Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Whitney Gardner

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Whitney Gardner

Whitney is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

I have a very vivid memory of my favorite sixth-grade outfit. I’d wear a long, color blocked t-shirt dress over a pair of firework-printed leggings. My shoelaces were self-tying curls of neon elastic. Everything was hand-me-downs, and everything was mismatched. Not that I realized this. I sewed a hundred random buttons to a bowler hat and wore a necklace with a plastic fish suspended in water. I named him Salvatore. I introduced him to anyone who would ask.

I was…a weird kid. And if I had access to a time machine I would go back to one very lonely moment, the one where I hid crying under a bush at recess, and read aloud the Luna Lovegood parts of Harry Potter to myself.

“Hey kid, quit crying. Come here.”

“I’m not crying I’m singing to the worms.”

“Okay, well take a break for a second. I have something for you.”

“Slide it under here.”

“No, I’m not sliding anything to you. Come out. I can see you under there.”

“What? Whoa…You’re…”

“You. But bigger.”

I wish Luna came into my life a lot sooner than she did. Because even though Luna was strange like me, bullied like me, had seen some darkness like I had, she never seemed to let it stop her. She didn’t wallow. She fully embraced herself. I could have used someone like Luna in my corner.

“I want you to read these.”

“Um, yeah. Sure.”

“I’m serious. You should actually read them.”

“Too many pages.”

“You won’t notice.”

“I’m no good at it. Everyone says it.”

“You’ll get better.”

“Yeah when I’m a million years old like you.”

“I promise. You will love them. There’s a girl in them, and she’s just like you.”

“No one is like me.”

“She is. And she’s magic.”

I finally gave in and read Harry Potter when I was twenty years old. The minute Ginny Weasley introduces Loony Lovegood I recognized her immediately. Because she was me. Right down to the upside down newspaper. I felt proud of who I was when I was a kid for the first time ever.

“Can I read them to Salvatore? He’s my fish.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“So…When I’m old…”

“I’m not that old yet. Chill with the old.”

“Are we still…weird?”


“Ugh. Great.”

“Yep. It is.”

Title You’re Welcome, Universe
Author Whitney Gardner
Pages 297 Pages
Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published March 7th, 2017 by Knopf
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off — and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

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