ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas

Thank you to Amulet Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Thanks A Lot, Universe goes on sale May 11, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Middle Grade, LGBTQIA+ Fiction, Mental Health
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A moving middle-grade debut for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t belong

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.


Content Warning: suicide, depression, social anxiety, panic attacks (see end of post for 24/7 resources)


My Review: I loved Thanks A Lot, Universe so much! This riveting debut novel that touched upon so many important things, such as middle school drama, being an outsider looking in, friendship, mental health, sexual identity, and navigating complicated feelings.

I loved the adults in this book. Their varying approaches on what would be best for Brian and his younger brother, Richie, were interesting. I loved Sergeant Oliver States, Mrs. Clelland, and Gabe (though he’s a high schooler) the most. They weren’t patronizing to Brian nor lectured him. Instead, they gave him the space to work through his jumbled feelings while, which seemed more valuable and productive towards handling the overall situation.

Mental health is a huge part of this novel. The author does a great job showing the causes and signs of social anxiety, panic attacks, and depression in both children and adults. The book aptly details and expresses how someone with them feels, thinks, and behaves.

Brian was easy to connect to. Middle school is rough, especially if you have social anxiety, which Brian refers to as SAWS (Super Awkward Weirdo Syndrome). The acronym made how he experiences life and how he sees the world more personable. I could feel his inner turmoil throughout the story. On his 13th birthday, he’s dealt with such a shocking, heavy blow that puts him in a precarious position that no kid should have to go through. It was heartbreaking.

Ezra was a great main character as well. It’s not often I connect with all the main characters of a story, adding to my amazement. Middle school is such a chaotic time full of physical, mental and emotional changes. Ezra feels this greatly with his circle of friends, who he is as a person, and his relationship to Brian.

I think readers will be able to relate to Brian and Ezra on multiple levels. Making friends is hard. Change is hard. Growing up is hard. It’s hard not to feel lost and unsure. One thing that I was glad to see pointed out was when Brian reflected on guidance his sister once gave him about how he will eventually find “his people.” It’s an incredibly important bit of wisdom that is sometimes years in the making. You can easily see how “not fitting in” affects Ezra and Brian differently.

Chad Lucas has crafted a successful debut. Thanks A Lot, Universe was a fantastic read and welcome inclusion in the middle grade genre! It’s perfect for school summer reading and classroom libraries. The story is as enjoyable as it is emotional, providing beneficial and relevant lessons and experiences for this age group and beyond. There’s so much more I want to say about this poignant book, but can’t because of spoilers. Definitely worth the read though!

24/7 Support That’s Here For You

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Trevor Project
TrevorChat available
Text START to 678678

Crisis Text Line
US and Canada – Text HOME to 741741
United Kingdom – Text HOME to 85258
Ireland – Text HOME to 50808

National Alliance On Mental Illness
NAMI Helpline – Call 800-950-NAMI
Or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741

To Write Love On Her Arms

5 replies on “ARC Review: Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas”

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