Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Center of Everything - a review

Urban, Linda. 2013. The Center of Everything. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

First line:
In the beginning, there was the donut.

Regret is a curious thing.  Adults often harbor regrets, but in the short life of a young child, regret is a foreign feeling; and so, when Ruby Pepperdine's 12-year-old life is peppered with both loss and regret, she does not feel the sad and wistful feeling that adults know and understand; she feels a topsy-turvy feeling - a feeling that something has thrown off the balance in her circle of life.  Circles are something that Ruby knows a bit about, living as she does in Bunning, New Hampshire, the one-time home of Captain Bunning, inventor of the hole in the donut.

Set entirely within one day and employing flashbacks to fill in the back story, The Center of Everything is a short and quirky, middle-grade novel that deals with the sensitive topics of death and regret in an entertaining, hopeful and even humorous manner,
Ruby should move on to the math books.  She really should. But she can't help but be a little curious. "Who decided?"
"Nobody knows for sure.  That's what bugs me.  Some medieval guys discovered this list and said was based on a bunch of other lists from some ancient guys, including ..." Nero flips to the introduction. "Including a historian dude called Herodotus and another guy name Callimachus, but nobody knows who really decided what the Seven Wonders are. So how come we're all supposed to just say, 'Yeah, okay. Those are the Seven Wonders.' What if there was something else around that Callimachus just didn't like?  Some kind of awesome tomb or statue or something that was made by one of his enemies, so he left it off the list?"
This is exactly the kind of questions that gets Nero DeNiro in so much trouble at school -- the kind of questions that teachers can't answer.
"Also, says Nero, "how come nobody gets named Callimachus anymore?" 

Ruby tries to make sense of her new world - without her grandmother, with a possible new friend named Nero, a possibly angry, old friend named Lucy, and a wish scheduled to come true today, on Bunning Day at the Bunning Day Parade where Ruby, the Bunning Day Essay Girl, is scheduled to read her prize-winning essay from a float in the parade.  Ever since her quarter sailed through the donut hole in the Captain Cornelius Bunning bronze statue, Ruby has been waiting for this day.  According to tradition, if her quarter went through the hole on her birthday, and she said her wish the proper number of times, it should come true on Bunning Day. It should.  It's fate.  It's destiny.  But can it come true?  Has she done it correctly? What if she wished for the wrong thing?

Linda Urban's previous novels are A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Hound Dog True.

Her website contains the following declaration, which I think does a wonderful job of describing her unique and personal style of writing.
I’ve always been interested in small things. Tiny gestures, phrases, moments that can seem insignificant to one person and hugely important to someone else. In my books, I write about the small things that matter in a big way.


  1. I thought this book was terrific. You can't go wrong with a character named Nero DeNiro and donuts. It is a touching book as well.