The Center of Everything is like a brilliantly-constructed box -- or maybe a brilliantly-constructed torus, the shape that recurs throughout the book. Rachael mentioned in her review of the novel how well all the parts fit together, and that stood out to me too as I read the book.
It's a testament to Linda Urban's skill that she manages to produce a book that I unabashedly love out of elements that in general, I don't much care for. This is a book about a small town, filled with quirky characters, about a girl who's lost her grandmother. And yet I was riveted through the whole thing, and genuinely affected by the quiet, but emotionally rich ending.
I've enjoyed Urban's work in the past, but The Center of Everything might well be a new high for her. In the context of this year, it's the only book I've read that I feel can go toe to toe with The Real Boy. It's exceptional in characters, theme, setting, and style, and I think the plot, though low-key, is solid as well.
I'm going to have to think really, really hard about which of those two books would be my final choice (and it may be noted that I still have one book, Doll Bones, left on my Second Takes list). But the simple fact that I feel like The Center of Everything belongs in that conversation with another book that I adore is the highest compliment I know how to pay it.