Thursday, December 26, 2013
The Center of Everything by Linda Urban
I loved the framing device and narrative style of this story. We start in the present, with Ruby standing in the circle where she'll soon be reading her winning essay, doing everything she can to make her wish come true, looking for signs that it will. It's mixed with flashbacks that build the story and explain how Ruby got where she is and why she feels this wish is so important. But we also get inside the heads of characters that aren't really important to the story, but their actions are important in some way. These sections would often take place in second person, which isn't something you often see and I liked a lot. For instance, a chapter might begin, "If you were so and so, you might be thinking...." and then we'd get some character's perspective on something. The connection was something that character would do, which had nothing to do with Ruby or her wish, would inadvertently effect Ruby. So many things were connected, in some small way.
Ruby is the kind of kid that often gets passed over. She's quiet. She does exactly what she's told to do, but no more. She does fine in school. She's reliable. When her beloved grandmother dies, Ruby doesn't exactly know how to handle her feelings of sadness and regret, and everyone else around her, her parents, her aunts and uncles, all seem to have gone back to the way they always were. Why is she the only one who feels like this? So Ruby shoves down the feeling and tries to be her reliable, helpful self. But it's getting harder. When she wins the essay contest, Ruby knows this is a sing that everything is going to come together and she will have a chance to do things over. Somehow.
Ruby's best friend Lucy frustrated me. Lucy came off as pretty self focused. She, just like everyone else, was use to Ruby being good-old-reliable-Ruby who always does what she's told and is always there for everyone else. When Ruby isn't there to sit through every one of Lucy's play practices, Lucy gets angry. And she gets angry that Ruby hasn't been telling her things, but seriously, Ruby couldn't get a word in edgewise! It was great that Ruby was starting to be able to voice what she wanted and needed. She clearly cares about Lucy very much. Perhaps going forward their relationship won't be so one-sided.
Ruby also makes a new friend, Nero, who she wouldn't have gotten to know if she wasn't trying so hard to figure out how her wish could work. Ruby doesn't really have any friends besides Lucy though, so she's not totally sure what to do with this possible new friendship. Especially since Lucy and Nero don't seem to like each other.
I think this is only going to appeal to a certain kind of kid. Lots of deep thoughts and philosophizing might be a hard sell.