This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 20.1.
It’s really hard to like Maddie, the protagonist of The Big Apple Effect, but one can understand her somewhat, given her rather flakey mother, who works as “Lady Venus,” a New Age psychic charlatan. Maddie is awarded a trip to New York, to an art opening for young artists (Maddie included) whose paintings have won an award. Her friend Anna, from a guest-farm in the BC Interior, accompanies her.
Anna is everything Maddie is not: laid-back, reasonable, and grounded in reality. Maggie is obsessive-compulsive and socially unaware. Their time in New York before the art opening is spent fulfilling Maddie’s dreams—her list of 134 “things to see in New York” recorded on a colour-coded map. When Maddie’s mother shows up as a surprise—Maddie’s birthday falls on the second day of their visit—Maddie feels cheated: her only chance at escaping her mother’s over-the-top, mollycoddling weirdness has been taken away. But Maddie actually has very little chance of escaping her upbringing: like all of us, she lives it.
She develops a crush on Anna’s older brother, Thomas, which she almost subdues after meeting his girlfriend, and she revels in her experience of New York, seen through the rose-coloured glasses of her dream of what New York should be. In this, Maddie is well characterized. Young girls like her doubtless exist: star-struck, naïve, thoughtless, and self-centred. Maddie’s epiphany comes when she overhears two women deriding her piece at the gallery, and she begins to recognize her real place in the universe. Her ego is saved by Timber, the son of the great artist, Louise Bergville—keynote of the opening—who had cancelled at the last moment. Called away by her distraught mother who is “lost” in the city, Maddie despairs of seeing Timber again. But it all works out in the end: Maddie learns that she needs to think of others as well as herself; her mother realizes that she needs to give Maddie her space; Timber—who will be visiting Vancouver—contrives to reconnect with Maddie; and Louise Bergville wants to buy her cow-art. It’s too bad we can’t believe in the dénouement.