* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book
When her supposed best friend snitches on her, Julia finds herself expelled and stuck in a mainstream school who aren’t kind to the only Deaf girl there. The only thing she takes with her is her paints and Julia tags wherever she can. But someone is adding to them and a graffiti war is the last thing she thought she’d find herself in.
The last book I read with Deaf characters was Soundless by Richelle Mead and just comparing these two you tell the difference of research that went into the portrayal of Deaf characters. YWU depicts Deaf culture; the way she texts, how ASL is, in fact, a language not an extension of English, the typical experiences a deaf student faces when in a majority hearing school. We’re shown her lifestyle and it’s not just a case of simply replacing said/says with signed. (I did have a review from a Deaf reader to put in here but the links I had are no longer available – will update when I find new ones)
YWU pulled me in from the beginning. Julia’s revenge for her friend, watching her transition from her school which properly accommodated her to a mainstream one. Her anger as she realises that someone is painting alongside her pieces. Julia is far from perfect; she’s so damn mean at some points but within reason in most of them. I liked that the book put a stronger emphasis on friendship, in the end, it triumphs over the romantic subplot, which in my opinion could’ve done better. The friendship dynamic between Julia and her new friend is so good and one of the best parts of the novel.
[spoilers mentioned below]
As I mentioned before Julia is a hard-to-like protagonist. While it was enjoyable at first, there were truly so many moments where I couldn’t stand her. I get she’s a teen, so her angsty stomping about when she doesn’t get what she wants is understandable. But she was so snooty about certain things, especially when it came to art; her judgmental behaviour, treating some art better than others, slut-shaming her friend, and then also making out with said friend’s boyfriend to prove he wasn’t worth it to her. Like I said, being a teen means making mistakes, but none of it is called out as being bad.
Overall, it was a decent read, could’ve emphasised more on the turf war part since the pressure we’re supposed to be feeling of Julia getting caught is never really there. And also the big reveal was a shock but I felt like the story fell from that point onwards. The illustrations are really cool which added a special touch to the book!