Title: YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE
Author: Whitney Gardner
Release date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
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Note: This review is based on an eARC received by the publicity agency via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book. A Kindle eCopy was purchased for my collection.
First and foremost, YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE is an instantly captivating and immensely entertaining story. It offers a quick pace, fantastic writing, amazing illustrations. It also incorporates diversity, creativity, and originality. It is one of those reads that will pull you in, make you promise yourself “just one more chapter, ” but won’t let you put it down until you’ve reached the end.
The main character, Julia, is interesting and relatable. She is also creative and different and moody and impulsive. Some readers may find her immediately likable, others may have to warm up to her. She is sympathetic but not pitiable. She is daring but also distrusting. She is deaf but is not handicapped by it. She’s an artist whose brand of art has gotten her into a lot of trouble.
There aren’t many, if any, stories about a female graffiti artist. Certainly not many that share illustrations of each tag, sketch, mural the character has done. Author Whitney Gardner has not only managed to successfully weave in these visuals but also paint a picture with her words that allows readers to imagine what being deaf is like for Julia.
The author lets readers see just how frustrating it can be to communicate even the simplest of things, how challenging it can be to understand someone talking quickly, how ignorant and ridiculous people can be when speaking with someone who’s deaf, and how peaceful it can be to not have to hear anything at all.
But YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE is not a story about overcoming the adversity of diversity. It is not a love story. It is a story about friendship, about learning to trust, about forgiveness, about growing up.
It’s about a girl who loves her art more than her schoolwork, who thinks that being alone is better than risking letting anyone in, who loves her moms even if they don’t understand her, who takes no small amount of pleasure in aggravating her interpreter, who is ready to do battle in secret to defend her art, who does not ever want to be called a toy, who has no time or patience for idiots, and who is reluctant to admit when she’s wrong.
Refreshingly different and informative, YOU’RE WELCOME UNIVERSE is a compelling, fun, and incredibly satisfying read.
Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.