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

Contemp/Disability/LGBTQIA

Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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*

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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 😉

Waiting On Wednesday 

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 

img_3766They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Published by: HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, LGBTQIA

Publication Date: September 5th 2017

*click on image for Goodreads link 

In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, this tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut the New York Times called “profound,” reminds us that there’s no life without death, no love without loss—and that it’s possible to change your whole world in a day.
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

By now it’s safe to say that I am a fan of Adam Silvera & the man can do no wrong in my eyes..no seriously, he can’t 😌 When I first watched an interview of him where he mentioned that he was writing a Sci-Fi book next, my heart skipped a beat lol. Here is probably my ONLY favorite YA Contemporary aauthor & he is willing to take risks. I love that he is not trying to conform to just one genre. Yes, I believe there is some truth to authors having trouble when trying to cross over however Adam is still new to us readers. I’d take risks in the beginning too, why not? Life is too short to be put in a box & Adam in his writing has shown us that. I’m excited for this new book & it’s setting in NYC which is where I live. Adam knows these streets better than most & it’s nice to see familiar places in his books. There’s something real  & raw about the friendships/relationships in Adam’s books. I cannot wait to read They Both Die at the End with its GORGE cover 😍💙😍💙😍

Which of my bookish peeps are READY for another Adam silvera book?!?! 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 I know I am, cuz History Is All You Left me SLAYYYYYED my life 😩 Haha! 

 

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: September 6th 2016

Genre: YA & LGTBQIA 

Pages- 336 pages

Format- eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Summary:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. 

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

 

I’d like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for approving me to receive an eGalley of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

During my search for diversification in YA books, I stumbled across Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost. On the cover is a girl in a Death Day mask, making this an eye catcher for anyone walking by with an eye for stunning covers. I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did but it took me on THE MOST magical ride with elements of Alice in Wonderland along the way. We get introduced to our main protagonist Alex who is part of a family of “brujas” (Spanish for witch) & like every bruja before & after, she will need to have her Death Day celebration to mark her coming into her powers. Typically, the celebration is held on birthday’s in order to throw more over the top parties. Alex however, has no interest in having her Death Day celebration or accepting her powers…in fact she’s trying to stop it from ever taking place. One spell gone wrong results in Alex’s whole family disappearing into the in between world. A world where souls linger & are tortured. It was through the introduction of this underworld of sorts, that you are able to really appreciate & enjoy the writing style. Beyond this, would be giving away too much of the plot so instead I’ll go into some of the things that I loved about this book.

The #ownvoices movement that started recently has been one that I fully support. I love discovering new authors that are able to infuse their culture into their writing, their voices are ones that I can relate to & that’s always cool…seeing a bit of me in what I’m reading. In Labyrinth Lost, we are introduced to Alex’s ancestors (spirits of deceased family members) who as the author notes are from Ecuador, Spain, Africa, Mexico, and the Carribean. Although Alex & her family are not classified as practicing any specific denomination of religion, we do see some aspects of other religions such as Santeria & Catholicism with a new age twist. It was interesting seeing the authors spin on some of the Gods & being able to recognize the cultural influences. The families “Book of Cantos” was another very cool detail, it is a book that contains all of Alex’s ancestor’s spells & magic. It also contains quotes, sayings, and bruja(o) songs, each chapter started off with a snippet of a passage from their Book of Cantos. I also enjoyed the family dynamics in Alex’s home, one comprised mostly of women with their father’s unexplained disappearance weighing heavy in all of their hearts. The sisterly bond between Alex, Lula, and Rose stood out the most. Their interactions with each other felt genuine & realistic. Alex’s mom gave me a few laugh out loud moments & this is because I was able to see my mom & family in this character. This is a story of family & self-discovery, Alex knows that she’s different than the rest of her family and is scared to disappoint those that she loves by the choices she makes. I think everyone can see a bit of Alex in them no matter the cultural background/experience which is why I would recommend this book to everyone.

I’m looking forward to continuing with The Brooklyn Brujas series. I am also glad to have stumbled across Zoraida Córdova. I was just wondering how I can go about bringing more attention to this author when I received an e-mail from the publisher offering me the opportunity to feature the author in a Author Spotlight & Giveaway post, that’s on it’s way & you won’t want to miss it 😉

Has anyone else read Labyrinth Lost? I’d love to read your thoughts on the book. Please feel free to drop the link to your review or drop a comment my lovelies 🙂

Diversity Spotlight Thursday

Diversity Spotlight Thursday

 

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a new weekly meme hosted by Aimal over at Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Every week, you come up with one book in each of three different categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and one that has not yet been released. You can check out the announcement post here.
This is my 1st week participating in the Diversity Spotlight Thursday meme & I couldn’t be more thrilled to see a fellow blogger do something positive & uplifting to bring some diverse reads to the forefront. Thank YOU Aimal!!!! 😉

 

A Book I have Read

 

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 More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

More Happy Than Not is one of my favorite LGBTQIA YA & I devoured it in two sittings. The setting felt very familiar to me coming from a block in Brooklyn where the people also felt like family (especially in the Summer). Aaron (main protagonist) has left an imprint in my soul. Adam Silvera made Aaron’s pain, guilt, confusion, and heartbreak all feel very real. This kid could not catch a break. I’m looking forward to this author’s next book as I did enjoy his writing style very much. If you’re a fan of Junot Diaz, I believe you will also enjoy Adam Silvera’s writing. Fair warning: bring tissue before you pick this one up.

“I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending- it’s a series of endless happy beginnings”

 

 

A Book On My TBR

 

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Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Goodreads Synopsis:

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

 I’ve had Outrun the Moon on my TBR for a few months now & found a hardcover copy in Strand Bookstore for $9 in the beginning of August. I actually jumped for joy when I found this book *covers eyes* lol. Well, did you guys & gals read that synopsis? I mean, for those of you who like me enjoy a kick ass protagonist who also happens to be a POC, Outrun the Moon looks to be promising. Also, It will be interesting to read about Chinatown in San Francisco seeing as I’ve only visited Chinatown in NYC where I live.

 

 

A Book Releasing Soon

 

Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

*To be released September 6th (next week)

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Praise for Labyrinth Lost:

“Zoraida Cordova’s prose enchants from start to finish. Labyrinth Lost is pure magic.” -Melissa Grey, author of The Girl at Midnight

“Magical and empowering, Labyrinth Lost is an incredible heroine’s journey filled with mythos come to life; but at its heart, honors the importance of love and family.” -Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and Silver Phoenix

“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.” -Daniel Jose Older, author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is a magical story of love, family, and finding yourself. Enchanting from start to finish.” -Amy Tintera, author of Ruined.

I am currently reading Labyrinth Lost as I was lucky enough to have been approved for an eGalley just a couple of days ago. I am OBSESSED ladies & gents! So much so, that I’ve already ordered my physical copy & cannot wait to see my post office person (top fave person in the world) deliver it to me *SqueeeEE* this read is dark with elements of Alice in Wonderland, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and Dante’s Inferno. We have an entire POC cast & Zoraida Cordova’s writing is…#Ownvoices.

 

I’d love to see some of your Diversity Spotlight posts, if you’ve participated this week please leave your link. I’m trying to grow my diverse reads TBR since I know now that I am lacking in this area. Hope you all are having a beautiful Friday’s Eve 😉