Summer Jobs Week Review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson. Scholastic, 2008. Currently Available.

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction (YA)

Face Value: There are 2 covers available, and both are kind of average. The one I read I definitely prefer – it features a hotel wallpaper – totally relevant – the key to the Empire Suite – even more so – and the NYC skyline emerging outside of the key. It’s not that exciting, but it’s workable.

scarlett 1The second cover is also not the worst – we see Scarlett’s whole face, for example, and she meets the description of our hero. It’s just not all that exciting – the model is a little too come-hithery, the overall effect is a little more Carrie Bradshaw than I’d like.

0-439-89927-3Does it Break the Slate? Maureen Johnson is a vocally feminist writer, and this is absolutely clear in her fiction. Scarlett is a totally Slatebreaking character, and all the women in this book are funny, interesting and multifaceted.

Who would we give it to? If you love theatre, or have ever been involved in theatre, if you have imagined or romanticized living in New York City, and you’re looking for a terrifically funny and charming summer read, this is the book for you.

Review: Scarlett Martin needs a summer job. The rest of her friends don’t really need to work to pay for things like clothes, fun, etc. but with her family’s finances the way they are, she needs to work this summer if she wants any hope of paying for anything beyond her subway fare. But when things take another downturn at her family’s hotel, the Hopewell, she ends up working (for free) for her family instead. Given a room to take charge of on her own, Scarlett finds herself working as the personal assistant to Amy Amberson, the wealthy eccentric spending the summer in the Empire Suite. Meanwhile her older brother Spencer is trying to make it as an actor, her older sister Lola is trying to balance work, family and her wealthy boyfriend Chip, and her younger sister Marlene is generally being a pain in the ass (though entitled to it, to a certain extent).

I love the whole Martin family. Seriously, every sibling is fantastic, and funny, and really wonderful. The relationship between the four of them, as determined by years of challenges and varying personalities is both incredibly realistic and enviably awesome. The nuances of relationship between each sibling really works, with the undeniable love across all four, but obvious alliances that spring up at times.

But Scarlett is the best of them. An aspiring writer, she tackles every one of the weird tasks thrown at her with gusto. Whether she is purchasing endless boxes of green tea or setting up a fake audition, it’s obvious why Mrs. Amberson sees so much in her. Plus, as seems to be a recognizable theme in our summer jobs week, Scarlett finds herself through her job. Through the responsibilities that Amy and her family place on her, she starts to really figure out who she is and what she’s good at. As she starts to define herself as a writer, a producer, a mediator, and definitely not an actor, she realizes that she is capable of making things happen – for Ms. Amberson, for everyone in her family, and even for herself. Maureen Johnson’s incredible knack for writing humor and recognizable teen voices is at its best in this character and the world around her.

Reviewed from copy purchased at Bookmans in Phoenix, AZ.

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