Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team–even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves–and each other.
This is a beautiful and poignant read. The narrative is chronological, with perspective alternating between Brian and Ezra. The two boys already know each other, but they aren’t really friends. The same catalyst that exacerbates Brian’s anxiety also leads Ezra to reach out to Brian. Their friendship proves beneficial for both boys, as they learn to rely on each other.
They have basketball in common, but their personalities are different, which is probably why they haven’t hung out before. It’s not easy for Brian to trust people—especially after everything that happens to him at the beginning—but taking a chance on Ezra proves to be exactly what he needed.
I appreciated the way that Ezra’s friends dealt with his coming out. I’ll keep my thoughts vague to avoid spoilers, but needless to say, he wasn’t shunned/mocked like he worried he would be. I know this isn’t the case in every community, but it’s nice to see kids accepting each other for who they are.
On that note, I also liked the way the book portrayed Brian’s anxiety. This is something that affects so many kids nowadays, and so it was great to see the people around Brian reacting with empathy and understanding when Brian started to get overwhelmed.
I would absolutely recommend Thanks a Lot, Universe. This is a wonderful middle grade read that will also appeal to younger YA readers who enjoy realistic fiction. There are so many positive messages in this book about family—both biological and found family—as well as friendship and relationships and so much more. This is an amazing debut, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Lucas in the future.
I received an ARC of this book from Abrams Kids/NetGalley