I am not one of the avid Linda Urban fans. I enjoyed A Crooked Kind of Perfect, but with reservations. Convenience and desire have not intertwined to allow me to read Hound Dog True yet. (I will be rectifying that soon.) I rather liked the idea of reading The Center of Everything from this viewpoint, and I was very impressed. This is an excellent novel in every way.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
For Ruby Pepperdine, the
“center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her
donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the
circle of her grandmother Gigi’s hug. That’s how everything is supposed
to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has
one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the
entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her
twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Ruby’s wish
set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world?
The Center of Everything is told from an omniscient point of view. The narrator is in everyone's head and scenes are told from more than one perspective. And I mean everyone. From Ruby, to her family, to the parade director, the librarian, a guy in the parade. We get snapshots from all of their brains. I really loved the contrast of this to the title and Ruby standing there at the center of her circle waiting for the moment when it would be all about her. Nicely done. The action of the story begins at the Bunning Day parade and as the parade slowly marches toward Ruby and the moment when she must read her essay aloud to the crowd. As this happens there are flashbacks to the previous months, days, hours. It is a non-linear plot and yet not at all confusing. I say this from an adult perspective of course, but I don't think kids will have a problem following it either. Urban executed this so well and it is not an easy thing to do. I loved the mystery to it all too. Why are Ruby's friends mad at her? What horrible thing did she do? What was Gigi trying to tell her? I love how Urban wrote all of that. The way kids take everything so seriously. The way they can make something so small into the end of the universe. (Or the center of it.)
Ruby is a delightful character. One of those average-could-be-anyone-kids yet she has her own distinctive voice. Her friend Nero is my favorite though. I love how he questions the world and forces her to do the same. I love his enthusiasm for everything and his need to look beyond the status quo. Ruby's best friend, Lucy, is more of a stereotypical character and less developed but she serves her purpose as a perfect foil for both Ruby and Nero.
My love for this book would be complete and unequivocal if it weren't for one thing. This is completely a personal thing and not a criticism of the writing or the author. The omniscient narration goes into everyone's heads and I mean everyone. Including the reader. There are times when the narration slips to second person inserting the reader into the story. This drives me crazy. I hate it when narrators talk to me or try to presume they know how I would feel or react. It makes me want to smack the narrator. I was thrown out of the rhythm of the story every time it happened. Other people are going to like this aspect. It just happens to be something that never works for me personally.
Still. It is such a good book and one I highly recommend.
I read a copy made available from the publisher via NetGalley. The Center of Everything is available for purchase now.