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

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When someone writes a cruel insult about Julia’s best friend on the wall of the Kingston School for the Deaf, Julia retaliates by covering it with some beautiful graffiti.  She never expected Jordyn to snitch, but she did, and Julia finds herself expelled and forced into a mainstream school.  As the new girl, with an interpreter, no less, Julia struggles to fit in.  Her only enjoyment is her art, and she becomes bolder and bolder as she tags the city after dark.  Her artwork gets her noticed by her fellow artists, and it’s not long before she finds herself in a turf war.

I’m going to try to start with some positives in this review. One thing that I’ve noticed recently is the diversity in YA lit.  This is the second book I’ve read this week featuring a character with two moms, and I think that’s great.  In addition to being Deaf and having two moms, Julia is a person of color.  This is such a far cry from the YA of my childhood and I love it.

Unfortunately, that’s about all that I loved about this book.

Julia is the worst.  I don’t need my YA heroines to be little angels, but it certainly helps when they have at least some redeeming qualities.  I hated Julia with a such a fiery, burning passion that I had to talk myself out of DNFing on multiple occasions!

Julia is selfish.  She’s bratty.  She is angry at everyone and everything and there’s really no reason for it because she literally brings everything on herself.  She’s disrespectful to her moms, she’s disrespectful to her teachers, she’s disrespectful to her interpreter, and she’s disrespectful to her friends.  She justifies her behavior by saying that she’s been burned in the past.  I might be in my late 20′s, but I remember being a teenager.  I remember the dramatics and the heavy sighs when things went even a little wrong.  I remember being a bit bratty sometimes.  But this?  This is so over-the-top that I could not take Julia seriously.  She was a child.

I get that the author was in a bit of a tough place here.  With a character like Julia, someone who’s Deaf and Indian with two moms, she was in definite danger of making her into a symbol of some kind.  And Julia didn’t have to be perfect.  She didn’t have to be a role model or a saint.  But Julia couldn’t comprehend why her moms didn’t want her going out at night and breaking the law.  Like maybe they were just mad that she likes art.  I couldn’t connect with Julia at all, because she was, as I said, the actual worst.

And so judgmental.  Julia was always judging people.  Donovan couldn’t be an artist because he’s cute and cute people can’t be smart.  YP couldn’t be an artist because she’s blond and bubbly.   At one point, she actually says that Jordyn liked her because she didn’t judge, but at the time she’s saying that, she is literally judging Jordyn for how many boys she’s dated. I mean, I couldn’t make this up. Jordyn might be a villain in this story, but there’s no reason to slut-shame her because of it.

Throughout the book, all I could think was that Julia needed some serious help.  She goes around basically trying to ruin her life by burning bridges, skipping class, lying to her parents, and alienating her interpreter.  I’m not denying that Julia had some unfortunate things happen to her.  And sure, she’s definitely right to cut off contact with Jordyn. But she was so over-the-top dramatic about YP, and the scene with her and Donovan in the car made me so uncomfortable.  This is not the way anybody should be acting.

I’m surprised not to see anything about The Banksy Ordeal™ in reviews.  I wrote this huge rant about it in my Kindle notes, but I don’t want to subject you those ramblings, so let me summarize. Am I seriously supposed to believe that this actually happened?  Was Julia perhaps dreaming, or maybe high on spray paint fumes?  I mean, what the heck.  What kind of plot point is that?

Most of what I felt while reading this book was anger.  I appreciate what Gardner was aiming for, but this book was just not for me.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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