Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Scholastic, 2009
Length: 368 pages
For Scarlett Martin’s fifteenth birthday, she receives a hotel suite. No, not in the rich-kid-Gossip-Girl-upper-east-side-life in the lap of luxury kind of way – her family owns (and struggles to run) the Hopewell Hotel. The Hopewell is a once flourishing (and currently flailing) art deco building in the heart of NYC with a theatrical history, and Scarlett is required to work there throughout the summer, managing the Empire suite. Her potentially boring summer quickly heats up with the arrival of the enigmatic (and overdramatic) Mrs Amberson, who ropes Scarlett into helping execute her grand plans. Throw in an amateur theatre troupe, the Powerkids, an long-standing rivalry, summer romance and a very, very attractive aspiring actor and you’re ready to check in at Suite Scarlett.
I have to say this is the first of Maureen Johnson’s novels I have read the whole way through – I did start 13 Little Blue Envelopes sometime last year but it didn’t immediately grab me and I returned it to the library having only read a third of it. I can safely say that Suite Scarlett certainly won’t be my last – I really enjoyed Johnson’s writing style (and now of course wish I had given 13LBE more of a chance!). She successfully crafts characters who are not only vibrant, unique and spouting snappy dialogue, but are completely personable.
I loved reading about Scarlett and the entire Martin family. From the opening set-up, Johnson could totally have just made Scarlett a victim of a pity-party (oh noes, I shall have to work all summer like a real teenager!) but she totally owned it and instead created an engaging, relatable protagonist. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between the Martin siblings – especially Spencer and Scarlett who were adept at banter and snark. Johnson does a brilliant job at crafting the family dynamic – with a definite tendency towards the theatrical, but with enough of a splash of reality to be identifiable.
Whilst of course there are parts of the plot which are a little predictable (like any novel, relationships that are supposed to be kept a secret never stay that way for long and always are revealed in the worst, most hurtful way) and others are almost completely over-the-top, but I found myself completely enthralled in the story that it didn’t phase me or take away from my overall reading of the novel.
Suite Scarlett is a delightful read. The Hopewell Hotel caters perfectly as the setting for such a quirky family and their eccentric guests, as well as functioning as rehearsal space, a party venue, tourist attraction and theatre. Scarlett is a well-developed, likeable and spunky protagonist and whilst Johnson also crafts an engaging romance plot for her, but commendably keeps the focus on Scarlett’s relationship with and love for her family. Johnson writes with a flair for theatricality and a strong sense of fun. Suite Scarlett is a funny, entertaining read with a lot of heart.
For those interested, insideadog has the first chapter available online.