As promised, a review of the first new book of the year! (just a couple of days late)
by Maureen Johnson
Scholastic, Point (2008)
Humor, Family, Chick-Lit
"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.
There's so much to say about this novel, I don't know where to begin! -deep breath- Okay, here we go.
From the first page, when Scarlett was being woken up on her fifteenth birthday by her older brother, I was hooked. Maureen has an amazing writing style that combines the touching story of the Martin family with hilarious (and a little crazy) dialogue and side-characters. There's never a dull moment in this book as Scarlett races to save her brother's career as an actor, her family's hotel, her sanity and still stay out of jail while working for Mrs. Amy Amberson.
As someone who's never been in the theater world, and never had any desire to be, I was a little skeptical about reading a book that would no doubt have so much of the theater in it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed all the scenes of Hamlet rehearsals and Scarlett's reaction to the actors and everything they had to do. And, as if I didn't already want to visit New York, Maureen's descriptions of the city made me want to hop on a plane as soon as I put the book down. Although I think when I do go, I'll avoid the tourist-y spots now.
The characters are, without a doubt, the best part about this book. Scarlett is a sweet girl with realistic problems - like unruly hair - and her interactions with the other Martins were great. I'm still deciding whether I like Scarlett or Spencer more. They're both hilarious. Spencer, her nineteen year old brother, is into very physical comedy, falling down or walking into walls constantly just to make his sisters laugh. In the play, he gets to work with Eric, a charming Southern boy going to NYU who shares Spencer's skills. And, much to Spencer's dismay, he also shares a special connection with Scarlett.
Lola is Scarlett's level-headed eighteen year old sister. By day she works at the makeup counter at a department store, but frequently switches shifts to go out with or do favors for her rich boyfriend Chip. Lola's also the only one who can handle Marlene, their eleven year old bratty sister. I didn't really care for either, just because of Marlene's attitude and Lola's stupidity.
I can't really say anything bad about the novel. I occasionally wanted to slap Scarlett or Spencer on the back of the head and scream "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" But they were very brief moments. I mostly reserved this action for scenes with Mrs. Amberson, who deserved them. I'm now very much looking forward to reading the sequel, Scarlett Fever, which just came out on February first.
Because I can't determine if I like Scarlett or Spencer better, there will be two Quotes of the Day - they both deserve attention!
"This is where I take a long, long nap. And in my happy, happy dreams, this problem goes away. And those Dutch twins who love tall and weedy New York actors come and offer to help me prepare for my role. And we all put on the fuzzy squirrel outfits and get big bags of nuts ... I'm revealing too much about my internal life, aren't I? It's weird between us now, isn't it?" - Spencer, page 341
"I already saw Naked Lady on the roof. I'm damaged. Stop tormenting me." - Scarlett, page 5
Now that I managed to write the review instead of saying "It was awesome -go buy it!" I'm going to rant on for a little bit about Twitter and the live chat with Maureen yesterday. Feel free to leave now. The review is over. =)
Okay, I was on Twitter a few days ago, and suddenly I get a reply tweet from SPENCER MARTIN. Oh. My. God.
So, in reality, I know it was Maureen who created Twitter accounts for several of her characters, but it doesn't make it any more exciting. I mean, an actual, published, famous author talked to me. -squee- I'm sorry, but I've been doing a really good job of containing my excitement for the past few days (except for when my mom asked why I was smiling so much) and it's kinda seeping out now.
To make matters ten times better, I was in a live chat Maureen was doing with a blog called Mundie Moms (link in sidebar) and she answered all four of my questions. And there were like 450 of us in there. Below are the questions I asked, her answers, and the links to all of the character Twitters. Enjoy.
Q: Do you listen to music a lot? If so, what type/bands?
A: I listen to a LOT. I collect music probably more than anything else.
Q: What was the hardest book to write?
A: Devilish was pretty hard to write, but not because of the book.
Q: How do you choose character names?
A: I just kind of . . . pick them. They're usually kind of random.
one character is named after a street I was crossing when I figured out a big part of his life story.
I grab things I see and hear
I recall asking a fourth question, but for the life of me, I can't remember it. And I couldn't find it in the chat records when it was over.
Happy reading, everyone!
P.S. I'm currently reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, so expect my review sometime on the weekend, or maybe next week. I'm also re-reading Suite Scarlett with my mom. =D