Jan 22, 2017

A vibrant splash of colour || You're Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

Title: You're Welcome Universe
Author: Whitney Gardner
Release Date: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Knopf
A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

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.

For a person who can't even draw a stick man properly, I sure do love myself some art. I am extremely fascinated by art, and street art and graffiti has always been something I've had a huge soft spot for. One of my top priorities in my bucket list is to see a Banksy piece in real life. So this book was an auto add to my TBR when I heard about it and especially after I learned that it features an Indian, deaf MC, I was sold.

Julia is not your average teenager. She's Indian, Deaf, has two moms - one Irish, one Indian and both deaf - and has a not so secret love and passion for street art. Her life becomes even more complicated when she gets in trouble for "vandalising" her school walls, and gets transported from her Deaf school to a mainstream one with an unwanted interpreter. Addition to that, her so called best friend has shown her true colours, she's carefully monitored by her parents, she has to be extra careful with her graffiti and her crush is complicating things up for her. As if that's not enough, there's someone who's tagging over her graffiti, and declaring graffiti war. You're Welcome Universe is a story of how Julia deals with it all, in her style, offering a journey of heart, emotion, friendships, realization, art and full of feels

On my way to becoming an all-city queen of street art. I rip down the last stencil, take a step back, and admire my work. It's killer. You're welcome Universe.

I adored this book. It was just so beautiful overall. I loved the art, the authentic teenage representation I saw in Julia, the diversity, the intersectionality and the entire experience of reading You're Welcome Universe. Whitney's novel is so good, so special, that I vow to push it on all of you until you get tired.

Where do I start with Julia? I think, if she existed in real life, she and I would be best friends. She's so flawed, at times impossible, took decisions I really didn't agree with, but that's what made her so real. Julia was so different than me, yet I related with her in such a deep level! It's amazing how Whitney has captured being a teen, especially a POC one so well.

Speaking of, the representation. If I had read this book a few months ago I probably wouldn't have been able to comment anything about it. But I started reading this book in the waiting room of an ENT surgeon. My cousin, one of my favourite human beings in the world, is going deaf. Our whole family is adapting along with her, and we're trying to learn the sign language and this book, at this time, is just so special to me. If I am feeling this way, I can totally imagine how much this book would mean for a deaf teen.

I flip through some magazines, hoping lightning will strike, but there's not a cloud in the sky. No one in the pages of Nylon is like me. I'm a fingerprint, an anomaly, a snowflake. Indian, Deaf, girl, two moms. You couldn't make this shit fir in the pages of those glossy mags

I loved how Whitney addressed stereotypes regarding diversity. I've always read books with deaf characters who are so perfectly well versed in lip reading, and who when they start to speak have perfect grammar. You're Welcome Universe shows the reality, and I loved it. The book also addressed intersectionality in a beautiful way. I loved Julia's Indianness, especially her love for Bollywood, because as silly as the movies can be, we Desi girls can't help but be in love with Bollywood. Overall, I just adored the diversity in You're Welcome Universe.

And the art. How can I not mention the art??? It was glorious. Whitney didn't just stop with describing art, she gave us those super cool illustrations of Julia's graffiti. We get to see the age old question of whether graffiti is right or not. There's so much Banksy references enough to make the fangirl in me flail. The art in the book is a part of Julia's life, and Whitney's passion for art shone through the way she handled it. It was so good.

Special mention to all the great side characters! I loved Julia's mothers - though Mee was my personal fav - YP, Julia's interpreter, her art teacher - the book was full of wonderful characters. I felt like I read a fulfilling contemporary after a long time.

Overall, You're Welcome Universe is a beautiful, colourful and emotional read that I'll recommend to everyone! Whitney has crafted a story that's as fantastic as her art, and I simply adored it, inside out.

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