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Suite Scarlett
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
Welcome to the Hopewell Hotel. We offer clean suites, delicious food (sometimes burnt), free entertainment (that the owners don't know about), and service with a smile.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson has family values. Rather, it values family: The Hopewell has been passed down through the Martin family for generations. The current owners are struggling to keep it going, and their children readily pitch in to help. Well, "readily" is relative - no pun intended. There's Spencer, the oldest at nineteen, an actor skilled at comedy and pratfalls; Lola, a recent high school graduate whose rich boyfriend can give her everything she wants - except that which matters most; Scarlett, the Suite's sweet protagonist; and Marlene, the youngest, who has no problem saying what she likes and what she doesn't. On his or her fifteenth birthday, each Martin gets a suite to care for. The book begins with Scarlett turning fifteen, getting assigned the Empire Suite, and finding out just how tight things are getting in the hotel. "We'll get by," her father says. "We always do."

And they do. I really enjoyed the family dynamic in this book. Spencer and Scarlett are close, as are Marlene and Lola. They all get along, but Scarlett's bond with her brother is stronger than that with either of her sisters. Thus, a large part of Scarlett's story also belongs to Spencer. He put a culinary scholarship on hold to pursue his acting, and his parents gave him a year to become a working actor or buckle down for school. With that year almost up, Spencer is anxious for something to come his way that pays him (to make his parents happy) and challenges him (to make him happy), so he's thrilled to when he gets the opportunity to be in a production of Hamlet. Spencer has such a good heart. You'll want him to succeed, and you'll wish he was your older brother too.

Meanwhile, while all of Scarlett's friends are off having summer adventures, Scarlett works at home. The Empire Suite is occupied by an aging actress named Mrs. Amberson who has money to spare and opinions to share. This woman is a true character. You never know what she's going to do next. Instead of bossing her new assistant around with barking commands and snapping fingers, she becomes an odd sort of confidante for the girl, and her eccentric ways become endearing.

Before long, Scarlett finds her summer schedule pretty full. In addition to dealing with Mrs. Amberson's antics and helping out with Spencer's show, she's also crushing on Spencer's scene partner Eric. She tries to re-connect with each of her sisters. Marlene's coddled for a reason - something I won't reveal here - and sophisticated Lola's apparent happiness may be more of an act than her family knows.

Maureen Johnson's sixth novel - and Scholastic debut - is not to be missed. Johnson's trademark wit is here ("Before, liking Eric was like a mirror - it was just a shiny thing, and it only went one way") as is her ability to capture simple truths. There are many truths to be told here about families, first loves, careers, living in New York City, and simply growing up.

It's refreshing to read a story with a well-adjusted leading character who actually acts her age and likes her family. Watching Scarlett takes in everything around her is a real treat. She's content to be in the middle of her family, in the middle of her teen years, but she's also realizing how many wonderful possibilities are out there for her and for the ones she loves. You know that whatever she does now or when she grows up, she'll do it well.

