I know, I know… another teen book. I suppose I’m making up for all of the YA titles I didn’t read back when I was actually a teenager (too busy reading the Important Classic Good-for-Me Books). Cut me some slack people. I swear Shelf Elf is not becoming a YA review blog. Not yet anyway. This is Maureen Johnson, so how could I possibly resist?
If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading one of Maureen Johnson’s books, I’m envious. There’s just so much that’s happy-making about her style, her stories, and her characters. After I finished Suite Scarlett this morning, I spent a little time considering the magic that is MJ. For starters, she sure knows how to come up with a great premise. Who hasn’t dreamed of living in a hotel in one of the greatest cities in the world? Scarlett Martin’s family owns and runs the Hopewell, a boutique hotel with quite a history in the heart of New York City. And they don’t just own the place, they live there too. Sounds pretty dreamy, but in fact, there isn’t a lot of hope left at the Hopewell. The business is barely working, and Scarlett’s summer looks like it’s going to be all about doing her part to keep the family business afloat. Her aspiring actor brother, Spencer, is being pressured by the parents to accept a scholarship to culinary school, but all he really wants to do is find a way to be a part of a production of Hamlet that’s being staged in a parking garage. Scarlett’s older sister Lola is dating #98 on New York’s Top 100 Prep School Scenesters List, much to her family’s concern. Then, the half-crazy, highly theatrical, aging actress Mrs. Amberson checks in for the summer and everything starts to get really interesting at the Hopewell.
I’d have to worry about a teenager who didn’t think that this book was a completely fun read. But the best part is, Suite Scarlett isn’t just fluff. It’s fun with substance. While she’s making you laugh, and compelling you to turn those pages, Maureen Johnson also succeeds in capturing all of the complexity of sibling relationships and the strength a family can muster in a tough situation. You’ll have a hard time finding a brother/sister relationship more loving, comical and bursting with life than Spencer and Scarlett’s. I love those two kooky characters! Suite Scarlett is also about going after your greatest dreams, mending broken relationships, and discovering hidden talents. Just try walking away from this story without a big grin on your face. And – it’s the first in a series. Did I say, “YAY!”?