Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

25701463You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published by: RandomHouse

Pub Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: YA


Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★


A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.


The Goodreads synopsis for You’re Welcome Universe pretty much captures what this book is about so I won’t paraphrase, instead I’ll cover the themes. This book seriously had it all & then some! the result is a EPIC story you won’t want to put down. We start off with the main protagonist Julia getting into some trouble in school after she is caught using graffiti to cover up slurs on a wall aimed at her “best friend”. Julia’s intentions were good but as we all know graffiti is illegal & frowned upon. Graffiti is Julia’s way of expressing herself in a world that is very much silent to her. More importantly, she finds that in her art she can be seen in a world where she feels invisible & therefore bypassed. You’re Welcome Universe is a book about the up’s & down’s of friendships, self expression, trust, and staying true to yourself no matter what.

Our main protagonist Julia considers herself a rare anomaly & proud of it. This character is confident even when she may not feel that way on the inside. Most of the time she is speaking her mind through sign language & won’t shy away from giving her two cents when asked. I appreciated Julia’s raw & straight forward personality because we don’t see a lot of that in YA contemporaries.

I flip Through some magazines, hoping lightning will strike, but there’s not a cloud in the sky. No one in the pages of Nylon is like me. I’m a fingerprint, an anomaly, a snowflake. Indian, Deaf, girl, two moms. You couldn’t make this shit fit in the pages of those glossy mags.”

Julia is also very loyal & expects the same in return from her friends. She doesn’t wear a hearing aide & communicates via sign language. Both of Julia’s moms are also deaf which meant that a lot of the book was also internal monologue. Julia is sarcastic & so when you’re in her head you can’t help but smile at this strong & witty gal who is navigating friendships, crushes, and the parentals while also trying to feed her passion for graffiti. what I loved most about Julia had to be her commitment to being REAL when it came to her friends/non friends & giving it to them straight! This is admirable, too many times your friends hold back for fear of losing you but its rare when you find a Julia 😉

The Parentals Mee & Ma play the role of good cop/bad cop which felt realistic, there’s always one parent who gets pegged the “strict one”. I enjoyed seeing Julia’s parents interactions & conversations as well as the cute traditions they created. There are good times & bad ones just like with any teenager but at the end of the day, their love for one another helped them overcome the challenges along the way. Julia also befriends a girl in her new school who she assigned the nickname YP (Yoga Pants) in sign language. YP is an interesting character, from the instant she meets Julia they hit it off but even they are aware of how unlikely their friendship appears. YP at the time is in the Cheerleading squad and is dating the “hot” guy in school, but YP also has a secret. I loved YP’s character, seeing her take initiative to learn sign language in order to be able to communicate with Julia stood out the most for me. Given how our story begins with a broken friendship, I was weary of YP but also happy to see Julia find a good friend. YP struggles with a hidden disorder I won’t disclose cuz spoilers but I will say that I appreciated how it was handled.  I also loved Julia’s treatment of YP, she wasn’t afraid to tell her friend “you’re beautiful” & that’s quite rare. Julia cared to see YP happy & looked out for her feelings which meant a lot considering Julia herself is the opposite of sensitive. We also get to meet Julia’s interpreter Casey who sits in on all of her classes & truly cares for Julia. Casey, I felt played an important role in the sense that her presence gives the reader a taste of what it’s like for Julia to need her to communicate with other people on her behalf.


Every once in a while I pick up a YA Contemporary that gives me all the feels & renews my interest in the genre…You’re Welcome, Universe is that book! Julia referring to herself as an anomaly/snowflake set the tone for the book. She knew she was one of a kind & that gave her a sense of pride which I loved seeing. The positive portrayal of a Indian deaf girl with 2 deaf moms…I absolutely admired & adored this fictional family.

Throughout the book we get to see some of the street art Julia so graciously shared & I enjoyed seeing the Graffiti battles on the pages. I didn’t include any of the actual images from the book because I found those to be the most fun getting to as I was reading. You want to flip the page & see what she tagged on the wall & how the mystery person who is challenging her tags with their own, responds. I also got bit nostalgic since Julia lives in NYC and the places she was visiting to tag up are places I am familiar, being born & raised here in NY. Graffitti played it’s role in this city’s history and can still be found if you’re looking…

5 POINTZ (Julia’s dream wall) actually existed in Queens NYC, this is just one of the walls. This place has a ton of history & is home to many of the famous taggers. In 2013 it was purchased & the walls white washed causing much anger in the community 😦

The writing is very easy going in this book but perhaps what has resonated deeply within me is the positive messages this book sent out to overpower the negativity people with disabilities & disorders are subjected to. I couldn’t be more satisfied with our female protagonist & wish only to see more from Whitney Gardner in the near future *fingers crossed*

*Thank you RandomHouse, NetGalley, and Whitney Gardner for the opportunity to read & review You’re Welcome, Universe in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*



Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.

