Book Reviews

Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

You’re Welcome Universe is a great story about a Deaf girl who, like all of us, struggles with trying to be seen in this world. Julia uses her art to make her presence to the universe known, but she soon finds that friends, while they provide potential for pain, can transform both her art and her life.

Summary

You’re Welcome Universe is a story about Julia’s exile from her Deaf high school when she is tattled on by her best friend for spraying graffiti on the wall. Sent to a new school, where the student body is not Deaf, Julia must figure out where she belongs, try to find new friends, all while secretly practicing her art. However, her plans go awry when her new pieces of street art are being tagged over, showing her up, and she becomes determined to win this street war.

Review

One of my favorite features of this book were the illustrations. The pages are brimming with art that is essential to the story and enhances it beyond words. From page one, we are introduced into the vivid and artistic world of Julia.

The Characters

Moving on to the characters, Julia is spunky, up front, and unapologetically herself. While being sure of her art, she has developed a tough exterior to protect herself from pain. The betrayal of her ex-best friend influences her deeply, and Julia just wants to paint and be left alone. Her character is incredibly fallible, blinded by pain and a thirst for revenge. In these ways, she is very human, full of teenage angst, but also feeling the universal fear that human connection poses. I could really connect with Julia’s fear of relationships and the way they offer us both joy, but also pain. However, we need friends and connections in our lives for the transformation and happiness they offer.

I was disappointed in the lack of attention to the side character’s though. I found them very interesting, from her interpreter Casey, to her mothers, I just wanted more depth. There was a lot of potential for growth and more exploration and I just wish we could have witnessed that. They were such dynamic characters that I missed their interactions. I was also a bit confused about the pacing of the ending. It just felt a little sudden and some things happened that I wish had had more space to grow and explain. Additionally, I am a sucker for descriptive settings, where you can read a passage, close your eyes, and just be there. This book is more about characters and while the art helps create the setting of the book, for me it just lacked a little atmosphere.

Diversity

In terms of diversity, I really enjoyed the introduction into Deaf culture. It was eye opening to see their experiences and the struggles they deal with. For example, there are many times where Julia cannot lip read and there are words missing. Entirely realistic and something that authors, and readers, could miss. In this aspect, the sensitivity reading was spot on and really made the whole experience of reading, as a non-Deaf person, much more detailed. I am partly deaf in one of my ears, which is by no means a comparison, but this experience made it easier to connect with the challenges Julia faces. Because of this, I could easily relate to her.

The Themes

Nobody comes to see what’s wrong. Nobody can hear me. (55)

This story is a friendship story. It is about the ways we need to let people in, not for their, but for our own benefit. It deals with the ways that friends and connections can enhance the colors in our lives and support our dreams. Additionally, it is about the way that re-framing or changing the way we see the world can have a dramatic impact on our lives.

Just thinking about the title, we all struggled with a desire to be seen, acknowledged, remembered, and heard in our lives. Julia especially struggles with this as she feels invisible a lot (struggling with an invisible condition, and having people talk to her interpreter not her). She struggles with this same basic desire we all have to be heard, to be seen, but for her it’s more challenging because of her deafness. Because she is Deaf, some people only focus on her translator, when they talk to her, or are unsure how to talk to her, and just don’t.

So Julia’s artwork is an attempt to make herself seen, heard, unable to be dismissed away. However, while art can certainly make us memorable, famous after we pass away, I think that friends are essential to our experience here. Sometimes we don’t need the world to see us, but just one person, one friend. Art can make us remembered, but friends can make us remarkable.

In Conclusion,

All in all, I liked You’re Welcome Universe as reading it made me remember how fiercely I wanted to be seen and heard in high school. It made me thankful for my friends and the support I had. I recommend it if you’ve been feeling a little down of late on the state of the world, or to get an introduction into Deaf culture, or for just a plain old enjoyable read.

You should pick up You’re Welcome Universe on Amazon (US),  and add it to Goodreads.

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