Hey everyone! I hope you’re all doing spectacularly! Here is my review for Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas. Thank you Netgalley and ABRAM Kids for providing me with an eARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Without further ado, here is the review!
(The synopsis provided is from goodreads.)
Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.
Before I get into the review, I would just like to mention how absolutely stunning the cover is. Just look at this beauty!
First let’s talk about the plot. It seemed like an average middle school coming of age. You’ve got the bullies, the awkward and quiet kid, and that one parent who loves sports. With that said, I’m happy to report that the plot was executed in a very intriguing and unique fashion. It tackled issues that I haven’t encountered all that much in other middle grade novels. My only complaint is that I feel as though the synopsis made me assume that Brian and Ezra would help each other out more than they actually did. Fortunately though, it was something pretty easy to overlook.
The main characters, thirteen year old Brian and Ezra, where so lovable! They were such interesting characters! Brian is socially awkward and has a hard time talking to the ‘popular kids.’ When I was their age, I could totally relate! Ezra was such a cool character! He loves old music, told hilarious jokes, and had great fashion sense! The only thing I found to be a little infuriating was when Brian talked so much about having trouble speaking to people, but then a couple pages later he swears at a teacher. I felt as though he went from zero to a hundred a bit too quickly. His parents also talked about how he was such a responsible kid, even though some of his actions in the book were rather questionable. Then again, I can only imagine how hard it is to be in the foster care system. My heart goes out to all of the children in these systems. Overall, our main characters are put into such heartbreaking situations that I was happy to see represented in a middle grade novel.
The side characters where also very diverse and intriguing. Thanks A Lot, Universe gave adults diverse narratives, and it really worked well in the story. It was also interesting to see Ezra lose touch with his supposed best friend. Friendship was widely explored throughout the book, and I absolutely adored that aspect of it! Moreover, I liked how although there are a lot of side characters, each character plays a significant role in Brian’s life. Whether it be positive, negative, or neutral. My only complaint is that the police officer associated with Brian wasn’t talked about that much, and we never really got to know his true intentions.
Furthermore, the dialogue was a lovely mix of lighthearted and serious. Brian’s conversations with his dad, Katie, and the police officer, seemed rather mysterious. While the conversations he had with Gabe, Brittany, his teacher, and Ezra, seemed more lighthearted. In addition, it was interesting to see how Brian explained their family situation to his little brother. Overall, the dialogue in Thanks A Lot, Universe was superb!
Unfortunately, the writing style felt repetitive at times, which was a bit of a turn off. At certain times in the story, the pacing escalated and de-escalated very quickly. For example, sometimes Brian’s mindset would change from I-am-so-shy-and-responsible to edgy-bad-boy-has-been-unlocked in almost an instant. However, as mentioned in my A Song Below Water review, I love when books have no swearing in them. There’s just something so refreshing about books like this one. I also liked how there wasn’t necessarily any romance. The main characters aren’t even fourteen yet, so it makes sense for there not be any romance. One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed reading about was the setting! It takes place in (I believe) Nova Scotia, which is a maritime province in Canada. It was very fascinating to read about a place I’ve never been to before.
The overall enjoyment level of Thanks A Lot, Universe is very high. The plot was gripping, the characters are intriguing, and the story is fast paced. Must I say more?
Age Rating: 11 and up
TW: bullying, displacement of homes, running away, some violence
Final Rating: 8/10 or 4 stars
What is your favorite coming of age novel? Let me know in the comments down below! Have a wonderful day!