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Suite Scarlett Hardcover – May 1, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—Johnson certainly seems to have the formula for good, clean, readable chick-lit down pat, and this title does not disappoint. According to tradition, when the Martin children turn 15, they inherit a suite in the family's small Manhattan hotel and a job: to take care of the rooms and their occupant. On Scarlett's 15th birthday, Amy Amberson sweeps into the suite that Scarlett has just inherited. The woman is demanding and brash, but she does have her charms (and large amounts of cash). In the beginning, Scarlett is overwhelmed, but then her role becomes that of Mrs. Amberson's assistant for her projects, which change on a whim. When Amy decides to help the theater troupe that Scarlett's brother is involved in put on Hamlet, the teen begins a romance with one of the actors. Then everything starts to go awry, and when things get tough, Amy abandons ship, and plucky Scarlett is left to step in and save what needs saving, something that she does with flair. Scarlett's brand of humor is particularly dry and well articulated. This novel blends sibling rivalry and the importance of family, friendship, and romance into a plot that is charming and well delivered.—Emily Garrett Cassady, North Garland High School, Garland, TX
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*Starred Review* The Hopewell Hotel, 75 years ago a stylish Upper East Side haunt, has fallen on hard times. Its proprietors, the Martin family, have let the last remaining employee go, and now it’s up to the four children, Spencer, Lola, Scarlett, and Marlene, to keep things afloat. Enter one Mrs. Amy Amberson, a flamboyant, mysterious guest, back in New York after a long absence, with some clandestine motives. Mrs. Amberson is to occupy the Empire Suite, just today entrusted to Scarlett as a “present” on her fifteenth birthday (a family tradition), for the entire summer, and keeping her happy will test Scarlett’s ingenious mettle. What follows is some utterly winning, madcap Manhattan farce, crafted with a winking, urbane narrative and tight, wry dialogue. Beneath the silvered surface, Johnson delivers a complex sibling relationship. Like the Hilary McKay’s Casson quartet, first introduced in Saffy’s Angel (2002), these siblings are bound by tender, poignant connections, all the more real for the absurdity of their circumstances. We can only hope that they, too, return for more intrepid adventures. Grades 7-12. --Thom Barthelmess
Top customer reviews
Mom and Dad might just enjoy being in on a little fun, especially since it will benefit their desperate desire to keep a vintage roof over all 6 of their heads.
Here's the thing: Since Scarlett lives in a family-owned hotel in New York City, I sort of feel like her life should be at least semi-interesting. Yet it wasn't at all. Even when Mrs. Amberson popped into the story, Scarlett still remained the most boring, bland character in the whole book. She's just completely overshadowed by the things that her siblings, that are only supporting characters, do.
You have Spencer who's in a not-so-famous acting troupe and is keeping it hidden from his parents. Now, he's struggling with his inner turmoil about wanting to do what he's passionate about and wanting to do something that would help the floundering NYC hotel he and his parents inhabit. You have Lola who's got her own inner turmoil with trying to keep up with the lavish lifestyle her rich boyfriend was born into while simultaneously battling feelings over whether she really loves him...or if she just loves his bank account. Even Marlene, annoying little gnat that she is, has survived cancer, has her own life, and is genuinely interesting even though she's so friggin' annoying. And then you have Scarlett...who is so incredibly blah it isn't even funny.
So, while Suite Scarlett was a sort of cute, fluffy, YA, it never reached its full potential since you have a heroine who is not even a little bit enchanting. I just feel like Scarlett wasn't as deserving to having her own novel when you compare her to her more interesting siblings who have to deal with some much deeper (and I can't stress this enough: INTERESTING) things than Scarlett herself. Due to this, I don't think I'm going to pick up the next book in the series, unless of course it's narrated by one of the more fabulous siblings.
Scarlett's family lives in a run down hotel in New York City. The charm of the hotel is its history, but Scarlett's family is struggling to keep the doors open and as our story begins, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. With a younger sister who is a cancer survivor and whose medical bills didn't help the family finances, an older brother who wants to be a starving actor - quite literally if he has to be - and an older sister who seems like she has it all together, Scarlett and her siblings have to band together to help her family with the hotel. Top this off with her brother's play that seems doomed from it's beginning, his scene partner that has Scarlett seeing stars and the mysterious Mrs. Amberson who likes to shake things up and you've got a book packed with a fun and witty plot.
A quick-thinking, problem solver with strong family ties, Scarlett, is an endearing character and I found myself cheering for her from the very beginning. Mrs. Amberson - who moves into their hotel for the summer - takes her on as an assistant and meddles in the life of her family, putting Scarlett in some awkward situations which she has to power through. There is a bit of sibling rivalry, but it's clear to see that Scarlett and her siblings love and respect each other.
There are times when the story read a little sitcomesque, but overall I thought that Suite Scarlett was a wonderful read. Though it walks the line, it never crosses over to saccharine or corny; its quick pace guarantees that there is never a dull moment.