Title: Suite Scarlett
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA (Contemporary)
Publishing Date: May 1, 2008 (HC)/May 1, 2009 (PB)
Hardcover/Paperback: 368 pages
Stand Alone/ Series: Can be read as stand alone but there is a sequel in the works for 2010 called Scarlett Fever
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.
Why did I read the book: Because of Angie’s review
With nary a vampire or werewolf or any other assorted supernatural being in sight, Suite Scarlett is not my usual type of reading. I admit to preferring Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical stories to straight contemporaries but after reading Suite Scarlett and a couple of other contemporary YA novels, I might just have to re-evaluate my reading habits. And that is a good thing.
Scarlett Martin has just turned 15. It is the start of the summer holidays and she is not really looking forward to it. Her friends are away doing interesting things and she is stuck in New York having to deal with the fact that her family is in dire financial situation. Plus, it is family tradition that each children, on their 15th birthday, earns a very special gift: a Suite.
You see, the Martin family live at a hotel – owned by the family for generations – The Hopewel, an authentic Art Deco, boutique hotel in New York that unfortunately is struggling to make do, with the few guests that they get. Scarlett is presented with her own suite when the book opens and she is now in charge of it – and of any guests that stay there. At the moment, the suite is empty but soon a has-been actress, the rich, decadent and eccentric Mrs Amberson checks in and invites Scarlett to become her assistant and that opens a new world for Scarlett. Couple Mrs Amberson’s (sometimes over the top) antics with the wonderful dynamics of the Martins siblings and you have a terrific book about relationships and growing up but also about passion for the Theatre and for the city New York.
Scarlett’s older brother Spencer, an aspiring actor is her best friend and the sibling she has the closest relationship with. His struggle to become an actor is central part of the plot and what moves it forward, in a way. Their parents have given him an ultimatum –make it now or break it and go to cooking school – and his desperate attempts to get a role land him a part in a garage production of Hamlet…. with unicycles. Scarlett and Mrs Amberson are enlisted to help and comedy!drama!tragedy! ensue.
Spencer is extremely endearing and frankly, downright hilarious with his slapstick comedy. His relationship with Scarlett is part of makes this book so good. But the other two Martin siblings, Lola and Marlene also offer a necessary, more serious, counterpart to the story – the four of them are extremely different but forming an ensemble that just works.
The theatre is ever present not only in the story itself but in the way the book is divided in Acts and each chapter with a title that reminds the reader of Hamlet. And that is part of what is great about Suite Scarlett: it worked in two very different levels for me: the more emotional one in which I connected with the characters, especially Scarlett and her siblings and the intellectual one, which connected with the writing, the slapstick comedy (my favourite kind) and the way the story spoke of love for the Theatre by making it a character in itself and incorporating theatrical elements in both content and format.
I cannot go on without mentioning the city of New York – it is where the story is set but as with the Theatre it becomes a character as well and a major one at that. The characters talk about old times with the Hopewell itself being such an important fixture in the city, and new times. Of good things and bad things that come with living in a big city and you get the perspective of the people that have lived there forever and of a new-comer. This newcomer, Eric, another wannabe actor, is Scarlett’s love interest and one of the reasons why I connected with Scarlett so very much. The thing with being an adult reading a young adult novel is that many times you can see what is going to happen ahead of time because you have been there, done that. I too, was once a 15 year old with an infatuation for an older guy who was far too honest – is too much honesty good or bad, Scarlett wonders, as I did once upon a time – and reading their budding relationship I wished I could give Scarlett some pointers. Oh, how much I wished that!
But not as much as I wished to be there at the Hopewell having the weekly dinner with the Martins.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
(…) Her phone rang and Spencer’s name appeared on the screen.
“I need you”, he said when she answered.
“Stop it, Orlando. Stop calling me. If we get married, my name will be Scarlett Bloom, and that sounds like a rash.”
“You can’t see me right now,” Spencer said, “but I actually just peed myself laughing. My shorts are soaked”
“You say that like it’s uncommon”
“And the laughs keep coming. If you’re done…”
Verdict: Quirky, hilarious sometimes absurd, sometimes, sad and poignant , Suite Scarlett is an engaging book that has made me smile many times over. Highly recommended.
Rating: 7 – very Good
Reading Next: The Queen’s Thief series.