I've been talking to my HarperTeen editor and to library personnel I know for the last few weeks about ways to introduce more teachers and librarians to GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE. Not only is the book receiving great reviews for being entertaining and avoiding/subverting overused YA tropes, it's also inspiring and empowering some of its early readers, especially those with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or those dealing with grief or loss. And multiple reviews have pointed out that the portrayal of therapy in the book might encourage kids who are struggling to ask for help.
"As I’m still going through my own healing process, I had a resounding thought while reading Maguire’s story: This is it. This is what I want my own healing to look like."
"I think the shining star of this novel is how positively therapy is portrayed. Honestly I wish I had this book after my mom passed away because maybe I would have gotten the help that I needed to deal with my issues."
But how to make it stand out in the eyes of teachers and librarians among a crowded spring/summer full of contemporary releases? This is an ongoing quest of mine, so if you have suggestions, please let me know! I can't really afford to buy advertising, and I've been told a postcard campaign might not be effective since it's so difficult to figure out which librarian buys books for which branch or department. But then yesterday one of the big book retailers marked down hardcovers to just $7.91. [Click here if you want to see if that price is still in effect.] That's cheaper than I can buy direct from my publishers, so I picked up a few extra copies and ...
I am giving away 10 hardcover copies of GATU to American schools and libraries :D
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.
"Readers will laugh, cry, and root for Maguire as she fights to reclaim her life with the help of a dynamic supporting cast. Girl Against the Universe is exactly the kind of book we need more of in YA."
"Stokes did a great job of fostering the friendships in this story. It could have been so easy to make one of these characters your typical mean girl, but it was entirely refreshing to see her not go that route."
- You must have a USA mailing address (Puerto Rico is included).
- You must be a librarian, media specialist, library assistant, teacher, or someone else who works with groups of 12-24 year olds in an official capacity.
- If you win a copy, it must kept in a way where it can be circulated to multiple readers, e.g. school/community library circulation, classroom library shelves, etc., and not donated or sold to a single person.
- You must have a business address (I will be media mailing in early August) or be able to verify your position/affiliation if the book is to be sent to a private residence.
- You must fill out this form by July 25th. Winners will be randomly selected by Aug 1st.
How do you know if you want a copy of GATU to share with your students? Here are a few facts about the book:
Main character Maguire is suffering from PTSD, specifically survivor's guilt. After being in multiple serious accidents where everyone but her was injured or killed, Maguire worries obsessively that she might be a "bad luck charm" to anyone who gets close. To help combat her anxiety, she has developed unhealthy coping mechanisms like isolating herself from people and obsessively checking her environment for hazards. The first four chapters of the book are Maguire beginning a course of cognitive behavioral therapy after yet another accident pushes her to her breaking point.
2. This is a funny and uplifting story.
A lot of mental illness books are dark and gritty reads with depressing storylines and/or negative portrayals of therapy. Maguire's issues are treated seriously and respectfully, but the tone of the book remains hopeful throughout and Maguire receives a lot of support from her friends and family. The book's therapist is competent and helpful without doing all the work for her. There are places where she is suffering from panic attacks or engaging in compulsive behaviors that might feel all too real to readers with similar issues, but there are plenty of lighthearted funny moments to balance out the darker spots.
3. The romance does not magically cure the mental illness.
Romantic love does not fix mental illness. Often, a new romantic relationship actually exacerbates a person's current struggles by adding additional stress and expectations. There is a romance in this book, but it begins as a friendship, and Maguire has no problem telling Jordy that she's not healthy enough to date anyone at first. Even after they later become involved, Jordy supports her as she works through her therapy challenges, but she is the one who drives her journey toward healing.
4. In fact, nothing magically cures the mental illness.
Maguire is told by her therapist early on that mental health is fluid, that no matter what they accomplish together, she's still going to have good days and bad days At the end of the book, she's still in therapy and has formed alliances with friends and family members that will continue to help her grow. However, she is still in charge of her healing process, and although she recognizes the progress she's made, she knows there's still a lot more work to be done.
Want more info? Click here to check out the official flap copy from HarperTeen, plus read the first five chapters.
DOUBLE BONUS GIVEAWAY!:
Maybe you already got GATU, or maybe you're looking for something edgier and higher concept to entice your reluctant readers. I'm going to throw in three free paperbacks of my 2015 thriller LIARS, INC. This book received a starred review from Kirkus and has actually created new readers. Multiple teens have sent me emails to say they hated books but were forced to read one in school. When they picked up LIARS, they didn't want to put it down. All of these kids asked for recommendations for more books and I was happy to oblige.
LIARS is great choice for older teens or at-risk youth who are tired of boys in books all being rich, smart, gorgeous, and successful. Protagonist Max Cantrell lives on the streets for a year before being adopted by a loving, lower-income family. He a regular guy--that kid in the hoodie who sometimes falls asleep in the back of class. But all that changes when a business selling lies and alibis leads to Max being implicated in his best friend's murder.
Oh, and since you're here, if you like giveaways, you might be interested in entering the Goodreads giveaway for my next release, VICARIOUS! I'll be doing some international giveaways for that book starting in my July newsletter, which you can subscribe to by clicking on the "mailing list" tab.