Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Not that I had any doubts, but any book that comes highly recommended by Leila, Erin, Shelf Elf, Abby and Becky is one that I'm going to absolutely love. I've been wanting to get my hands on this one for a while -- since Leila's review, actually -- so I did a little happy dance when I checked (one of many times over the months) and it was at the library. I put a hold on it, and I couldn't wait to delve into it when I got it home. (I did have to wait -- nearly a week -- because I really needed to finish The Three Musketeers. But as soon as I finished that one...) I have to say that I had an absolute blast.

Basic plot: Scarlett Martin has turned 15, which means -- since her family owns and lives in a hotel in New York City -- she has just been "given" a suite to take care of. That means, however, that she automatically becomes the go-to person for whomever stays in that suite. In this case, that would be Mrs. Amberson, a former theater diva who has come back to NYC after years in Thailand. Scarlett's life -- for better or for worse -- is at the mercy of Mrs. Amberson, and as a result, so is the rest of her family. Thankfully (or not) that ends up involving not only romance (for Scarlett), but a dash of revenge and deception not to mention theatrical intrigue (involving Hamlet of all things).

Suite Scarlett is your quintessential romantic comedy. That's not to say it's cliched or boring or formulaic; quite the contrary. There's just enough suspense and twists and conflict to keep me interested on a non-romantic level. I loved every minute of the ride that Maureen Johnson put me through-- lots of laughs and smiles and swoons, but also curiosity about how it was all going to turn out -- from the initial dedication: "This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever played a dead body on stage or screen. It takes a big actor to lie on the ground and keep quiet. Droop on, my lifeless friends." All the way through to the very last sentence.

The best thing -- aside from the laughs; I love it when an author actually gets me laughing out loud -- was the characters. They're so vividly drawn that you feel that you could sit in some coffeshop chatting with them about the weather. I especially liked Scarlett -- just the right balance of innocence and cleverness spiced with a bit of daring -- and who has me wrapped around her little finger from the get-go. But, in addition to her, I absolutely loved just about everyone else. Spencer, her 19-year-old brother, was just one of those guys you want to pack up and take home. Lola (she's 18, just graduted and trying to figure out what to do with her life) was a bit uptight, but I could tell that she really cared about the hotel and about her family. (A side note: I really liked how family-centric this novel was.) Maureen, 11, was a bit of a prick, but for a good reason. And even she managed to find a way to make me like her. Mrs. Amberson was a riot, and I liked Eric (he's the love interest -- Johnson, among her other talents, does a good job with the chemistry between the two of them), even though he was a bit earnest for my taste. Then again, a little bit of Southern earnestness never hurt a novel.

I could go on gushing... but I'll just leave it up to you to go find the book so you can gush about it yourself.

Just about perfect (for a YA romance, anyway).

Cross posted at Book Nut.

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