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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.
ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Whitney Gardner’s debut, You’re Welcome, Universe, was a refreshing YA book that chose not to focus on romance, but on the friendship between two girls. It’s a story that’s fresh, gorgeously written and that had a lot of heart and soul to it. This might only be Gardner’s debut, but she is one author whose next book I’m already eagerly awaiting.
There was so much to love about this little book, and there’s lots I want to talk about. My number one best part about You’re Welcome, Universe was Julia. Oh this beautiful, angry and rash girl completely stole my heart away. I’ve come to realize that I want nothing to do with perfect characters. Instead, multi-dimensional, flawed girls like Julia are what I want more out of YA books, because to me, they are more relateable. Reading through Julia’s POV was particularly interesting and new to me because she is Deaf, surprisingly not a disability that I have come across a lot in books. Her deafness did not entirely define who she was and I loved that Gardner took the time to flesh out her character completely. She was fierce, witty and unapologetic. She did not mince her words and often times that got her into trouble with her loved ones. I really did love how many mistakes she made along the way, and how much she learned from them. Not to forget, her passion for art, particularly street art was infectious. Fun point, there’s lots of Julia’s artwork, done by Gardner herself, peppered throughout the story that added a whole new level to the story.
As I mentioned, there’s a lovely friendship that buds between Julia and YP, which I was obsessed with. As with Julia’s depiction, this was another element that Whitney Gardner spent her time building throughout the book. I cheered for these two and nearly burst into tears when YP decides to learn ASL, so she can communicate with Julia. There was something very sweet and genuine in their friendship, and it just made me so happy seeing Julia find someone who respected and loved her. Then, there was Julia’s bond with her moms, which was just as amazing. I loved seeing how close Julia was to them and even when she did lash out, they were always there to support her no matter what. I also want to briefly mention the rich and complex diversity You’re Welcome, Universe has. In my opinion, there was an accurate representation of an Indian American main character, a Deaf heroine and a same-sex couple. What was great about the diversity here was how it wasn’t forced or used as plot point, but it was natural and was just there. It’s obvious that Gardner has done her research because the representations came across as very tactful and respectful to me.
I know that there’s lots and lots of shiny new debuts out this year, and your TBR piles probably don’t need more books added to them, but make sure that You’re Welcome, Universe is on your lists. I don’t think you will regret reading this book because it’s just lovely in every way. Now, who do I need to beg to get Whitney Gardner’s next book in my hands ASAP?