hoping it’ll be a good question to spark some meaningful discussion 🙂