Saturday, April 20, 2013
The Center of Everything, written by Linda Urban. Harcourt Children's Books, Thomas Allen & son. 2013. $17.99 ages 10 and up
OH, I love Ruby Pepperdine. She is fallible, and unsettled, and poignant. She knows what she needs to do to make everything right again, and she sets out her plan to make it happen. No one else knows:
"There are two schools of thought about the secrecy of wishes. One is that you should always tell, because you never know who might be able to help you get what you wished for. People who believe this often appear on talk shows. Share your dreams with the Universe, they say.
The other school holds the birthday candle philosophy: to tell a wish is to ruin its chances of happening."
Ruby is missing her Gigi, who was the center of everything for her young granddaughter. The two did so many wonderful and memorable things together; Ruby grieves her loss every day. When you add middle grade friendships to the worries of those days, you have much to consider. A new friend, who is a boy, threatens her relationship with Lucy:
"He didn't even know Gigi!" Lucy yells. "I did. We're supposed to be best friends! I tell you everything and you didn't tell me anything!"
Ruby searches for something to say, something that has calmed Lucy before. "Mind like water," she says.
"This is not a stupid pebble, Ruby Pepperdine! This is a meteor! You have hurled an enormous meteor into the lake of our friendship. You've caused a tsunami!"
Does that sound like a sixth grade girl? It is the most wonderful thing about Linda Urban's writing. She gives us real, believable, vulnerable characters who find a place in our hearts. As we move back and forth from what is happening now and what has happened in the past, we are privy to changing points of view. The third person narrative allows this. The reader sees life in a small town from various perspectives, humorous at times and always enlightening.
Because I love Ruby, I also love seeing the people and events that have helped shape her. We listen to their thoughts and observations while the story always comes back to Ruby. She is adept at being who everyone wants her to be, doing what is expected of her, and having things the way they are 'supposed to' be. Will her birthday wish set everything right? She's sure it will...her quarter went through the donut hole in Captain Bunning's bronze donut, didn't it? That should ensure that her wish for everything to go back to what it was will come true. Is that the way wishes work?
"She will wonder whether she had done what she was supposed to do. Sometimes she will think that she must have, and other times - like when she has fallen off her bike, or a boy has broken her heart, or she can't find her house key - she will think she must not have. But most of the time, she will think that there isn't a supposed to at all. That all she can do is her best at any particular moment. And that sometimes will lead to things feeling great, and sometimes it will not. And that is as supposed to as it gets."