June 10, 2019

The Center of the Universe

Written by Ria Voros
KCP Loft (An imprint of Kids Can Press)
512 pp.
Ages 14-18
April 2019
...we slam into people around us, invisibly, all the time. Through things we say and don't say. What we do and don't do. That we are slowly changed by the constant bombardment. That we consume and are consumed, until we become products of our interactions, made of old and new parts, simultaneously broken and healing. (pg. 351)
When her mother, GG Carter, celebrity and news anchor, goes missing, seventeen-year-old Grace's world becomes warped, though not shattered. She'd already been arguing with her mother who is obsessed with her reputation and her work, often putting it before her family, even missing out on important events like Grace's astrophotography exhibit. (Grace is a budding astronomer, an active member of Star Club and a fan of Elizabeth Tasker.) Though Grace thinks her mother has been more stressed lately, it's evident that her mother has been keeping her cards close to her chest for awhile, and Dad even wonders if GG just needed some time away. But when Grace's dad gets a text from GG that reads "I'm not coming back. Don't look for me. Goodbye." (pg. 50), which he is convinced didn't come from her, Grace begins to pull memories and evidence together to learn what truly happened to her mother.

In tandem with her mother's disappearance, Grace is connecting with her crush, Mylo McLean, who has his own family issues including a powerful mother whose parenting causes him much stress. Together Grace and Mylo support each other knowing the struggle of having well-known mothers but, when Mylo admits that his father has been gone for five years and may be living on the street, the two realize that being in limbo puts them in a similarly unique place, the Perpetual Waiting Room (PWR).
He could sit in my PWR with me because we actually shared the waiting room. We were sitting against the same wall, staring at the same old magazines, waiting for different people to come through the door. (pg. 201)
The Center of the Universe may revolve around GG Carter's disappearance as her family struggles to learn what happened to her and then to reorganize upon her return home but she is not the center of Grace's universe. Her actions may impact her daughter but Grace exerts her own pull on those around her. While she may not realize her impact, she still draws others to her, including her young brother, her grandmother, her friends, her love interest and even her mother, and it's her story that Ria Voros has appropriately made the focal point. There is much discussion about perspectives and perceptions, especially with regards to GG Carter's back story, but Ria Voros makes Grace a compassionate and astute teen, especially as she attempts to process what she learns about her mother, while choosing what and whom she needs in her own life.

Ria Voros has written an extraordinary young adult novel about a mother-daughter relationship that is turned inside out but, first and foremost, The Center of the Universe is a coming of age for Grace as she learns who she is, with and without her mother, and that she is a star in her own universe.

1 comment:

  1. There are some amazing YA books out there and this sounds like one of them.