Author: Whitney Gardner
Published Date: March 7th 2017
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Deaf
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
"My first real piece and I'm expelled. And now I need a new tag. Go ahead, call me a vandal, say I'm some sort of delinquent, it isn't going to insult me. It's not going to stop me. Please. This is what I live for."
I believe this was the first ever book I've read that has a deaf main character. So this ended up being a huge learning experience for me in not only learning about being deaf, but also about graffiti which is Julia's favorite hobby.
Julia does end up getting expelled like it says in the synopsis, but I wasn't expecting such a betrayal to happen between her and her best friend because of what she did to get expelled. After it happened though I understood Julia's feelings because she really was just trying to do the right thing even if it wasn't what her best friend wanted her to do. And now because of said best friend she is getting sent to a hearing school. One where she will have to have an aid and will be mostly alone. This is very isolating for Julia especially because she doesn't really like school at all, and having everyone around her be different just seems to make it worse.
As for Julia's home life it was really interesting to read as well. She has two moms who are both deaf as well and seeing how they interact and parent as well was really nice to read. In fact I would have to say that Julia's moms were some of the most involved YA book parents I've seen for awhile. They truly care for her and just want the best for her and to see that actually be conveyed in a YA book was nice.
"I don't do friends, I don't do friendly. I don't play nice, because I get played."
She does end up making a friend that she nicknames Yoga Pants and this friendship was so nice to see. Not only did YP treat Julia normal, but she also didn't go way over the top with trying to learning everything about Julia and how to best interact with her. Instead waited for Julia to give her cues for things. Which was really nice to see for a change. Of course I feel like part of YP niceness was because she herself felt alone now, because of her own struggles with things.
As for who she was in a tagging war with, I was surprised. I truly wasn't expecting that, and I also felt betrayed because of who it was.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. Obviously there were certain things I didn't really like, namely Julia's attitude about things (I did understand it, and I could tell some consequences were going to happen because of it that were going to potentially put her in a bad spot). As a person in a wheelchair I get being exasperated with people and just wanting to be left alone, but I also know that you have to tell them to leave you alone in a kind way so they know you still want them around and that you just need some space. It's a hard concept to explain to someone until you've been in that type of situation before yourself.
As for the graffiti parts of this book I found them to be a huge learning experience. I've been able to appreciate most graffiti for awhile now once Bansky made it well known and started to convey actually messages through it. Before then I just saw it as a way for people to tag things showing it was their territory. Now though I see it not only as art, but also as a form of expression thanks to this book.