Book Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Image result for you're welcome, universe book

Title: You’re Welcome, Universe

Author: Whitney Gardner

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 297

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes


    You’re Welcome, Universe is told from the perspective of a deaf teenage girl named Julia who has a single-minded obsession with creating street art. Unfortunately, one person’s street art masterpiece is another person’s worthless mess of graffiti, and Julia’s lesbian moms have tried to make her promise to switch over to an art form that’s a little more legal. At the beginning of the book Julia gets kicked out of her school for the hearing-impaired for painting an image in the middle of the gym. The main reason she did it was to cover up previous graffiti that called her best friend Jordyn a ‘slut,’ but nobody cares and not only does her so-called closest friend sell her out, but Julia has to start going to a school for hearing students.


As you can imagine, the whole thing is hard for Julia and despite being saddled with an interpreter, being surrounded by people who can’t understand her is infuriating. Despite her promises to people she cares about, Julia deals with her anger and feelings of isolation and disenfranchisement by… you guessed it. Creating more street art. She’s determined to not make any friends with students at her new school but she ends up bonding with YP, a bubbly blonde former cheerleader turned overweight outsider who turns out to have more to her than initially meets the eye.


This novel’s cover art is vibrant and colorful and will probably draw people to it without even knowing what it’s about. There a number of black-and-white illustrations throughout the book that I thought were really cool and actually added a lot to the experience. You’re Welcome, Universe does a great job of helping readers understanding the challenges hearing-impaired people face and a little bit about the subculture of street art without feeling didactic. Even though the main character had a disability there was no sentimentality or preaching about accepting those who are different from you. Instead, it took a much more pragmatic approach through focusing on a protagonist who is fueled by anger and a sense of alienation.


Even though I thought Julia was a pretty interesting character and I could understand how frustrated she was, I had a lot of trouble sympathizing or even liking her at times. I didn’t feel like she didn’t have any redeeming qualities but there were so many points throughout the story where I just wanted to bitch-slap her. She was catty, disrespectful, and constantly sabotaged herself even though she wouldn’t stop accusing others of messing up her life. I understood to a certain extent why she was so angry, but I thought she was really over-reacting when she finds out the secret YP’s been hiding from her and goes the fuck off near the end.


Fortunately, I did feel like I could see her taking responsibility for her actions by the end, so I was glad she was finally showing signs of growth. I liked her moms and wish they could have played more of a role in the story; they were loving and supportive parents and I thought it was cool how nobody made a big deal about their sexuality. The only thing in this book that I really didn’t like was the subplot of YP’s struggles with anorexia. While I get that a person going from one extreme (self-starvation) to another (obesity) after being in recovery for the former sort of makes sense, I didn’t like the way it was handled.


After YP and Julia’s falling-out YP’s ex-boyfriend Kyle tells Julia that ‘if she gets worse, it’s on you.’ I had to agree with Julia that YP’s eating disorder wasn’t her responsibility, but the ending seemed to suggest that in some way it was. It seemed like the author was minimizing that YP was dealing with a serious illness that Julia wouldn’t be able to cure by making up with her. All of the ‘serious issues’ in this book were pretty well-handled besides the whole thing with the eating disorder, and I can’t help but wonder if the author could have made the book better by just not including it. Overall, though, I enjoyed You’re Welcome, Universe and I thought it educated me a little bit on a few issues, especially the major difficulties of integrating into mainstream society when you’re deaf, especially when you’re completely deaf like Julia. This book felt both realistic and tuned in with modern teen life (without seeming like something that will feel dated within ten years,) and it managed to capture my attention throughout.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s