You’re Welcome, Universe (Whitney Gardner)


Friends are a liability.
Julia learns this the hard way when she covers up a slur about her best friend with a beautiful (albeit illegal) mural, sprayed right across the gymnasium of the Kingston School for the Deaf.

Her (supposed) best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her mom’s 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.

Out in the ‘burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. A tag on a sign, a piece on an overpass. But soon Julia leans that she’s not 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 graffiti war.

Now Julia must risk arrest and expulsion to go toe to toe with her rival…or face losing the only piece of her identity that still makes sense.

So guys, I’ve been seeing this book all around on the interwebs, so it was a no brainer to request it when it became available on Netgalley, and I was super lucky to get approved and be able to read it.

I’m not entirely sure how to review You’re Welcome, Universe, because I have some conflicting feelings about it, even if I ended up rating the book 4 stars.

So, I decided that I would just tell you what truly worked for me on this book, and what didn’t and why, ok? Let’s start with the positives.


I think first and foremost I have to mention the diversity in this book.  Julia, the main character, is a Deaf girl of Indian ascendency , daughter of a lesbian couple. This is important and it’s great!

Another thing that I have to applaud is that this was a contemporary that did not revolve around romance, and instead, its main focus was friendship and family.

I really enjoyed the writing and I thought that the author was able to give Julia a super unique voice, and even though I had problems with Julia, I did like her narration. Julia was sarcastic and I liked the type of humour (see below for my problems with her).

I have to say that I know nothing about Deaf culture, but I loved that the author explained things during the book, and made the scenes and interactions look natural, even in the botched lip reading attempts or speaking one handed while driving. I could picture it all, and I don’t think that’s an easy feat.

““Cat got your tongue?” he asks. It always baffles me when people think I’m just typing things out to be different. Or lazy. My new favorite is when they say it’s my generation. Damn millennials, never off their stupid phones! No, you ableist jerkwad . This is how I’m going to communicate with you.”

This was a very character driven book, and I loved Julia’s growth throughout the book.

I loved that the book – in this case the eARCincluded the art mentioned throughout the book, and that it was included in the right places. Sometimes books with art put all those pieces of art at the end, and it doesn’t work in terms of flow. This one did.

“My old art teacher told me I draw like a man. I’ve never forgiven him. I don’t draw like anything, I draw like everything. I draw like me.”

Apart from the art, the book also showed drawings of some signs for different words, and that was a brilliant addition.


My biggest problem with this book was actually Julia, the main character. I get that she’s 16, and I remember being 16 and feeling like everything was the end of the world. But Julia? Julia is not only a super angry teenager, but she’s purposely mean! And judgmental too, and I guess it just didn’t compute to me how she could say stuff like this:

“No. No way. I refuse to believe it. He’s not clever enough — he’s all looks. This sort of work takes brains and talent.”

She’s also bitchy and very hurtful at some points in the novel, and while I’m glad that she grew up a lot during the book, there were some things she did that totally baffled me. If you’ve read the book, I’m talking about Donovan…

YP or Yoga Pants. What’s her name? No clue! I do understand the use of name signs and I didn’t think the dialog or even the mentions to her were weird as YP. What I found weird and a bit disturbing is that we never learn her name. Never ever during the course of the book does Julia ask her new (and best) friend “hey, what is your name?“. Never!

Still on Yoga Pants – and it hurts me to write this down, because the girl does not have a name in the book – , she has an eating disorder. The information is thrown out there, and mentioned several times during the book. But it is not explored, except to move the plot along at one point. While I like the representation and the inclusion, because it’s such an important topic, the fact that YP relapsing being intimately connected to Julia, made me cringe. And the fact that this wasn’t directly addressed made me a bit uncomfortable.

Even though I had some important issues with the book, I still really really enjoyed it. I actually appreciate that the main character is not perfect and had a lot of room to grow, because she did, and I liked that a lot. I just wished that YP had been more explored, given her importance in the novel.

But I still very much recommend it, because it is a fantastic book, and one that I might even consider getting a physical copy of, because I kind of love that cover.

Btw… this book gave me some major Switched at Birth vibes…


10 thoughts on “You’re Welcome, Universe (Whitney Gardner)

  1. Marie says:

    Such a lovely review! I added this book on my TBR a little while ago and I am SO eager to read it, even more now that I read your review. I’m happy it focuses on friendship so much 🙂

  2. Emma's Library says:

    I can’t stop thinking about this book. I read it yesterday in one sitting and it blows my mind how brilliant the Deaf representation is. The problems you have with Julia, I don’t personally have issues with because I get it, I understand her frustrations, and I see them in my Deaf sister nearly every day. I did get a little infuriated with her at times but when I stopped to think about it and recognise that this is part of Julia’s development, her coming to terms with changes and everything, it felt completely normal and relatable, especially since I could see my sister acting that way.

    I need to get a physical copy of this book and give it to my sister and say look here is a character you will understand, here is a book that teaches awareness of your world because you’re not going to find another one so accurate and relatable.

    I also don’t want to come across as being picky but what you called ‘hand gestures’ should always be known as signs, unless they are general gestures someone might use if they don’t properly know Sign Language. If you said that in place of signs to a Deaf person like my sister they’d be offended because to have Sign Language recognised by people as an actual language is super important and something they continue to fight for. To give you an example – BSL only became an officially recognised language in the UK back in 2003 and it is only in the last couple of years that Scotland have had a BSL ACT to make full accessibility in BSL a mandatory requirement.

    • My Tiny Obsessions says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! And thank you for bringing the issue of the “hand gestures” to my attention, I changed it now. Unfortunately I didn’t know that might be constructed as offensive, but I totally get it, so thank you again.
      This actually made me go look at when the Portuguese Sign Language had been recognized here (1997) 🙂 .
      I’m so glad you saw an accurate representation on this book, and I hope you do give it to your sister and she loves it as well. 🙂

  3. Emma's Library says:

    No problem. I’m glad I managed to mention it in a constructive manner. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to word awareness correctly so it doesn’t sound rude or blunt – I’ve found it’s an awfully fine line. ☺

    • My Tiny Obsessions says:

      lol, yeah, i think so too. to be honest, I wasn’t that aware of it and not to make excuses, but I think it comes to the portuguese term for Sign Language, which literally translates to Gestual Language. Either way, I’m glad you brought it up, because I’ll try never to do the same mistake again 🙂

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