CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002
At fourteen, Stella MacLeod is at the centre of the universe, and her interest in the world is basically limited to how it affects her personally. Image is everything, and on her "seriously mature" days, Stella works diligently to project exactly the right one. Part of this preoccupation with appearances is simply part and parcel of being a fourteen year-old girl, but another deeper part is a byproduct of Stella's need to live up to the imagined expectations of her dead mother, a glamorous fashion designer who succumbed to breast cancer when Stella was six. The one thing Stella knows for sure is that she doesn't want to be anything like her father's girlfriend, Skye, a "free spirit" artist who is as different from Stella's mother as two people could possibly be.
But when Stella's father breaks his leg just days before he and Stella are to leave for a summer holiday in Britain, Stella finds herself making the trip to London and then Cornwall with Skye instead. As Skye spends her days at art school, Stella roams Falmouth and the surrounding countryside. Soon bored, she looks up Nicholas, a distant cousin who lives in the area, and after a cold beginning the two develop a close friendship. Together they share summer adventures and confidences and help one another discover truths about themselves and the other people in their lives.
Goodbye to Atlantis is a lively story that tackles a number of timely topics from health issues, such as anorexia and smoking, to the social dilemma of loyalty versus law and the ethical morality of smuggling refugees for profit. Add to this, a mystery to be solved, as well as Stella's testy relationship with Skye and her search to discover her past, her future, and what's really important in life - and the result is 231 jam-packed pages.
Perhaps Harrison has bitten off a bit much, but with the exception of a tendency to preach overlong about the phony, harmful, money-grabbing aspects of the fashion industry, she carries the story off well. Bringing together teens from Ontario and Cornwall provides a natural insight into the cultures of both countries, and because Stella and Nicholas are likable characters, the reader is content to follow their struggles, confident that they will eventually get themselves sorted.
Kristin Butcher, a former teacher, lives in Victoria, BC. and writes for children.
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