Chapter Book – Center of Everything

Ruby Pepperdine is waiting to give a speech, the chosen Essay Girl for her town’s annual parade and celebration of the donut. But as the moments tick down towards her big moment, she has bigger worries than whether or not her cue cards are in the right order. Her friends are angry with her, she’s desperate for her birthday wish to come true, and, worst of all, her beloved grandmother is no longer here to give her a center. Can anything fix all of Ruby’s mistakes, or is her wish doomed?

I loved this book about a girl trying to recenter herself after the death of her grandmother. The characters were generally well drawn – I have met kids like Nero, and I have definitely met friends like Lucy. I liked that while Lucy is obviously self-absorbed, she does truly care for her friend, rather than going the easy route and making the book about growing away from one friend into a relationship with someone that’s a better fit.

The setting was delineated not just with the made up history of the town, but by the many people within the town. Each person was a unique individual that could have had a book for their own complicated stories, which we as readers only get the slightest glimpse of.

I thought the use of the “If you were …” was well done. It could easily have been overdone and cutesy and unbearable, but the writing managed to walk the line perfectly.

The structure of the novel, with a framing story set in a single day while frequent flashbacks fill in the background of what’s going on, worked excellently, keeping the tension evenly high throughout. (Well, not high tension the way a thriller has, but enough that I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.)

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