Thanks A Lot, Universe | An ARC Review

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!

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas

(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!

My Instagram | My Pinterest |

A Pho Love Story | An ARC Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing ‘A Pho Love Story’ by Loan Le. It’s actually my first ever eARC/ARC, and I am so happy I was approved to read this novel! Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. (Please note that the synopsis provided is from goodreads.) Without further ado, here is the review!

A Pho Love Story: Le, Loan: 9781534441934: Books - Amazon.ca

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember. Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories? 

First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the steps it takes to establish a restaurant.

The characters were a delight! Bao was snarky and always made me laugh. He was honestly just a really kind and caring character towards everyone really. I loved how the idea of not knowing what he wanted to do in the future was executed in the novel. Uncertainty about the future is a very real that people go through, so it was definitely cool to see! Linh on the other hand knew she wanted to be an artist. It’s wonderful to see young people pursuing the arts, and I loved how Loan Le incorporated Linh’s family into her art. Linh’s inspiration for creating art was very beautiful and I found myself liking her character. However, she wasn’t as memorable as I thought she’d be. Moreover, Linh and Bao had a very healthy relationship. They were so cute together, and made a fantastic team! There was some miscommunication, but it was worked out throughout the novel!

Since the version I read of A Pho Love Story was an ARC, there won’t be any quotes in my review. Instead, take this cute cat!

The side characters were unique as well. I loved how the cast was almost all Vietnamese. It was very refreshing to see! Linh’s friend Ally, and Bao’s friend Viet, where great supporting characters. They were both helpful, and funny. I only wish the author went more in depth into the lives of the side characters. I also absolutely adored the family dynamic. The tension between the two families felt raw and realistic. Another character I enjoyed reading about is Chef Le and his family’s hilarious cameos. It was nice to see a very wholesome relationship between the Mai sisters. Evie and Linh have a lovely sibling dynamic that I wish was explored more in the book. A Pho Love Story is gorgeously done in terms of creating a sense of community within families, and I fell in love with that. Having a loving family is something very special, so I am very happy it was explored vividly throughout the novel.

The dialogue between Linh, Bao, and their friends felt pretty average, nothing ground-breaking was said. It was the dialogue between the main characters and their parents that really intrigued me. I haven’t read many YA novels where the parents and children had intricate relationships. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see Vietnamese spoken throughout the book. I love learning about different languages and cultures, so this only added to the enjoyment of the novel!

I unfortunately struggled with the writing style. The point of view switches from Bao to Linh, and vice versa every 10-15 pages or so. I found myself struggling with trying to understand if the we were in Bao’s head, or in Linh’s. At other times, the story felt repetitive and boring. In my opinion, A Pho Love Story didn’t need to be over 400 pages long. If it was slightly shorter, I’m sure I would have loved it even more.

As mentioned previously, the book seemed to drag on at times and felt a bit repetitive. That did affect the overall enjoyment level a lot. Nevertheless, it was still an incredibly refreshing read that I totally recommend!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Stories of war and death

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

So, will you read A Pho Love Story? Have a great day!

| My Instagram | My Pinterest |