Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

One of my favorite starts to a book is Linda Urban's, "A Crooked Kind of Perfect," with the protagonist complaining about having to play a wheeze-bag organ versus the elegant piano. Here comes another hilarious start, but with a Captain fighting to keep his boat afloat in a terrible gale by eating donuts spiked on the spokes of his ship's wheel; thus, inventing the donut hole. Urban has a whole or hole lotta fun with wordplays and slang. "The Hole Shebang" is my favorite. The 1960s "Gilligan's Island" TV show's theme song started pinging around my brain during these silly parts. "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin' man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour. A three hour tour."

It didn't help that the book took me three hours to read. Ping. Ping. Here comes my theme song. Or Poke. Poke, as Ruby Pepperdine would say. Her grandma has just died and she is trying to squash her emotions, except they "poke" her in unexpected ways. When Ruby wins an essay that she has written on Captain Donut she gets to read it at the annual Bunning Day festival. Things fall apart leading up to the special day when her best friend gets angry over her sharing a secret wish with a boy in her class.

Urban plops her trademark quirky characters that are lovable, memorable and odd. Lucy is the drama queen who tells Ruby she has thrown a meteor into their lake of friendship causing a tsunami. She is the yin to Ruby's yang and their chemistry bubbles with fun. Nero is a different story. At first, Nero sounds too witty and old to me but he's funny so I don't particularly care. "Once a person kazoos in the lunchroom, she's lost her right to privacy," Nero says. "It's the fate of all celebrities." Urban develops him more in the proceeding chapters and shows he is thinker to the point he exasperates his teachers. Hence, when Nero points out characteristics in Ruby later in the story, I have bought into his character, and believe in it. Make no mistake, Captain Urban knows exactly what she is doing with this crew of characters.

The plot is solid and not too complex. The main character deals with friendships and grief with a slow buildup in the beginning. Quite a bit of the text involves interior monologue and not much action. Patient readers will be rewarded by the end as Urban brings it all together. Ruby has a "wish" and the reader doesn't know what it is. Urban uses this to bring tension in chapters, specifically six chapters in the first part of the book and it slowed the pacing too much for me even though the chapters were short. You'll have to decide for yourself. Grab your copy and drop anchor. "You're sure to get a smile..." Ping. Ping.

Reading Level 5.9
4 Smileys

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