Young Reader Review: Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas
Thanks a Lot, Universe
Author: Chad Lucas
While Brian doesn’t have any big plans for his 13th birthday, the universe has other ideas. He wakes up to find his father gone (fleeing from the police) and his mother having overdosed on her medications. By the day’s end, he and his brother Richie are in a foster home and he is reeling and uncertain who to trust and where to turn.
Ezra figures that the key to surviving junior high is finding friends who can make you laugh but will also have your back. He’s grateful for his pals and the good times they have together. But things haven’t seemed the same lately between him and his best friend Colby. Now more than ever, he wants to be able to talk to Colby.
Brian and Ezra have been basketball teammates and sort-of friends all year. Ezra realizes that he might like Brian as more than just a friend. But when he discovers the enormity of what Brian is going through, he does his best to provide friendship and support, in a variety of ways.
As both boys wrestle with their own uncertainties and fears, they each discover hope and help in unexpected places … as well as from the people they love.
In lucid prose and alternating chapters, Brian and Ezra relate their stories … and firmly weave their way into readers’ hearts. Chad Lucas has created a magnificent cast of authentic and endearing characters.
The adults (including Brian’s parents) are realistically flawed but also genuinely doing their best to help in difficult circumstances. Lucas brilliantly captures the insecurities and drama of junior high: how it can be such a time of change and growth and sometimes growing apart.
Yet he also depicts the power and beauty of friendship and of family. Brian’s social anxiety is vividly rendered as is his complicated but unwavering love for his family. His desire to show Sergeant States that, while his father may be going to prison, he is still a great dad, is deeply touching and speaks volumes about how messy and imperfect all families can be.
While there is genuine pain and suffering in this book, the love and kindness shines most brightly. Ezra and Brian are unforgettable and their story is truly heartwarming and uplifting.
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.