You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
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.
Before I get into the review itself I need to mention that there is some strong language throughout this book. Nothing serious, but the book is directed to the Young Adult age group from about 12-18.
I’m not the biggest fan of YA contemporary fiction. It has been a long time since I was in high school and sometimes I find it really hard to relate or identify with the characters in this genre. But every once in a while, one comes out that is so different and unique, it piques my interest. This is one of those cases and it did NOT disappoint!
First of all, I love that the main character was Deaf (if you have read OR end up reading this book you’ll understand why Deaf is with a capital). I wasn’t sure what the dialogue was going to be like since she had to both sign and lip read. The signing parts were like normal dialogue and it was usually specified that they were signing. But when she had to read lips was when it got interesting. Almost none of the sentences were complete and there were words missing all over the place.
You got the gist of what the other people were saying but it’s true to life for a person dependent on visual translation. [perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I love that sometimes reading lips was easy but sometimes things were completely lost in translation and made communication very hard for her.[/perfectpullquote]
But she never let being Deaf define her. She was glorious and going to define herself.
Deaf characters are almost unheard of in books due to the nature of their communication and the difficulties they face in communication. But she realized that the real world around her won’t stop and won’t always accommodate so she should find a way to work with it. I loved her determination to not let her “disability” to get in her way and the strength it would take to deal with these challenges.
I honestly went into this book expecting that being deaf would be a central point but it wasn’t. Yes, it included the challenges of communication, but the central focus was on Julia herself. She was such a normal teenager full of angst, anger, confusion, and most of all, trying to find herself. The challenges in trying to find herself were amplified x2 though. 1 – it’s hard to find yourself when you have challenges with communicating with the rest of the “hearies’ of the world. 2 – it’s hard to find yourself when the thing you love most in the world is illegal (tagging public property).
Another one of my favorite parts of this book was seeing Julia form a friendship with a normal hearing girl named Yoga Pants. Okay, that wasn’t her real name but that’s what Julia called her and I’m 99% sure that her real name was never spoken. Just like Julia, their friendship was so real. It’s always awkward starting a new friendship but it’s even more so when communication issues are factored in. And no new friendship is perfect – there’s always lots of ups and downs, figuring each other out, confusion, and hurt feelings.
Another unique and incredible aspect was the inclusion of art. I’ve loved drawing and painting since I was a kid and she captured the thoughts and feelings an artist goes through perfectly. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]You always feel differently when you need that creative outlet, when you’re in the act of creating, and afterwards. [/perfectpullquote]
There was even a short appearance of Banksy!
This book also had many diverse aspects to it. She is hearing impaired and an Indian-American who sometimes experiences racism. Her parents are deaf lesbians. And there is also the aspect of an eating disorder. I absolutely love diverse reads so this was fantastic! And while I understand that being an Indian American she would probably face some racism, I just felt like the addition of racism to the story didn’t fit the vibe of the story as a whole.
But the family dynamic and the challenges they all faced was so heartwarming and beautiful! So many times in young adult novels the parents aren’t present for one reason or another. Her mothers were struggling to handle her teenage needs and they navigated their relationship in a very real way.
Editor’s Note: The author received this book complimentary from the publisher, Penguin Random House, Canada for reviewing purposes. This transaction has not influenced the author’s honest review of the book.
Shanah McCready is known in the book blogging community as Bionic Book Worm. She lives in Canada with her two beautiful children aged 12 and 7. She is a wife to a loving husband, owner of two businesses, and an avid reader. Books are her passion and she strives to review books with honesty so that she can help others to find their next great read. She blogs at https://bionicbookwormblog.wordpress.com/
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