About Girl Against the Universe:
Published by HarperTeen on May 17th, 2016
Maguire is bad luck.I don’t even know where to begin in describing how much I love that book, but, well, that’s why I wrote a lengthy novel of a love letter style review.
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.
BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT. Today, Paula’s here on the blog as part of the blog tour! And I am so excited, because she’s sharing a deleted scene from the book. No spoilers, it’s just a taste of the swoony goodness that is Jordy, the heartwrenching and realistic anxiety that Maguire has to deal with, and the delightful tennis aspect that together make this such a happy-making YA sports romance. So read, behold, and then run and get that book right this instant. Take it away, Paula!
Jordy and Maguire practice serving at the local tennis club
Paula: This scene was cut for two major reasons. First, because it was repetitive. There’s a lot of tennis in this book and there was even MORE tennis in the first draft. I ultimately decided that this scene and a later scene at Jordy’s house would be better if I combined the two of them. The second reason I cut this is because in the first draft, Maguire needed a lot more help with her tennis game. My editor felt that even someone as awesome as Jordy wouldn’t have been able to help her improve as quickly as she did in that draft, so when I revised, I gave Maguire a history of playing tennis when she was younger and made her a stronger player who just needed some guidance to get her serve back on track.
I follow Jordy across the lobby and through a door that leads out onto the long row of courts. We’re two courts from the end, so getting there means walking behind five other busy courts. Along the way, basically every woman between the ages of ten and eighty stops to stare at us. I try not to notice. Instead I scope out the surface of the courts for cracks (none), the ceiling above our heads for anything that looks loose (everything seems fine), and the other tennis players for anyone who might pose an unintentional or intentional danger (so far so good.)
Paula: One of the ways Maguire copes with her anxiety about being a bad luck charm is to do frequent “five-second checks” where she’s constantly assessing her environment for possible dangers.“Hi Jordy.” A girl on Court Five, who looks like she’s in middle school, gives him a coy wave as we stroll past.
“Hey Clara,” he says. “Am I going to see you at Malibu next month?”
“You know it. We’ll have to meet up for a seltzer.” The girl giggles and tosses her wavy ponytail back over her shoulder.
Jordy drops his tennis bag against the Plexiglas wall and I do the same.
“A seltzer?” I ask. “Wow. You start recruiting your fan club members early, huh?”
“You know, Maguire. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly.” Jordy grabs the hopper of balls and heads for the baseline.
Sure there is, I think. The friendlier you are, the more people you might hurt. I smile tightly and head for the opposite side of the net.
“Where are you going?” Jordy calls after me.
I turn and arch an eyebrow. “Um. Over there?”
“Nope. I’m going to need you over here for a while. I want to review everything we did in practice first.” Jordy gestures at the hopper of balls. “Okay, show me what you got.”
I grab a couple of balls and tuck one into the pocket of my trunks. Quickly, I glance around to make sure there’s no one I might actually hit. Then I angle my body sideways, bounce the ball three times, and toss it up in the air.
And then catch it.
“Practice toss,” I mutter.
“You do realize you’re standing in the wrong spot, right?”
“What?” I look down at my feet. I’m midway between the center and edge of the court.
“You’re way too far over for singles. Unless you’re going for some kind of insane angle, you want to stand a lot closer to the center T when you serve. That way you’ll be in position to return the ball once someone hits it back.”
“Oh, right,” I say. “That makes sense.” I shuffle over closer to the center of the baseline and bounce the ball again. I visualize each of the steps in my head—bend knees, racquet back and toss, racquet up, hit ball, step and follow through. Biting my lower lip in concentration, I toss the ball up in the air and swing at it.
And miss completely. The ball comes down and plunks me on the forehead.
Little Miss Seltzer bursts into giggles from the next court.
I glare at her. My tennis ball rolls in her direction.
Jordy intercepts it with one foot before it can reach the edge of her court. “Careful Clara,” he warns. “Maguire here nailed me with a hundred-mile an hour overhead the other day. She even made it look like an accident.”
Clara twirls her racquet on one finger. “I’ll start worrying once she can actually make contact with the ball.”
“Ignore her,” Jordy says to me. “You did everything right. Your timing was just a little off. You’re probably just nervous. Here, let me go through the motion with you again.” He comes up behind me and I tense up as I feel his hands on my waist. “Settle down, ice princess.” He laughs under his breath. “I’m just getting you in position.” He moves me through the service motion a couple of times and reminds me of when and how high I want to toss the ball. Then he backs up and I prepare to serve again.
Glancing around, I notice that several people on nearby courts stop to watch. I fumble through about ten pathetic attempts before a ball actually makes it over the net. “I can do better,” I say. “I did better at tryouts yesterday, I swear. I’m just not used to being stared at.”
“If it makes you feel better, I’m betting most of them are staring at me.” Jordy goes through a series of ridiculous model poses, including flexing his muscles and making his lips all pouty. Sure enough, the girls playing doubles on the other side of Clara stop to watch, one of them lunging for her cell phone to snap a pic.
“Insta-Jordy,” he says. “You can take a pic too, you know. I don’t mind.”
“I wish we’d gone to a park or something.”
“There are other people at parks too,” he says. “If I knew you wanted to be totally alone, I would’ve taken you to my house. We have a court in the backyard.”
“You have your own tennis court and you brought me to some fancy club?” I fling the ball I’m holding at his chest.
He blocks it with one hand. I reach for another ball but he slaps my hand away playfully. “You got all freaked out at the idea of meeting me in a public place. I figured inviting you over to my house might scare you away for good.”
About Paula Stokes
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently Girl Against the Universe and Liars, Inc. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
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Check out the rest of the blog tour!
5/16: Reading Teen – Review
5/17: In Love With Handmade – Deleted Scene
5/18: The Irish Banana Review – Review
5/19: Snuggly Oranges – Deleted Scene
5/20: Fiction Fare – Review
5/23: Bookiemoji – Playlist
5/24: Mary Had A Little Book Blog – Review
5/25: Adventures of a Book Junkie – Q&A
5/26: Lili’s Reflections – Review
5/27: Please Feed the Bookworm – Dream Cast