You’re Welcome, Universe / by Whitney Gardner. 10.24.2018

Knopf Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780399551413

YA Grades 9 and up Rating: 5

Whitney Gardner paints an eye-opening picture of the deaf community in You’re Welcome, Universe. This coming-of-age story about Julia, a deaf high school artist, brings to light the difficulties of making new friends, embracing your uniqueness, and following your dreams.

When her only friend snitches on her for spray painting over vandalism on school property, Julia gets kicked out of her deaf school and is forced to go to a “hearie” school. Even with the warm welcome from her new interpreter and a kind-hearted classmate, Julia is determined to push everyone away and focus on her art. Julia feels guilty for disobeying orders from her two moms to give up street art, but that won’t stop her from pursuing her dream.

Being known for her art becomes her obsession—her sole identity. She begins sneaking off at night to graffiti public property. But, each time she returns to one of her pieces, another artist has tagged his or her own art style to them. Sparking a graffiti war, Julia is furiously focused on creating a piece so perfect that nothing can be added. Can Julia keep fighting, even when the cops get involved? And could the culprit of the vandalism be the art teacher who’s vying for her street art to be preserved? Or the attractive coworker that she has crushed on for years? Or someone she would never expect?

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, dedicated to books that embody artistic expression of the disability experience, You’re Welcome, Universe uses art, texts, high school slang, and the perspective of a deaf woman to tell this unique “be careful what you wish for” story that will give teens a raw perspective on being deaf. You’re Welcome, Universe may not be appropriate for readers offended by provocative language, law-breaking, and revenge, and the fact that the protagonist professes that her “only god” is her favorite artist. Nonetheless, this book creates a broad range of emotions relevant to high school students, and may be recommended to young artists and those struggling to find their place in the world.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