Thanks a Lot, Universe

Abrams/Amulet. May 2021. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419751028.
Gr 5-8–Author Lucas scores big with this debut. Readers follow Brian, who is white, and Ezra, who is Trinidadian and Polish, during the last weeks of seventh grade. Brian’s family fractures when his father leaves in an attempt to avoid legal repercussions at his job and his mother attempts suicide. As Brian and his little brother find themselves in foster care, Brian’s existing anxiety becomes overwhelming. Meanwhile, Ezra navigates rapidly changing friendships and struggles to share his sexuality with folks important to him. As the boys’ bond grows, they truly see and uplift each other, illustrating the importance of honest friendships. Lucas’s prose is funny and deeply empathetic, respecting readers’ ability to handle heavy topics but lightened with frequent laugh-out-loud moments. The diverse cast of characters demonstrates the complexity of friendship and navigating difficult conversations. While similar real-world experiences are likely to be bumpier than portrayed here, the book’s hope and positivity are infectious. Readers can learn a great deal from these characters.
VERDICT Painfully real and radiantly hopeful, this is a recommended first purchase. Perfect for the transition from middle grade to young adult literature, this title would be at home in both collections, and certainly on middle school shelves.

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