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Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: March 7th, 2017

304 Pages

Synopsis: 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.ย 

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.

After reading You’re Welcome, Universe the first word that popped into my head was “Wow!” I started this at 9 p.m. last night and couldn’t put it down until I reached the last page around midnight. The story is told from the first person POV of Julia who is deaf, Indian, and has two moms. So yes, this book is extremely diverse. I know we’re still in the early part of 2017, but I already know Julia is going on my top ten list of favorite fictional characters for this year. She’s confident in who she is and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. She’s sarcastically funny and downright blunt at times, which I absolutely loved. Because she was hurt badly by her former best friend, she has some serious trust issues which makes her eventual friendship with a girl who she nicknames “YP” even more touching. Both girls have been the victims of betrayal so their relationship is rocky and slowly develops throughout the course of the story. While the deaf culture is thoroughly explored in this book, it’s not the only theme. There’s also: bullying, body image, racism, eating disorders, and “slut shaming”. These are all blended into the story in a very realistic way, and I was impressed that the author managed to balance all of these successfully in a just over 300 page book. But what’s really at the heart of this book is Julia’s graffiti, and how it helps her cope with the stresses in her life. As the premise states, the Julia’s graffiti tags are very much a part of her story. The black and white illustrations literally leap off the page and fit in perfectly with the narrative. In my opinion Whitney Gardner is a refreshing and vibrant new voice in YA fiction. You’re Welcome, Universe is an incredible debut and one that I can’t recommend highly enough for teens and adults. It’s touching and full of humor, and Julia isn’t a character you’ll forget anytime soon!

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