Female Friendships? HELL YES! : You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Female Friendships? HELL YES! : You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney GardnerYou're Welcome, Universe
by Whitney Gardner
Release Date: March 7th 2017
Published by Knopf
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: eARC
Pages: 304
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four-stars
Source: ARC received for review purposes

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.


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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?

Is You’re Welcome, Universe in your TBR? Have you read any books with hearing impaired characters?
Let me know in the comments below!

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Nick
  • Angel @Angel Reads

    Debuts are killing it this year. THUG, Frostblood and just so many more. I cannot wait to pick this one up – Female friendships are just so hard to come by in YA. I understand why, because in your teen years friendships are hard esp with other females. Thanks for the review.

    • I agree, there are some terrific ones. Oh man, seriously none of my teen friendships have lasted and I remember them being so tough to even come by!

  • I am so excited to read it! As I am also of Indian origin, I hope Gardner has done justice to this story although I’m positive she has after hearing such positive thoughts and comments from other bloggers! Great review Nick and so good to hear you loved it! I can’t wait to pick this up

    xx Anisha @ Sprinkled Pages

    • I’d be very curious to see what you think of the Indian representation of the book, Anisha. I thought she was careful at not stereotyping, which is always a worry for me when non POC write POC characters.

  • Okay, this is an absolute, without a doubt must-read for me. I love seeing how authors handle deaf characters. And I love good friendships!

    • Oh this is a total Christy book!

  • I’m hoping to read this one very soon Nick! I’ve heard great things about it and I honestly want more books with a deaf MC. 🙂

    • I hope you love it, Bee! I want to see more of that too. I learned a lot about the Deaf community from the book.

  • I had no idea what this one was about when I’ve seen it around but you sold me!!! I would love to read about a deaf MC and love a good friendship book. Great review!!

    • I just wanted the book because of the graffiti war aspect, and it was such a lovely and surprising read. 🙂

  • I haven’t been all that interested in YA lately, but I’m so so so glad that you enjoyed this one. I love books that focus on strong female friendship, too. And yay for non-perfect heroes (Especially female characters!)

    • Thanks, Quinn. I haven’t been reading too much of it either, so it was nice to read a good one.

  • I have been steering away from YA because the last few I have read have been dismal. This sounds like one to try though. I love the positive focus on friendship.

    • I’m the same way, Heidi, but I think you’d like this! 🙂

  • Oh wow, I’ve never read a book featuring a deaf MC and that draws me in already. I can’t wait to get into Juila’s head!

    • I hope you give it a try, Amber! Julia is great.

  • I have read books with hearing impaired characters, but I don’t remember the titles. This sounds like a really great read! I agree that there should be more YA books with flawed characters. Those are the best, plus we can actually relate to them.

    • If you remember, do let me know. Yeah, flawed characters are the best.

  • Sounds fantastic, Nick! Proof positive that we all could use a break from romance and we’d never know the difference. LOL. I especially love the friendship between these characters. Women supporting women! Yes, please!

    • Right? Never thought I’d enjoy a book without a romance so much!

  • This book sounds absolutely amazing. A deaf MC that retains her own individuality and doesn’t let her deafness define her. Awesome friendship and a good relationship with her parent? This is everything I could wish for in a YA book. I’ll definitely be adding this to my tbr pile.

    • Yes, I loved how well the author dealt with her deafness. I hope you’ll enjoy it, Lois.

  • After reading NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom, I started looking for books where the main character’s disability does not define who they are, and I’m really glad that this book is one of those. I love imperfect characters – they’re some of my favorites to read, and female friendships are definitely something we need more of in YA. Great, great review! 🙂

    – Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

    • I agree. I’d rather read an imperfect character than a special snowflake perfect one. Thanks, Aimal!

  • This book just shot to the top of my wish list. Thanks for the lovely review, Nick. I really need this book pronto so that I can get to know Julia. I’ll take a not so perfect character over the cookie cutter perfect ones any day.

    • Yay! I hope you enjoy it, Rowena! 🙂

  • I LOVE that this book is focused on friendship – too often YA is far too much about the romance! And not only does this one have that going for it but also a deaf protag? Awesome.

    Julia sounds like an amazing character and THIS sounds like a YA contemporary that I might actually REALLY enjoy. Diverse, gritty and funny? I am definitely adding this to my TBR.

    • I know. And there’s always so much of girl-on-girl hate in YA which I find very frustrating.
      I hope you’ll like it if you read it!

  • This book sounds amazing, with an incredibly diverse and flawed cast, a beautiful female friendship, and bonus points for the absolutely gorgeous cover. This is definitely one contemporary I won’t be missing. I love how the diverse components are added naturally as well, adding to the depth and how realistic the story is. Fantastic review, Nick.

    – Aila @ One Way Or An Author

    • Oh man, you’d love this, Aila! I love when the diverse elements feels natural too. It’s more realistic!

  • This sounds so fantastic! I love that it focuses on friendship instead of romance. Julia sounds like a wonderful MC. I love flawed characters too. I guess I need to bump this up the TBR! Thanks for the great review.

    • I loved the focus on the friendship too. I think teens need to see that a lot instead of romance!

  • I love flawed, impulsive characters who occasionally make dumb decisions, so something tells me I’m going to really enjoy Julia! Hahaha. The female friendships in this sound seriously on point – which is great, because it’s been ages since I’ve read a YA contemporary that focused on friendship rather than romance.

    • I know. I love those kinds of characters too. I think they feel more realistic to me? I loved the friendship so much. I kinda wish we’d get more friendships like this one!

  • I loved this book for exactly the same reasons as you. Sure, Julia was this flawed character, a little ball of anger pushing everyone away but she was awesome and the friendship which developed between her YP was absolutely fabulous. And I loved the diversity in this book because you’re right, it was well researched and simply was. And no romance! It’s not often I’m excited about the lack of romance but this book would have been ruined by it and certainly wouldn’t have had the same impact.

    • I’m so pleased that you loved it too, Becky. It deserves so much more love! I definitely agree that a romance here would have taken away from the book. It was perfect just the way it was. 🙂