You’re Welcome, Universe Whitney Gardner (2017)
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
Page Length: 297 pages (hardcover edition)
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. (description from Goodreads)
You’re Welcome, Universe is story about an Indian teenage girl named Julia, who is deaf. She gets expelled from her old school for graffiti art/tagging the school and has to go to a new school where it’s very different. Where her old school was accommodating since was specially geared toward hearing impaired students only, she finds herself in a public school with an interpreter and people who are very different from her.
This book first caught my eye due to the cover art, it really captures the essence of Julia and the overall theme of the story. I liked the incorporation of ASL (American Sign Language) images as well as graffiti art illustrations within the text. The visuals helped to give context to the story without interrupting the flow of the plot. The novel is set at fast pace and the chapters run a bit short making it an easy read.
At first, Julia was not the most likable character to me. She’s angsty, gives people a hard time and is very standoffish. While I cannot entirely understand where she’s coming from (since I don’t share her experience), I found her nasty behavior inexcusable. Though Julia’s character eventually grew on me Julia did grate on my nerves at certain times. She kept putting up walls, but complained of feeling invisible. I also thought she needed a serious attitude adjustment.
Julia struggles with fitting in, being left out of conversations, and faces daily prejudice due to her hearing impairment and ethnicity which we experience through her POV. She is hurting a lot and art is a form of therapy for her. She can express whatever she is feeling with art that she can’t do with her physical voice. Making a friend with YP also helps to ease her loneliness. Both YP and Julia form a special bond with each other over the course of the story. Julia helps YP with her body issues and YP helps Julia to break down the barriers she’s kept up for so long. Seeing their friendship grow was endearing to read.
This my novel reading the POV of a deaf main character. Looking through Julia’s eyes gave me an insight on what life is like for a deaf person and what they experience on a daily basis. I enjoyed and appreciated how Gardner tackled deaf culture and graffiti art in this novel. It was new different, and unexpected. An added bonus for diversity and including themes of body issues, bullying, and peer pressure without feeling like it was too much packed into one novel.
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