Title: The Center of the Universe
Author: Ria Voros
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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?
Grace Carter is a relatively average high school student, which is surprising given her family. Her mother, GG Carter, is a television icon. Her grandmother is a semi-famous actress. Meanwhile, Grace wishes to do nothing more than live in relative obscure life as an astrophysicist.
Like many teenagers, Grace has a complicated relationship with her mother. Everything she thinks she knew about her mother is about to be brought into question when her mother disappears.
One of the first things that caught my attention is how average Grace is. The reason I point this out is because in a lot of the books I read– albeit mainly fantasy and sci-fy– the MC is depicted as super intelligent, talented, or otherwise different. They stand out. I think this leads books with more average– but still relatable– main characters to be overlooked. (Ex. The Wrong Side of Right and No Place Like Here.) While I adore reading about characters who I aspire to be, I also find comfort in reading about characters that share my insecurities, hold themselves back, have only a few close friends, and want to fit in. They are real. It makes their character development throughout the book so much more organic, which is definitely the case with Grace.
As someone who’s always been fascinated with the stars, The Center of the Universe spoke to me. Like Grace’s father said “some things are easier to understand through natural phenomenon.” The bits of facts and descriptions of the cosmos made my little nerdy heart happy. Yet they were never overwhelming. These details revealed a lot about Grace, such as how she views her relationship with others.
One of the developments I loved is how Grace began to see her mother in a different light as they discover more about the case and she reflects on their relationship. There are some situations that, seen by the other, could be understood in different ways. Grace and her mother are two very different people. They don’t know each other as well as they think they do. They, like all of us, fall prey to assumptions and are quick to judge.
While Grace’s relationship is the focus of this point, relationships between Grace, her father, her brother, and her grandmother are also explored. (Yay for inter-generational communication!) Losing their wife/mother/daughter changes the family dynamics in ways they had not anticipated. As their relationships change, they are forced to ask themselves what do they want their relationships to look like? What can they do to change them?
Ria Voros did a phenomenal job in describing how everyone was affected by investigation. It was messy but honest. Each of the main characters coped differently. They did some stuff well; other stuff not so much. She showed what it’s like to be an adult and a child in the situation.
This review was hard to write because there is sooo much I want to say about the relationships in it. (Please keep in mind that other relationships explored are friendships and romantic relationships, which I won’t address in this review. They were just as messy and beautiful as the family dynamics.) I think I have a lot to say on specific parts BECAUSE of how realistic they were. These characters coped with the uncertainty as best as they could. They are human and flawed and undoubtedly prone to making mistakes. It’s easier for me to point on what they could have done as a non-affected party than as Grace’s father or Grace.
Tragedy and uncertainty change people. The Center of the Universe explores this really well.