Check into the Hopewell today. I hope - I know - you'll enjoy your stay.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2008
I've never been a huge fan of Maureen Johnson's. I know, it's a crime. It's just that none of the books of hers that I've read have made much of an impression on me. I do admit that she's a good writer and has some great story ideas, but out of the books I've read so far, I didn't really like them enough to say that she's one of my favorite authors. But, I think that may have changed after I read this book. While reading I thought to myself; this must be the kind of Maureen Johnson writing that has made people fall in love with her. It's really good! She's witty, precise, clever, funny, and her whole writing style made this book completely enjoyable to read. It's got nice flow and has enough little quirky things to it that nothing ever gets boring. I'm definitely understanding what people like so much about Maureen. I'm a fan now. Besides the writing, there were, of course, other elements that I liked about the book. I really liked the reality of it all. Maybe not the reality of the plot, because I have a feeling that that part was meant to be not so real and more funny and captivating, but I really liked how the author was able to write about the setting and the characters so that it felt as if you were there and you knew them. I've been to New York once, like five years ago so I don't really remember a ton, but from reading this book I was able to understand the whole dynamic and feel of the city which was cool. I'd love to be able to go and spend a week or two among the crazy hecticness of New York. It seems like it would be a really cool place to live. And besides the setting, the characters were completely awesome. They each had some interesting personality trait that made them unique. I also liked how the cute guy in this story had things wrong with him! Yay! Cheers for realistic and screwed up guys. Sure, I'm not as fond of Eric as I am of more unflawed guy leads, but I do admire him for having the strength to defy the character mold. Ha. Overall, I think Suite Scarlett was a super great book. I loved every part of it and am looking forward to the next Scarlett book with tons of anticipation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Every 15th birthday in the Martin family is special. It is at this age that each of the Martin children has received suites in the family's Hopewell Hotel that they are responsible for. And on her birthday, Scarlett receives the Empire Suite, along with its new permanent guest, Mrs. Amberson. Mrs. Amberson is unconventional, exasperating, and demanding, and Scarlett resents that because of her, she can't get a regular summer job. But when Mrs. Amberson saves Scarlett's brother Spencer's show, a rendition of Hamlet, from certain disbandment, and insists on being a part of it, Scarlett doesn't quite mind so much. It would certainly bring her a lot closer to Eric, who is very good looking and just happens to be a part of the cast...

Suite Scarlet is quirky, fun, and oh so hilarious. Johnson's trademark engaging writing style, subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) humor, and intelligent lexicon will not fail to captivate readers once again. It's wonderfully refreshing to read about siblings that actually like each other, but are every bit as dysfunctional as the next family. The dynamics between Scarlett and Spencer especially are a delight to read, and their characters are wonderfully pragmatic and expressive. Mrs. Amberson is a sort of insane and intriguing enigma whose eccentricities and antics add just the right amount of pizzazz to the plot. Throw in each of the carefully presented details, from avid descriptions of Scarlett's family and friends, and crazy theatrical catastrophes, to bits of trivia from throughout the lives of the Martin family, and you have a comprehensive look at Scarlett's life, forging a connection between reader and protagonist that you won't want to sever...and you want have to; a sequel is already in the works. The release of Suite Scarlett has only reinforced Johnson's status as one of the top YA authors out there today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The few things I've read by Maureen Johnson have been hit or miss for me. I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. Maureen's short story in Let It Snow, on the other hand was my favorite out of the collection and I wanted to read a book based on that story. So when I first saw Suite Scarlett, I liked the idea, but I was nervous about if I would like it or not.

I shouldn't have worried because Suite Scarlett was a delight. I love the Martin family (in some ways they reminded me of a non-magical, New York version of the Weasleys), and I found all of them endearing, even the sometimes annoying Marlene. I really loved how these siblings relied on each other and shared with each other-they new what it meant to be a family, which is a cool thing to see in YA books.

I first thought that Mrs. Amberson would be like the evil bosses in Devil Wears Prada or Nanny Diaries, but I actually enjoyed her and wouldn't mind spending the afternoon talking with her. She's eccentric, but I don't think she's a terrible boss and she has a good heart (most of the time). I'm looking forward to more of her schemes and ideas.

The greatest thing that Suite Scarlett pulls off is making a crush-worthy boy out of Spencer, Scarlett's brother, instead of Eric, Scarlett's crush. I've heard other bloggers gush about Spencer and I'm there with him-he's definitely a lit-crush! Scarlett still remains the main character, which is fine because I enjoyed Scarlett too and found her to be a fun character, but Spencer stole the show for me and I'm hoping to see more of him in the sequels as well.

I would recommened Suite Scarlett to readers who enjoy books about theater, memorable families, and madcap adventures. Suite Scarlett would make a great summer read and it's the start to a new series. Scarlett Fever comes out in January 2010 with a third book being released later in the year.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2010
Maybe it's just me, but I just didn't get sucked into the book. It may be because of my background and upbringing (we weren't poor, per se, but definitely not well off), but I felt like I couldn't relate to Scarlett or her particular brand of teenage struggles.

