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.
My old art teacher told me I draw like a man. I’ve never forgiven him. I don’t draw like anything, I draw like everything. I draw like me.
They make reading lips look so easy on TV: every deaf character has absolutely perfect lip-reading superpowers. But in reality it’s inaccurate, and exhausting. Not all of us are good at it. People don’t get that.
I picked this book up to read as part of the 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge for the March theme, Disability. I’ve debated whether or not to add a Content Warning to this or not and I’m still not sure, but I’m going to anyway just to err on the side of caution.
- Secondary Character has an Eating Disorder
The characters were all incredibly realistic and believable. I was really impressed with the character development in this one because even the side characters have layers upon layers. It was really interesting to see those layers fall into place as Julia discovers them.
I especially loved how Julia took the time to say that if she had a choice she would choose to be Deaf, shooting down the common misconception that Deaf people wish they could hear or that their lives aren’t as full as those who can hear. Living as close to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind as I do, there’s a relatively large Deaf community here. Because of this, I took some ASL courses in college that allowed me a glimpse into this community from an outside perspective. This doesn’t make me an expert and honestly I could probably tell you little more than how to find the bathroom now, but the community… Wow! As an outsider who’s had a glimpse into this immensely caring and wonderful community, all of the content about the Deaf community is described with such a beautiful accuracy. I hope members of the Deaf community are able to confirm this and enjoy this aspect of the novel as much as I did.
The story takes place in a few different neighborhoods of Long Island, New York. The neighborhoods and locations within them that are used are described in such beautiful and immersive detail. Even though all the locations used are places I don’t have a comparable memory for, I had no trouble imagining myself in them.
The plot flowed really well in a coming-of-age, mystery sort of way. There weren’t many plot twists, but I don’t really think this story needed them. The plot twists that were there were pretty great though and served the story really well. I also really enjoyed the use of illustrations through the book. Julia is a very artistic and visual person, so it was great to see what she saw specifically drawn into the page.
I also really liked that the only “love story” aspect in the book was really just a crush that ends. The focus of the story is mostly on art, friendship, and a brutally honest account of what it’s like to be Deaf in America today.
The ending blew away any expectations I had of where the story was going. While I still have one or two questions, I really think the ending was pretty close to a perfect conclusion for all the characters involved.
Overall, I rate You’re Welcome, Universe 4 out of 5 bookworms.
Don’t just take my word for it. Order a copy of You’re Welcome, Universe and enjoy it for yourself! A few places you can go to get your hands on a copy are:
- Amazon US
- Amazon UK
- Books-A-Million (US)
- Barnes and Noble (US)
- Waterstones (UK)
- Book Depository
- your local bookstore or local library
For more information about Whitney Gardner and her work, visit her website.