I received this book for free from Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on March 7th, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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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.
You’re Welcome, Universe is an incredibly special book and one I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to read. It’s eye-opening, heartwarming, angsty and just a whole lot of fun. Julia is a main character YA has been waiting for and will be made all the more better by her presence.
Julia is a deaf, Indian graffiti artist. She is incredibly talented but also just tired of graffiti not being taken seriously as an art form. She is tired of all the people who give graffiti a bad name and she is tired of it being seen as vandalism instead of ART that has the ability to make a point and to make people think. She gets kicked out of her school when she covers a slur about her best friend up with a graffiti mural. She is ratted out by this supposed best friend and finds herself in new waters and unable to trust the people around her because of this terrible ex-friend (who she unfortunately still works with and so still has to see her face.) Julia is a wonderfully, angsty teen and I LOVED seeing her character develop over the course of the book as she makes newer, better friends. As she navigates the world and expresses herself.
The author has clearly done so much research to be able to do justice to Julia’s character yet my favorite thing about this book is that it isn’t about being deaf or Indian (although it does focus more on Julia’s former identity.) You’re Welcome, Universe is not an #ownvoices novel (at least that’s what I gathered from reading the acknowledgements) and thus it seems appropriate that it isn’t really telling a story about how those identities impact the main character but rather the story of a character with those identities.
While I cannot speak to her portrayal of Julia’s deaf identity, I can speak a little bit to her portrayal of her Indian identity. Julia’s cultural identity wasn’t actually a huge part of the book and we only got glimpses here and there but I generally enjoyed what I saw. My fav scene ever was that moment when Julia’s Mee massages coconut oil into her hair and it just reminded me of all the times my mom did that for me growing up. We saw her culture identity also expressed a little bit through food and my one complain was that I felt like the food wasn’t done justice?? I know this seems like such a TINY thing but no matter what part of India you’re from/your parents are from, we LOVE FOOD. For the foods mentioned, it just seemed the author replaced the work curry with makhani and not everything in our cuisine is a makhani? Obviously, they were ordering Indian food and probably ordered specific comfort foods but I also wish the food porn was a little bit more researched and we could have seen a little bit more variety.
Overall though, this book is gorgeous written and I absolutely adored it. I loved getting to know Julia and her family. I loved watching her relationships bloom with both her mothers and also with friends. I loved watching her develop healthy relationships with people and also express herself through art. This book is such a pleasure to read and I hope that others will enjoy it as much as I did. SO GO FORTH AND READ, my friends!
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