Title: The Centre of My Everything
Author: Allayne L Webster
Published by Penguin Random House
RRP: $19.99 ($AUD)

Written from the viewpoint of four different characters, this is a tremendous read. Corey is eighteen years old and a dropout. He is unemployed and unable to find work. To fill his time he mucks around with his mates, drinking and partying. Corey and his best mate Hamish spend many drunken hours together, but in the opening pages of the book they take their skylarking to the next level by vandalising the cemetery, in the process taking bones from a grave. Tara, often left alone by her absent mother, also likes to party hard and in the opening chapters we see her and her friend Amy, the police officer’s daughter, needing help to unravel her kombi from Tara’s fence after a drunken drive home. Justin returns to Mildura ten years after leaving at the age of fourteen. His mother died and, unable cope, he left for Melbourne where he fell into drug addiction. Now clean, he returns to his hometown to find his father propping up the bar at the pub, just as he was before Justin left. Margo is the fourth character. She is Aboriginal, a non-drinker and hard worker at school. She intends to leave Mildura to attend University. Margo lives with her mother, stepfather and younger brother. She did not know who her father was; her mother has her believe he is dead. These characters, and other minor characters, know each other, as is the case in small towns. However, one night changes everything for them all, and the wider community. Much is revealed during the night and in the aftermath the town must learn to live with the repercussions of not only the night’s events, but also secrets held for years.

This is a very good read for so many reasons. The characters are well written and authentic. They have their flaws, as all characters do, but they are not contrived or patronising to the intended readership of young adults. The plot is intricate and resolved in the best way for the characters and circumstances involved. Some aspects were predictable, but this is only because the path taken was the only natural path to take, such is the realistic nature of this narrative. The writing is well worked and succinct, there is not a word wasted in this book.

Many young adult books set in the here and now, with today’s issues, appear to be trying to send a message to the intended audience, a warning not to behave as these characters do. This book doesn’t do that. It is not didactic or condescending. It is raw, realistic and does not hold back. The issues are with the adults in the book just as much as the teens. Coming from, and living in other small towns and communities, I saw many familiar characters and experiences. I sometimes laughed out loud at the Australian vernacular and the banter between characters, and other times I was deeply saddened. This is what good writing does to you.

I look forward to hearing what others think of this book and will definitely enjoy promoting it to my older teenagers.

Teaching notes are available here, from the author’s website.

Read what author Allayne L. Webster says about The Centre of My Everything on the Reading Time website.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for supplying this book for review.