“Everyone knows you can screw around when you are tanked, but you’ve got to know when to stop. There are limits there’s the stuff that you do that makes you a legend and the stuff that you do that makes you a dickhead.”
On Monday everyone is buzzing with stories of what happened at parties on the weekend. But are they stories of triumph or regret? When does a good time cross the line? Does it involve furniture being broken, a Kombi being driven into in a rose garden or a grave being decimated and the bones stolen? Is it when someone falls in the fire, when a brawl breaks out, when people pass out and compromising photos are taken, or when a girl is raped? When it comes to drinking and driving, is it better for a sober learner to take the wheel to prevent drunk friends driving, or a should a licensed driver be behind the wheel even though they are over the limit? Surely it would be unlucky for anything to go wrong. What do you do when it does?
The Centre of My Everything explores all of this and more in an enthralling narrative. It is written from the viewpoint of four central characters. Corey Williams is a local footy hero, who has resigned himself to the reality that he’ll never make the big league, and is struggling to find work. Tara Ramsey, one of Mildura’s princess pair, is a party girl, who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and feels justified to shovel it out, particularly when it comes to Margo Bonney. Justin Sparks is a recovering addict who left town ten years ago after the death of his mum and has reluctantly returned to face his demons. Margo Bonney, a bright Aboriginal girl, is working hard to finish her studies and go to uni in the city. A series of events quickly bring their stories together at an unsupervised eighteenth birthday party. The results are shocking. As each character deals with the fallout of the night they learn surprising things about themselves and their histories, which are intertwined in unexpected ways.
This story brings back memories of my high school years in a South Australian town through the descriptions of the local footy heroes, the young boy who spends hours practicing his footy skills whilst dreaming of the future, the limited social life, the community networks that band together and the kids that have trouble getting a break because everyone expected them to be like a parent or sibling who had given up trying. The story flows smoothly between the four protagonists. It is fast paced and engaging, with some pretty deplorable behaviour, balanced by plenty of one-liners and characters that both shock and surprise. Webster has a knack of creating characters that are rough diamonds and provoke empathy within the reader.
I really admire the cover illustration for The Centre of My Everything. The boy drinking from a hose is clever symbolism of the thirst that someone experiences when alcohol is the centre of their life. The story explores the environmental and social influences of alcohol use and looks at both short term issues and long term issues. It delves into the topics of love, grief, suicide, rape, the impact of trauma across generations and the way family history can influence the opportunities offered to young people. It is also about the way a moment can change everything and the importance of stepping up when this moment arrives. Due to the content I would recommend it for older young adult readers and beyond.