I couldn't really relate to the characters; Spencer acted as the comic relief (excuse the pun) but I found myself halfheartedly believing he could be so in denial about the reality of his situation. Lola and Marlene weren't as fully developed as Scarlett and Spencer, so I felt very little toward them. I couldn't bring myself to judge either based on Scarlett or Spencer's negative opinions since the narration is biased toward Scarlett. In the sibling divide, it seemed to be split into two groups: underprivileged (Spencer and Scarlett) and spoiled (Lola and Marlene).

I liked the concept of the story and had no qualms with the way the author wrote it. I enjoyed the humorous, sometimes sarcastic remarks from the characters, which was one of the only things that kept me trudging through the book. I liked how the characters were wholesome, and like one reviewer said, they had strong family values. I think the plot could have used a little work.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite catch my particular interest. It had a lot of potential, but I'm sure if I were a teen I'd like it a lot more. I suggest trying it for yourself before judging it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2011
Scarlett's a young girl whose family runs a hotel. Her life sounds so interesting, but it isn't. Their hotel is almost closing and she isn't the favorite daughter. Her older sister is beautiful, her brother is fun, and her youngest sister was sick and now her family gives everything to her. Scarlett is shy and silent, and not at all fun or interesting or beautiful.

In her birthday, she's expecting to receive at least a delicious breakfast but instead receives more responsibilities; a room for her to take care of. This is how she met Mrs. Amberson, a beautiful actress, and her summer plans fall apart.

Scarlett's life wasn't good. Running a hotel isn't easy or fun, but with Mrs. Amberson she gets to do a lot of things she didn't even thought about doing. While her friends are having a great summer, she has to help her new guest with everything she wants, including writing her autobiography.

At first I didn't like Scarlett because she wasn't interesting. I don't think she had a personality of her own. But it was great to see her growing up and feeling secure. I also liked the relationship between Spencer, Lola and Scarlet. They all helped each other at everything they could.

I loved the idea of her family running the hotel. They are having a bad time, but still it was pretty amazing how they manage. Everyone had other responsibilities besides working at the hotel, but they still did it.

Overall, Suite Scarlett is a book about growing up. It's a cute story, sometimes slow, but with a lovely happy ending. I'll probably read the next book of the series, Scarlett Fever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 19, 2008
I definitely went into this book with low expectations. I had read Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and found nothing particularly spectacular about it. I never really understood why Maureen Johnson was a legend in YA literary circles (well...other than the whole YA for Obama thing :P) So I was very glad to be surprised by this amazing book. The characters were all extraordinarily well-developed, and unlike most YA books nowadays, instead of the focus being on the romance (Scarlett/Eric), it seemed to me like the most central relationship in the book was Scarlett-Spencer. I loved the familial interactions, each sibling's distinct personality. I might have wanted to see some more of Marlene, but I'll live. I went into the book with a lot of wrong ideas. I had thought immediately that Mrs. Amberson was going to die. Grandmotherly influencial older woman--well, they always die in books, don't they? Them and dogs? I had gone in thinking, hmm, is this going to end up with a Scarlett/Eric pairing or SPENCER/Eric pairing? I liked that I was proven wrong on both counts. Everything about this book was great. There were points where some of the narration dragged a little, but that was mainly confined to the first few chapters, and it all evened out a lot through the rest of the book, down to the smallest details like the epic chapter titles. I had thought that Eric and Scarlett's relationship had no hope, since they got together that extremely early in the book. I didn't particularly like Eric's character. He was necessary to temporarily divide Scarlett and Spencer, but he never appealed to me as...well, as a person. He may be the only 2D character in the entire book. The resolution between Donna and Amy (and oh my God, if anyone watches The West Wing, you will understand why I am horrified by this statement I am about to make) was heartwarmingly bittersweet. I am deeply curious about the origins of Mrs. Amberson--who on earth could have had enough character to inspire her? She's pretty much legendary! All in all, spectacular book, plotwise, characterwise, writing-wise. Everything's just spot-on!

