Is it destiny when 12-year-old Ruby is named the Bunning Day Essay Girl and chosen to deliver a rousing speech at her New Hampshire hometown parade? In Linda Urban’s thoughtful novel, The Center of Everything, Ruby keeps looking for signs like these that her wish will come true and she’ll be able to go back in time and be with her grandmother Gigi on the day she died. Maybe then she will understand the final word Gigi uttered that day.

Despite the weighty topic of Ruby’s mourning, this story also produces plenty of smiles as a delightful narrator gives the history of the fictional town of Bunning. During a fierce storm in 1847, Captain Cornelius Bunning rammed his donuts onto the spokes of the ship’s wheel, thus creating the first donut holes. He later used the beams of his ship to build a schoolhouse in the town. “Hole”-some puns and legends abound in Bunning’s honor.

Dealing with her grandmother’s death is not the only big adjustment in Ruby’s life. When classmate Nero DeNiro (who’s as outlandish as his name) takes an interest in Ruby, she must reconcile her relationship with her longtime best friend and her feelings of first love. In a bittersweet ending, Ruby discovers that her grandmother’s death has given her a new appreciation of the world around her. The only holes in this charming story are the ones served up in this donut-obsessed town.

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