Thanks to KidLitExchange and Little Brown Young Readers for sharing Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves. This book publishes on 5/12/2020, and I love that it’s going to come out right around graduation season, since finishing high school is such a poignant plot in this book.
Chamomile is counting down the days to prom - and the window for her boyfriend to ask her is dwindling. She tries not to think about it too much, and it’s not hard, because all her friends are looking forward to the senior volunteer trip to Nicaragua. The trip isn’t really on Cham’s radar, because she hasn’t finished her college admissions essay, which is a requirement to go. Cham isn’t even sure she’ll go to college in the fall - she’s too worried about her dad, whose disease is progressing quicker than anyone thought it would.
Cham is determined to keep her home life separate from her school world. She’s constantly pleading with the universe to help her pull it off, but she knows she can’t keep it up forever.
This story makes the reader incredibly invested in Cham’s life - or lives, as she’d prefer to have it. Some of the sentences made me gasp because they capture being seventeen so perfectly - on the brink of a huge life transition, with the world ready for you, while also fearing what might come next.
Getting real for a minute: Sometimes I feel jaded when I read YA books because the romance is so hopeful and pure, it makes me roll my eyes - even though I remember that’s how it was. Or the teens have all the talent in the world if they just stand up to their parents to go after their dreams - but some real kids don’t have that, they’re just average and can’t recognize any outstanding skills in themselves. This book, on the other hand, is the most REAL YA book I’ve read in awhile, that reminds me of my (eons ago) high school self and my friends, and the teens I recently got to know at the library. There’s a bit of romance, but it’s not all happy. There’s a lot of struggle, but it’s real. There’s a lot of true uncertainty and emotion expressed honestly. And there is so much hopefulness and fear that you’ll remember being seventeen in the best way possible.