Rating: 5/5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2010
Scarlett Martin and her family own and operate a hotel in the middle of New York City. Whenever one of the Martin kids turn 15 they are assigned a room in the hotel to be in charge of. Scarlett is assigned the Empire Suite. Shortly after her birthday and room assignment Mrs. Amberson becomes a permanent resident in the Empire Suite.

Scarlett's brother Spencer is an actor. He has a scholarship to a culinary school that his parents want him to attend. Spencer wants to focus on his acting. He joins a small troupe of actors putting on a version of Hamlet.

Lorna, Scarlett's older sister is dating a boy who's family is very rich. Scarlett and Spencer think that she is dating him for his money because she doesn't act like a girl in love. Lorna thinks she would like to be part of the "rich world" but soon finds that she doesn't fit in with the stuck up crowd.

Marlene is the youngest. Marlene is in remission from Leukemia. Marlene is a bit spoiled and gets whatever she wants.

At first the story shows the disfunctional relationships between all of the siblings. Scarlett and Spencer are close and Lorna and Marlene are close. By the end of the story they are all working together towards one goal, making sure that Spencer gets his chance to act rather than having to go to culinary school to help out the family business.

I had a hard time getting into this story but by the end I was engaged in all of the characters and was quickly turning pages to find out how everything turned out. There are a few curse words in the story and a mild kissing scene with a mention of condoms but for the most part this is a pretty solid middle school book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2010
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. I liked some aspects of it, like the characterization and the overall madcap quality, but I think the plot could have been more cohesive. At first, the book seems to be about the hotel and Scarlett inheriting the care of a suite on her fifteenth birthday. Then it seems to be about the suite's occupant, Mrs. Amberson, and how she draws Scarlett into her bohemian life. But then the story's focus shifts to Scarlett's brother, his acting career, and a production of "Hamlet." Throw in Scarlett's sort-of romance with one of the other actors, an on-again-off-again romance between a preppie and Scarlett's older sister, Mrs. Amberson's revenge plot, and the hotel's financial troubles, and you're left with a lot going on and no clear focus for the story. The final third of the novel centers on making the production of "Hamlet" a reality and the author does manage to bring all the storylines together, but I think a stronger story arc would have made this a much more enjoyable read. I loved the quirky characters, though, and enjoyed the interaction between Scarlett and her siblings. On the downside, Scarlett's romantic interest seemed like a manipulative jerk--but maybe that's what the author intended?--and the author uses the word "physically" more often than is permissible. (OK, that's nitpicking, but "physically yanked"? Yikes) The book has its moments, but I can't say I'm all that eager to pick up the sequel, Scarlett Fever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Scarlett just turned fifteen, but instead of being awarded a fantastic vacation away from home (like all her other friends) she is given a suite in the hotel she lives in to take care of...like every other Martin in the family when they turn fifteen.

This isn't too bad until she meets her first guest that she must cater to, Mrs. Amberson, who will be staying all summer long! Though Scarlett believes this will be another boring summer, things start to get crazy with Mrs. Amberson along. She almost gets arrested for shoplifting, must keep helping to save her brother's production of Hamlet and his chances of ever making it as an actor, fetching Mrs. Amberson more tea then she could ever need, and even falling for a boy along the way!

Get ready New York: Scarlett is taking over!

This is my first novel by Maureen Johnson, but by no means will it be the last! I loved SUITE SCARLETT from the very beginning, immensely enjoying the characters and adventures. Scarlett and her brother, Spencer, have a great relationship with amazingly witty comebacks. You'll find yourself laughing along and wishing you had their relationship with your siblings!

The book is hilarious, thought-provoking, and fun! I'm thrilled there is going to be a sequel. So if you've read Johnson's work before...you need this one, as well. And if you haven't, then get to it! It's the perfect book to start you out on!

Reviewed by: Lauren Ashley
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