If you’ve read YA books at all, you know that they all deal with some sort of teenage issue because teenagers are some of the most interesting people on the planet. I am, of course, biased as I have worked with them for most of my adult career. I started You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner because I like the idea of graffiti. It’s beautiful, complicated, defiant, unruly, emotional…just like most teens. There are a plethora of issues in this book and I was a bit worried that they would steal the focus but in the hands of a good writer, it was just a really good story!
The slur was nasty and Julia could not let that stand. Jordyn is her best (and only) friend so Julia paints over the ugliness with a beautiful mural on the school wall, late at night, without permission. Days later, she is kicked out of her nice, safe school for the deaf. Why? Because Jordyn snitched on her to the principal. Now, Julia is stuck in a regular public school with a t00-perky interpreter and the weight of her two mother’s disappointment. The only thing left to her is her art and she’s not about to give that up. In an effort to carve out her own space, she tags several locations only to find them changed the next day. Not just change but improved. She’s been called out and must answer but at what cost? With some unexpected allies, Julia finds herself in the middle of a graffiti war that touches more than just overpasses and water towers.
Deaf culture, prejudice, lesbian parents (one of whom is Indian-American), graffiti…seems like a lot to tackle in one book but Whitney Gardner expertly weaves them through the tale making it as vibrant and wild as the street art that may just be Julia’s true best friend.