I recently read an absolutely fantastic book. I bought it by mistake (sometimes you add stuff to your basket and click buy when you intended to just save it until later) but I had no regrets in buying it. Once I began I knew I would love it. The style of writing and the characters themselves and then the fantastic story all added up to hook me right in. I couldn’t figure out the words to explain my love for this book and then I remembered I like to rave about books and the perfect way to do it was give you all five reasons to read it.
You’re Welcome, Universe – Whitney Gardner
Published: 7th March 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
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.
Diversity Out The Wazoo
Seriously, I loved the fact that this book wasn’t trying to tick the diversity box. It didn’t force it but instead simply was. The main character was deaf, and she was proud of being part of the Deaf community. She didn’t see why she had to change herself to fit the ‘hearies’ instead she questioned why she had to adapt to their world. She was also an Indian MC with two moms and that wasn’t a big deal. She was accepted by those around her and she accepted herself and that was awesome. I know one of the biggest complaints about the publishing world is the lack of representation as people fail to see characters who are like them. This book definitely succeeds in showing that it isn’t difficult to include diversity as this one does it without it being a problem.
The thing I really loved about this book was the fact that there were multiple characters who were deaf and the fact that they were all part of the Deaf community and it was just awesome. I especially loved her moms. That’s a whole other point, though.
Now, having lesbian parents in a book is not ground-breaking. I loved it but the actual reason I loved Julia’s parents is actually because they were so present and involved in her life. One of my biggest pet peeves in YA books is when parents are just utterly absent. I mean, I get parents being the enemy in YA, they so often feel that way as a teenager. I get bored of seeing bad parents in books, though. I know they feel like the enemy but most parents aren’t bad ones and I do find the whole bad parent trope boring. To see Julia’s two moms suspicious of her, checking up on her and inspecting her bag was great because that’s what parents do. When you get expelled from a school you don’t get complete trust from your parents and I liked that. I liked seeing Julia sitting with her parents over a meal and chatting about her day and getting annoyed with them when it feels like they’re spying. I liked seeing genuine family life with one parent who feels a little guilty and gives small gifts, like cool new boots, even if they aren’t necessarily deserved. I want that kind of parent in YA because that is the kind I know and recognise. I want more awesome parents and strong family bonds.
The Integration of Art Into The Story
Art, graffiti more specifically, plays a major part in this story and so the fact the book features artwork throughout to demonstrate art from the story was fantastic. I am not always the best at visualising things in a book so I really enjoy seeing things to support the story. The only thing which would have made it better was if the artwork was in colour (I would buy a special edition if they did that). It felt like the colour of the artwork would have added something a bit extra as a lot of thought went into the colour choices. That may just be me, though.
I love when a book features friendship of any kind and this one is all about friendship. This is most definitely a book where our MC Julia learns no man is an island. She forms this fantastic friendship with YP without intending to and it was awesome. She connects with her purely on accident and then the friendship she develops is brilliant not only for her but YP as they both accept each other just as they are, something they haven’t had much of previously.
There is also an element of toxic friendship and often who we view as friends can take advantage. Often toxic friends aren’t acknowledged but this time it is and Julia goes kind of an extreme way of showing she is better friend (and some might question if what she does makes her a worse person) but it was satisfying to see the contrast between good friendship and bad and even when a good friend betrays you it is very different to just having a bad friend. Just everything about friendship in this book is right.
The Story Felt Real
Okay, we can’t all relate to graffiti artist dreams and I got confused about some of the slang used (it made me feel old and out of touch) but Julia felt like a very real character. She was a teenager who acted selfishly and impulsively and didn’t think about others all of the time but she felt like a real teenage girl. She could be selfish but then she would go out of her way for YP even when she didn't truly consider her a friend at that point. She could do something to prove a point and act like a crazy self-destructive psycho but also be really sweet. it was insane and I love that because that is how you act as a teenager. Consequences come later and I loved the path she took to apologise. I just really enjoyed it.
Learning Deaf Culture
I cannot say for certain, I know no one who is deaf, but I felt like a lot of work went into making the representation of the Deaf community accurate. Like the alarm clock where it seemed like an earthquake and the way, there are short names for people which get chosen for you. The way that too often when you have an interpreter with you people will speak and look at the interpreter rather than looking at who is doing the talking. It was small, it was the little things like people muttering about Julia’s use of her phone to type communication as the youth of today and the embarrassment of learning she’s deaf. And her quick dismissal of having an implant to hear when she feels she’s not missing anything by not hearing. And her outrage at the ESL class and how much she didn’t enjoy English with all the grammar rules. Just every part of Deaf culture and the difference between being deaf and being Deaf was amazing.
As you can see I loved this book and I think you will too. It is a fantastic read which is real and interesting and included characters which felt real. Have you read this, what did you think? And can you recommend books which will make me just as excited to read?