Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas is such an emotional and memorable middle grade read about Brian and Ezra. The moral of this story is that you never know what someone else is going through, and it just takes a little support and kindness to be a great friend. There are some serious trigger warnings in this one, most notably an on-page suicide attempt.

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The summary, from Amazon:

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.

Buy Thanks A Lot, Universe here.

On his birthday, Brian wakes up to a note that his father, who is involved in the marijuana industry, has gone on the run due to legal issues again. When his mother finds out, she attempts suicide, sending Brian and his little brother into foster care. Though their foster parents mean well, Brian is miserable. He runs away with his little brother.
Over the past weeks at school, Ezra has slowly formed a friendship with Brian, his basketball teammate. But the friendship means more to Ezra than others know. He has a crush on Brian. Furthermore, Ezra is struggling about how others will treat him regarding his sexuality. For years, he had a crush on his friend Colby. He’s over it now, but questions why their friendship is strained. Is it because Colby is hanging out with bullies? Is he jealous of Colby’s new relationship with a girl? Ezra’s conflicting feelings are extremely compelling and add to the already emotionally tense narrative.
When Ezra finds out Brian has run away, he offers Brian support and is there for him. I loved that this book featured supportive relationships between boy characters. The friendship between Ezra and Brian is so special. Brian is in such a place that he doesn’t even realize how close the two boys are. When Ezra does confess his feelings to Brian, though Brian doesn’t necessarily feel the same way, he is supportive of Ezra and continues his friendship with him.
This is an emotional rollercoaster of a book. It was so tough to see the adults in Brian’s life put him in some seriously iffy situations, but I appreciated that the author neither praises nor villainizes these adults. It’s clear that their decisions have hurt Brian and his brother, but they’re not described as bad parents.
This was a 4 star read for me that I think any kid who can emotionally handle the content will appreciate.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Thanks a Lot, UniverseThanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brian and Ezra both have super compelling stories.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Brian doesn’t seem to realize he has a true friend in Ezra initially. Why?
  2. Why is Ezra’s friendship with Colby strained?
  3. How are Brian and Ezra supportive friends to one another?
  4. How can you be a good friend?

Interested? Buy Thanks A Lot, Universe.
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