YA book review · Young Adult

Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves

51x+4inGEzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2020.

Gr 9 & Up: After being kicked out of public school for a violent outburst and sent to anger management, high school senior Chamomile Myles enrolls at Gill School, a place of uniforms and typical teenage anxiety. Cham struggles to balance her two-sided universe: school with worries about prom, college applications, the annual service trip to Nicaragua, and the future; and home, where she keeps her father’s terminal illness a secret, even from her best friends Abigail and Hilary, where she often feels like a third wheel. Cham’s mother obsessively stress cleans, while allowing her father to pretend his problems are from an old motorcycle accident, when he clearly has advanced Parkinson’s. Brendan, a hospital volunteer and social outcast who boldly wears a man-bun and tutu to honor the memory of his late brother, effortlessly bridges the gap between Cham’s two wildly different worlds. Struggling to pass English and reeling from her brief romance with track star heartthrob Gene Wolf, Cham finds her new friendship with Brendan helpful in many ways. Recommended for realistic fiction fans of John Green and Nicola Yoon. VERDICT: Gonsalves’s witty style, diverse characters, and powerful portrait of mental health will intrigue teen and adult readers alike.

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