Title: You're Welcome, Universe
Author: Whitney Gardner
About: 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.
I was a little wary after the last art book I attempted was a let down, but You're Welcome Universe was a pleasant surprise. Julia gets kicked out of her (deaf) school after being caught painting over someone calling her best friend a slut on a school wall. This means regular school. It means being surrounded by 'hearies' who don't understand her. It means having an interpreter following her around to all her classes. It means her two moms being mad at her. And, worst of all, it means being locked out of an advanced art class because she switches mid-year.
Once Julia's at her new school, she finds out her best friend Jordan isn't on quite the same friend page as her when she starts dating Julia's crush. I mean, it was already a slippery slope what with Jordan turning her in to save her own ass. So, yeah. That's over. She starts spending her now friendless free time working on her street art. She starts small by adding a piece to a stop sign. Which then gets added to by someone else, effectively calling her out. Julia's pieces get bigger and more ambitious, and the unknown tagger keeps up, calling her out again and again. This infuriates her and she becomes obsessed with knowing who this other street artist is.
The best part of the book is Julia's friendship with a girl she dubs 'YP' for the yoga pants she favors. It was so nice to watch their friendship develop. At first Julia is very us versus them about the hearies at her new school, but as YP continues to hang around and pick up ASL, they become good friends. They each get a taste of each other's world and Julia eventually makes it into the art class she was originally shut out of.
I loved a lot of the little things about this book. I love that there are pictures of Julia's art included in the pages, and I love that one of her moms bought her a wall!
I know, right??
Also I love how Julia's lip reading was notated in the book. It was super frustrating to read so I can only imagine what it's like to actually have to lip read to understand someone. I super loved when she found out the little balls inside of spray paint cans make noise. There was one part of the story that I found a touch unbelievable. I think you'll know it when it happens, but it's in there to keep Julia inspired and painting so I'll give it a pass. I just think it's a little too big for this book.
It's the small moments in You're Welcome, Universe that kept me coming back for more. It's a great story of a deaf street artist and a growing friendship. It's about allowing competition to build yourself up instead of breaking you down and stretching yourself creatively. I loved taking this journey with Julia.