The Center of the Universe – Ria Voros – Kids Can Press – Published 2 April 2019
Grace Carter’s mother — the celebrity news anchor GG Carter — is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace — an aspiring astrophysicist — is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits.
Then one day GG is just … gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace’s family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers.
While the authorities unravel the mystery behind GG’s disappearance, Grace grows closer to her high school’s golden boy, Mylo, who has faced a black hole of his own. She also uncovers some secrets from her mother’s long-lost past. The more Grace learns, the more she wonders. Did she ever really know her mother? Was GG abducted … or did she leave? And if she left, why?
The Center of the Universe is an fascinating YA contemporary novel about growing up, about family, about love and friendship, about horrible events that change and shape lives, about waiting and overcoming, about learning to listen, and about watching the stars. Part mystery, part coming-of-age contemporary, The Center of the Universe is sure to delight and surprise YA contemporary readers.
Grace Carter is the third Grace in her family. And while her grandmother is an actress and her mother a popular and well-loved TV news anchor, Grace prefers her life well out of the spotlight. Instead, she spends her time searching for new planets, star gazing and hanging out with her best friend, Iris. But when Grace’s mother goes missing, Grace will have to re-evaluate her relationship with her mother and everything she thought she knew about her. As the police put together theories about what happened to Grace’s mother and as Grace and her family contend with the endless questioning, waiting and swooping news crews, Grace herself grows closer to Mylo – a boy from school who knows exactly what Grace is going through.
I was intrigued by The Center of the Universe. While the disappearance of Grace’s mother and the mystery surrounding what happened to her underscores the plot it doesn’t drive it in the way I expected. This is not a fast-paced mystery-thriller. Instead it is a thoughtful contemporary novel about growing up, discovering that your parents aren’t always who you thought they were and deciding a path for the future. The Center of the Universe is a fairly long book and while it never drags, it takes its time weaving Grace’s story together. Grace leaves most of the mystery-solving to the police, but she does uncover a lot of secrets and history she never knew about her mother. As they wait for developments in the case, Grace spends her time trying to understand the grandmother she doesn’t much like moving into their home, watching her father and brother try not to fall apart, and hanging with Iris and Mylo in a series of ‘jailbreak’ adventures.
I loved the friendship Grace shares with Iris. There is something very genuine about their connection, the way they communicate, fight, and make up again. The romance between Mylo and Grace is more a meeting of two souls who have shared experiences rather than a quick, flash-burn romance. They navigate growing feelings as they balance their understanding of each other with the ways in which they are different.
The Center of the Universe is a reflective, family and friendship-orientated novel. Grace’s love of space, planets and astrophysics shines throughout this novel, woven together with mystery and romance.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Mystery, family, mother-daughter relationships, romance, friendship, missing persons, abduction, space, astrophysics, planets.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, heavy kissing scenes with some nudity – mostly implied. Occasional coarse language, f*** (2), sh** (10), as***** (5), bi*** (2), pi** (17). References to abduction, capture, and deprivation of basic necessities.
Published: 2 April 2019 by Kids Can Press.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 512 pages.