Review of Hello, Universe

Hello, Universe
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Intermediate, Middle School    Greenwillow    314 pp.
3/17    978-0-06-241415-1    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-241417-5    $9.99

Virgil Salinas is shy and bullied at school. Since he doesn’t know his multiplication tables, his nasty classmate Chet Bullens, a.k.a. “the Bull” (your standard-issue middle-school bully), repeatedly calls him “retardo.” Valencia Somerset, who goes to the resource room with Virgil, feels like an outsider because she’s deaf: “on my tenth birthday, this girl Roberta gave me a book called Famous Deaf People from History. I would have never given Roberta a book called Famous Blond People or Famous People Who Talk Too Much.” Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic who provides fortunetelling to other middle schoolers and who counsels Virgil to befriend Valencia (“That’s fate! It’s like you were meant to be friends!”). Around halfway through the book, Chet drops Virgil’s backpack into an abandoned well, and Virgil gets stuck trying to retrieve it. Kaori and Valencia both have a feeling something is off and go to investigate. Told in alternating perspectives of the three kid-heroes and one villain, the story is strongest when dealing with Virgil, whose internal monologue while stuck in the well has him working out how to speak up for himself. While the ending may be a bit too tidy, the children’s inner lives are distinctive, and each rings true.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Sarah Hannah Gómez
Sarah Hannah Gómez

Sarah Hannah Gómez holds an MA in children’s literature and an MS in library and information science from Simmons University and is working toward a PhD in children’s and adolescent literature at the University of Arizona. She blogs at

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing