Cover Image: You Owe Me One, Universe (Thanks a Lot, Universe #2)

You Owe Me One, Universe (Thanks a Lot, Universe #2)

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Member Reviews

Loved this thoughtful and honest follow up to Thanks a Lot, Universe. Readers will enjoy the realistic conflicts between friends, the confusion and pain of parents being imperfect, and the opportunity to put broken pieces back together again, even when it seems unlikely or even impossible. I really appreciated the nod to restorative justice, something I'm happy to see in children's literature, as it helps us as a society move away from punitive measures and move towards embracing each other as more fully human.

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Chad Lucas is a master of writing about the emotions of boys, their anxiety and depression and longings. This is a tender exploration of figuring out identity, tinged with the humor of snappy dialogue. A follow up to Thanks A Lot Universe, but can also be enjoyed as a stand alone. A must read middle grade!

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this.

Unfortunately, we're in a position where we need far more books normalizing depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles than exist on the market. This is a nice addition to the field, as is its predescessor.

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Thank you to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids for the eARC!

Chad Lucas's debut, THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE, is one of my favourite middle grade reads of all time, and reading the sequel, YOU OWE ME ONE, UNIVERSE, felt like coming home. I love Brian and Ezra as MG protagonists and I'm so glad we got to see the continuation of their story in this sequel.

YOU OWE ME ONE, UNIVERSE picks up where the first book left off, with Brian dealing with mental health challenges and Ezra dealing with his feelings for Brian—and, perhaps, for someone else. Lucas does such a wonderful job tackling various tough topics with such care and honesty, and I loved the healthy friendships and relationships that were portrayed throughout this story. The narration remains as funny as it was in the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing some side characters expanded throughout the sequel.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who read and enjoyed the first one, or to any MG readers. It's rare to see a sequel to a MG contemporary novel but this one absolutely lived up to my expectations from the first book. I can't wait to see what Lucas writes next.

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It was so nice to be back reading about Ezra and Brian. I so thoroughly enjoyed Thanks A Lot, Universe, that I was very excited to get an early copy of this one. And it did not disappoint.

I really love how Lucas is able to write these quite heavy and serious topics (mental health, having a parent in prison, figuring out your sexuality, etc) with kindness and thoughtfulness. All while feeling entirely realistic and accurate, especially for the ages of the main characters.

I also really appreciate that while Brian is trying to figure out his feelings towards Ezra and is talking about it with his therapist (YES to normalizing therapy for all ages!), that everything is really inclusive, without it coming across as sort of playing LBGTQ bingo, if that makes sense. Like, she gives him options and suggestions, but in a very non-specific way, which I really appreciate.

Overall, this is a book about friendship, and how friends can be there for you when you really need them and what it means to be a good friend. Even as you get older and your interests change, you can still be a good friend.

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Although this is a sequel, You Owe Me One, Universe can stand alone beautifully. Brian is beset with anxiety and even though outwardly things seem to be going well (he's playing great at basketball, has supportive friends), he struggles with the trauma of his dad being in prison and falls into a depression. His best friend Ezra has gotten over his crush on Brian but now is falling for Victor, who happens to be his bully from the previous year. Both boys navigate the tumultuous times in this emotionally complex and tender story. Highly recommend it!

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+A digital ARC was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.+

Woo hoo! I sincerely hope that Chad Lucas (and Brian, Ezra and the boys) can all hear us cheering wildly, foot-stomping in the stands, throats hoarse from happy chanting, as their story continues to be told.

Once again, Lucas gifts us with the mess that is boys figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and what they want smack dab in the center of the pubescent disaster that is middle school. And it is realistic fiction in all its glory. These characters are so gritty, so blissfully honest, that they practically jump out of the tip-offs right out of the page. Readers will connect with the uncertainty of emotions swirling in their heads and their dialogue.

As the mom of two boys around this age (12 and 14), I can attest that the dialogue rings true. I literally laughed out loud several times when I had my 14-year-old re-read a couple of Ezra's quips to confirm that he had - in fact - said those same words to me within days. So when I say that readers will see themselves in these pages, I say so with confidence.

As someone who has dealt with depression, I was incredibly impressed with how Lucas weaves this topic through the storyline with both empathy and honesty. While written for a middle-grade audience, this part of the story is written with a grace and authenticity that resonates. Mental health remains a topic that is not yet widely accepted as a general health issue and is still one often swept under the table or spoken of in hushed tones. Here Lucas puts it out in the open without shame and claims it as only young boys can - in the same sentences with superheroes and butt jokes.

Here's to hoping that there's a #3...(stomp, stomp, cheer!).

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With YOU OWE ME ONE, UNIVERSE, the follow up to THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE, Chad Lucas delivers once again with a tender and emotionally complex story about growing up and into your own identity. While THANKS A LOT brought Brian and Ezra to a kind of resolution, Brian's struggle with depression and Victor's growing feelings for Victor are complex and ever evolving. What a gift for young readers to be able to pick back up with their stories and see where they go! No one writes tender and honest friendships between junior high boys like Lucas! Once again I didn't want to leave their world and hope there will be more books in this series!

Thank you to the author, Amulet Books and Netgalley for the E-Arc.

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Brian and Ezra are best mates, Ezra is crushing on Brian but Brian has other things on his mind, like his dad being in prison. Brian's mental health is struggling with changes at home and bullying at school and despite the support of his therapist things are not going well for him and he starts to withdraw.
Brian is a very believable character, his downward spiral is hard to read even though it is dealt with really well, because you like him as a character. I like how you read from other perspectives, so we get to see what Ezra is thinking and how he wants to help Brian but is unsure how to do it. Things do get better for Brian, but it's realistic and he is clearly still struggling a bit at the end.

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This was an incredible sequel that carried the story strongly. Told in alternating points of view, between Ezra and Brian, with themes of struggling with depression, identity, bullying, challenging family situations- and supportive friends and adults.

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Chad Lucas has such a gift for writing middle school friendships, and that gift is on full display in YOU OWE ME ONE, UNIVERSE. I was so glad to see Brian and Ezra's story continue in this fantastic follow-up to THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE. The junior high friend group is so fully realized, with all the complexities of thirteen-year-old relationships detailed so beautifully. Both Brian's struggles with depression and anxiety and Ezra's growing feelings for Victor (readers will remember Brian and Ezra's difficult history with Victor) are written with such tenderness and compassion. And the open-hearted honesty of Brian and Ezra's friendship is a thing of beauty. My thanks to Chad Lucas, Amulet Books, and NetGalley for the eARC.

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You Owe Me One, Universe by Chad Lucas further explores the issues of mental health, friendship, and sexual identity that Thanks a Lot, Universe begins. In it, Brian spirals into a depression that his friends (Ezra, Ty, and Kevan) try to help him with, but they are uncertain what to do to help. Meanwhile Ezra begins to have feelings for Victor, who bullied Brian and others in the first book. I loved this book because it showed the complexities of these issues in an honest and heartfelt way.

Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

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