Review: You’re Welcome, Universe

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.

Honestly, words can not begin to describe the beauty of this book. This magnificent tale of e rebellious, Indian, Deaf girl growing up with two (also Deaf) mothers was such an incredible experience for me. Julia was equal parts relatable and foreign, familiar and new. I loved her, I cared, I felt for her. I felt like I was her invisible sidekick, her faithful cheerleader throughout her adventures.

Of course, I can’t talk about this book without mentioning its representation and diversity. Julia and both her moms are Deaf; Julia and Mee are also Indian. Julia’s friend, YP, is struggling with her body image and is battling an eating disorder. Overall, I can’t help but feel like this is a book everyone could see themselves represented in one way or another. For me, a sapphic teen, seeing two moms was a breath of fresh air in a YA world dominated by straight parents or – rarely- maybe two dads.

Another element that really made the book for me was Julia highlighting that she’s not the spokesperson for every Deaf person. I feel like this is a major issue that concerns all marginalized groups, because every so often a person belonging to a marginalized group will be asked to “represent” it. Drawing from personal experience I know that I, as a bisexual woman, am more attracted to girls than I am to boys. This, however, does not apply to all bisexual people. I can not speak for everyone, only for myself; and this is something that is mentioned in the book, concerning lip-reading (if I remember correctly) , and it was something that really spoke to me.

**a digital ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**

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