The centre of my everything by Allayne L. Webster
Penguin Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143783336
(Age: Older high school students) Recommended. Themes: Country life. Alcohol. Drugs. Sexual violence. With the opening words, "My head's gunna explode", we know that we are in Australia. Language, way of life, characters and the issues of country town life, are all vital elements that are explored in Webster's very emotional story.
Told by four main characters in sequential order, the slowly unravelling narrative is confrontational. Webster depicts the issues of modern country towns, the isolation, the lack of jobs, the drinking, drug use and the violence, in a narrative that reveals events slowly, and one that only presents each of the four narrators' understanding of what has happened. Yet slowly we begin to grasp the background story and come to understand the web of relationships, connections and issues that face the local adolescents and their families.
This is not a book for the faint-hearted, as Webster plunges us into the harsh elements of modern country life, the binge drinking, parties with alcohol, drugs and sexual violence. With the depiction of good, loving, kind characters juxtaposed to the angry, abusive characters, we slowly begin to understand the complexity and troubles of the past and present, and the different relationships and families. The adolescents are fearful of the future, knowing that there is little for them in the town, unsure of what they can do when school is over. They are desperate to understand what their lives will be like, given the traumas and the violence to which so many have been subjected.
Told from the perspective of the different characters, this book is vibrant and challenging. It would be recommended for older high school readers, with its description of anger, family troubles, binge-drinking, sexual violence and emotional trauma.