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Monday, February 1, 2010

Review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson


Title: Suite Scarlett
Author(s): Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary Urban Comedy
Page Count: 353
Publisher: Point

The Summary: Her new summer job comes with baggage

Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings - Spencer, Lola, and Marlene.

When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett's fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest called Mrs. Amberson.

Scarlett doesn't quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn.

Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.

--Summary from backcover

The Review: An amusing, addictive read, of the brain candy variant. I was bored and on the bus, so I figured I’d flip through a couple of pages to see where this novel was heading. Next thing I knew, my bus ride was over and I was practically running home so I could curl on my sofa and finish the last few chapters. I liked the narration and the one-liners. You know how there are some authors that strive to be quotable but end up just sounding like they’re trying too hard? Well, those authors must envy Johnson, ‘cause she makes her one-liner deliveries feel easy and natural, and sooooo quotable. Also, did I mention how funny it is? It’s one of those humourous books wherein the main character is the only sensible one, and dragged into adventures by crazy people (i.e. Mrs. Anderson and Spencer). Watching Scarlett stare at the crazies around her made me grin.

Which leads to my next point. I do like Scarlett quite a bit. She’s got this dry humour, and comes off as the sensible, no-nonsense one. However, as much as I approve of our Scarlett, the characters who stole the show for me were Mrs. Anderson and Spencer. I think this may because I have a weakness for the crazy. I was mostly fangirling Mrs. Anderson at first (she’s like, such a spoiled child and has OCD. Except she’s like, 50) but then Spencer just kept on being awesome and he went all valiant on Scarlett’s honour and thereafter millions of Spencer fangirls were born. (Those who’ve read the book will know what I mean. =D) All the characters in this novel were lively and charismatic, and fully developed to boot. Those who like their YA novels character-driven will lap up Suite Scarlett like honey. =D

I love the interaction between Spencer and Scarlett too! Their sibling banter makes me grin. Actually I just really like the whole family aspect in general. Not only are all the siblings are distinct and awesome, they also have this very real sense of sibling relationship going on too. It’s rare for me to find novels with more than three siblings in total (AND with all their parents intact!) and the fact that the sibling dynamics and rivalry felt so real was like icing to the cake. And what a glorious, sweet cake it was. Also, on the whole siblings note, I found the depiction of Marlene most fascinating. Marlene is our sickly, recovering-from-cancer youngest sister sibling of the lot. Normally, that would make Marlene our designated fragile, angelic and full of child-like innocence figure of the story. But no! Marlene is, get this, the evil one. How awesome is that? I love her. =D

Another interesting aspect about this novel was its strong sense of place. I felt like I was there with Scarlett in summertime New York City, and imagining the hotel the Martins (Scarlett’s family) owned came easy. ETA The direction and flow of the plot was seamless without ever missing a beat as we watched Scarlett's uproariously hilarious journey unfold. The novel ties up its loose ends fairly nicely, and I’m curious about how the sequel will pan out. As much as I enjoyed the family dynamics, we didn’t get to see Scarlett’s friends at all, so her return to the school year should be refreshing into the whole factor of introducing a different side of Scarlett’s life. ETA2: and hopefully the casting will be a bit more diverse. I'm closing my eyes a bit at the lack of diversity in this novel because it concentrated on Scarlett's family who was white, the crazy washed-up actress tenant and her love interest, who were both also white and I suppose any more major players in the cast would be a bit much. I can accept an all-white family cast with minimal outside-of-family interactions with only two other white people but if the SCHOOL is totally whitewashed and her friends are all white that would be a bit much. I mean, come on, this is New York City here. No excuse for lack of diversity. And speaking of the city, I’ll be interested in seeing how Johnson will choose to incorporate the city, autumn-style into the novel as well.

In short, a fun novel and the prospects for its sequels are pretty promising.

The Verdict: Fun novel with a cute premise, lively, colourful casts, and a breeze to read through. Recommended if you’re looking for a good laugh. I’m looking forward to the upcoming sequel and reading more about Spencer and Mrs. Anderson.

Rating: 4/5
Enjoyment: 100%

Title and Cover Discussion: The title is fun and sweet, and the cover, while at first just looks like your typical object cover, the NYC skyline on the key gives the cover that extra twist. It isn’t a cover that makes me go, “omg beautiful”, but it’d be interesting enough to get me to pick it up from the shelves and flip through a couple pages.

Title: B
Cover: B

Discussion Question for Readers: Who's your favourite character in this novel? Also, what are you looking forward to seeing in the Suite Scarlett sequel?

6 comments:

ninefly said...

omg siblings! <3<3<3
I'll have to get my hands on this somehow, are you buying it? *mooch-eyes*

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@ninefly,

My buying it depends heavily on what I think of Scarlett Fever. For me, this series may or may not be worth buying depending on the direction Johnson takes this novel. On its own Suite Scarlett isn't really worth buying (because it's the kind of light-hearted fun read that I'd go through once and never read again, and I don't need those types of books cluttering my shelves more than they are now). But if the sequel expands on the interesting stuff in this novel and offers me something juicy to mull over and chew on, I mayyyy consider buying the series. No guarantees, lawl.

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...

Awesome review!

This book sounds so fun and cute and I wish I had a kindle because I saw that it was being sold for free on Amazon (haha, even though I hate e-books).

And P.S. I also have a weakness for the crazy. Also, I <3 well developed characters so this book sounds awesome!

Missy B. said...

I have an award for you!

http://missysbooknook.blogspot.com/2010/02/woo-hoo-award-for-me.html

MissAttitude said...

I really liked this book too! Spencer is my favorite character, but I loved Scarlett's whole family. They were loving but crazy in their own ways, like all families. And I loved how NYC is described, I wanted to go visit even more, it is described so well. And Johnson is just effortlessly quotable and funny!

I agree, I will be super disappointed if the sequel doesn't have a bit more diversity.

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@choco,

Do try it. I think you'll enjoy it alot

@Missy,

THANKS! =D

@MissAttitude,

Yes, I'm holding my breath on the sequel. *is waiting ever so patiently for my library to stock this novel*