A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published March 7th, 2016, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
You’re Welcome, Universe is the book that I needed a year ago when I was still blogging at Tweens Read Too. For one thing, it’s sweet, funny, and cute. The romance isn’t entirely clean, but what I loved most about the story was how great of a stepping stone it is between middle-grade lit and YA. Overall, the tone of the story is much younger than I thought it would. Until the second half, it was hard for me to envision Julia as anyone older than an 8th-grader. Albeit, an eighth grade who can drive, but you get my point.
The character development and focus on friendships (and not just romance) were also characteristics of middle-grade lit, and I loved it. A lot of YA contemporary feels the same to me these days, but it’s books like You’re Welcome, Universe that remind me that there’s still so much to be explored out there.
But the diversity, one of the main reasons why I read this novel, left a little something to be desired. I still enjoyed it, but Julia felt very diverse for diversity’s sake. There was next to nothing about her culture, nothing that differentiated her from any other character without the “ethnic” label on her. The story was much more focused on Julia as someone who’s deaf, and I did enjoy getting to read her narrative in that sense. It was reminiscent of Josh Sundquist and Eric Lindstrom’s writing, and it was a new opportunity for me to read about a deaf character.
All things considered, I really enjoyed reading You’re Welcome, Universe. It was younger-feeling than I expected it to be, but I came to love the cast of this story. We find Julia having to struggle with the art that keeps her afloat, the friends she left behind, and the new ones she’s looking forward to, and she comes out a better person because of it. There are great themes of friendship and forgiveness, and the novel raises questions about diversity, prejudice, and art.
Would I recommend this one? It’s a bit tricky, but I would say yes. Not everyone will love it from the YA side, and not everyone will be ready for it on the middle-grade side (romance / lots of cursing), but the graffiti concept and the story were done very well, and I’ll be recommending it on a case-by-case basis. 3.5 stars.