Have any of my bookish peeps read You’re Welcome, Universe? Thoughts? drop your links down below if you happen to have a review 😉

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

31 thoughts on “Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner”

  1. i love this review so much.. i didn’t know this book was based in NYC and now knowing that it’s set at home..i need it even more now. it also helps that the author is originally from here. eeeeeek.
    this book is so diverse and i just need all of it. i am sensing that i will Julia just as much as you did twin! thanks for this wonderful review. can’t wait to see the artwork inside the book =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Twin! I actually went looking for a copy in Target near home & didn’t find it so I will be ordering it this week *heart eyes* I do think you will love this book & enjoy the NY references as well. The artwork is fun, I wonder if they are in color in the physical book. Either way I loved them, hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Lilly, I saw You’re Welcome Universe on Goodreads a little while back and immediately added it to my to-read list because it sounded amazing! I’m glad to see you really enjoyed it as well.
    Your review makes it sound just as wonderful as I think it’s going to be so now I can’t wait to get started on it myself. I seem to be in a bit of a contemporary slump so if this book renewed your interest in the genre maybe it will do the same for me! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth! & yes, if you’re feeling slumpy in the Contemporary genre then this one should do the trick, I don’t think it’s anything you’ve seen before. It’s also short & filled with illustrations, I LOVED it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t wait to read this. From what you’ve mentioned, I feel optimistic that the author has done her research and captured deafness well. If not, I’ll be peeved.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. I’ll be looking at the Deaf culture from personal experiences so I hope it does live up to everything I’ve heard.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have spent my whole life battling severe hearing loss and now facing the decision on a possible treatment that will completely destroy what is left of my left ear, so the blurb instantly connected with me. I love the idea of a deaf protagonist and the use of art for self expression, escape and release! This sounds stunning Lilly ❤ I think it would be an emotionally charged read for myself and many others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this Danielle 😦 I’d love to hear your thoughts/perspective on this one if you choose to give it a go. The inclusion of illustrations & interpreter really sets this one aside from what I’ve seen in the YA Contemporary genre. I felt that Julia’s frustration & at times anger were palpable. It packs a punch but it’s also a short read 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it is a different experience for me as they were able to temporary improve my hearing for a few years a child before it started to go again. I am lucky in that sense. They have a new device out that I am being tested for.. very excited! Until I can hear the kids back talking again bahah ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lmao! I hope it’s a perfect fit but yes you’ll prob meows the peace & quiet. I can’t hear all too well when someone is nearby talking to me but I can hear from a distance…it’s the wire seat thing. My husband thinks I’m pulling his leg when I’m asking him to repeat what he said 3 or 4 times but I can hear him 4 rooms away 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so happy that you ended up enjoying the book, Lilly! I swear I want to drop everything and read it because this is one book that I’ve continuously heard fantastic things about and the more I hear the more excited I get. I may have to pick up a copy on Thursday since I’ll be near a bookstore. I’m always wanting to read more YA that feature deaf characters realistically not to mention the fact that this explores friendships and family. And I love that Julia has a passion for art, specifically graffiti. I can’t wait to see the illustrations. Great review as always!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melissa, I’m not big on YA contemporaries but I’m all for diverse Contemps & this one exceeded my expectations. So many different topics were explored & it just all worked well. The fact that Julia herself acknowledges that she is an anomaly, what with being a Indian girl who is deaf & had 2 deaf moms, made this book stand aside from all others. I really do hope you enjoy it as much as I did! I’m so curious to see if the physical copy has the illustrations in color cuz the eGalley was black & white. I’m buying a physical copy this week as well 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome!! 😊
        It’s good to hear that it exceeded your expectations. It’s always great when a book can do that. I’ve actually been in a bit of a YA contemporary slump but I’m thinking this one and Queen of Geek will pull me right out of it. I plan trying to read both of them next month once I finish the Shades of Magic books. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did too! And if I see a physical copy before you I’ll definitely let you know if the illustrations are in color. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Fabulous review Lilly! There are so many great aspects about this novel that sound like they make for a wonderful read: a character with a disability, art (graffiti), positive parental relationships…. Yes please! When I was reading this, I could not get the TV show Switched at Birth out of my mind… did you ever see it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Amanda! 💕 I’ve never watched Switched at Birth but my sister does & she’s mentioned a few episodes & can see how it has the same feel 😃 I LOVED this book! Can you tell?!?! Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Brilliant review! This is actually the first I’ve heard of You’re Welcome, Universe, but it is already high on my TBR. (That’s what you get for writing an AMAZING review!!) I am fascinated how Gardner will write a deaf character and their family. I’ve read book with deaf characters, even when they were narrating, but they’ve never been the main protagonist. Must read!


    1. Thank you Jackie! 😃💕ugh this book is a top contender for top 5 faves of 2017 smh, it’s going to be tough to beat that’s for sure 😉admittedly this is the first book I’ve read with a deaf character. I’d like to read more so if you find any with good representation please send them my way 😄


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