Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Suite Scarlett - Maureen Johnson (Scarlett #1)

Suite Scarlett (Scarlett, #1)
Suite Scarlett is a book about a girl whose family owns a hotel.  All of the kids in the family help run the hotel, and receive a suite to care for when they turn fifteen.  Sounds glamorous, right?  Well, while the hotel might seem glamourous at first--designed by a famous Broadway set designer in the 20's, with plenty of history to accompany it and a beautiful appearance--it's kind of failing.  And by "kind of," I mean that Scarlett's family has had to fire their last paid employee, their cook, on the morning on her fifteenth birthday.  In addition to the terrible breakfast her parents make because of an absence of said cook, Scarlett gets some truly awful birthday presents, including a used lipstick sample and an expired ice cream coupon.  She's also given the Empire Suite to care for, and while this is the hotel's biggest, most prestigious suite, it's also rarely rented, suggesting that Scarlett's family doesn't really want her to interact with guests at all.  And THEN they tell her that, instead of getting a summer job, she's going to have to work at the hotel, without pay, for the foreseeable future.

This book also involves a bizarre Shakespeare performance, an eccentric guest, and of course a bit of romance.  The romance didn't sit well with me; Scarlett's love interest is in college, and it kind of skeeved me out to see a college guy going for  fifteen-year-old girl.  I just don't see that ending well, especially because he isn't exactly honest with her about the whole thing.  Johnson tries to redeem this near the end, but the whole thing was just a bit too creepy for my liking.  Oh, and Scarlett essentially falls in love with the guy the first moment she sees him.  Blah for insta-love.  I also wasn't terribly impressed with the supporting characters in this book.  They're all pretty flat, and while Johnson tries to throw in some stuff to make them more multi-dimensional, I wasn't convinced.  Even when Spencer was trying to be a good older brother, I couldn't take him seriously; I mean, his character introduction was him singing about having a butt while he was in the shower.  Marlene, Scarlett's younger sister, is a brat, pure and simple, and really needed a telling off.  She's a cancer survivor, which is the reason behind the hotel's failing state (cancer treatment is very expensive, after all) and one would THINK that she would be a little more clued into that, rather than just obliviously demanding that the world continue to revolve around her.  Mrs. Amberson was too strictly-eccentric to come off as sincere.  Lola, Scarlett's older sister, however, was well-done.  She really struggled with balancing her family, her boyfriend, and her job, and actually acted like a young woman of her age would.  She was very well-written, and I would have liked to see more of her and her boyfriend Chip, who seemed like he had a lot of unexploited potential.

This was a fun story to read, but it wasn't really deep enough to keep me going on the series.  I would honestly rather read about Lola than Scarlett, and while the writing itself wasn't bad, the entire cast of characters with the exception of Lola was too one-dimensional to hold my attention for long.  If you want to read some Maureen Johnson, I recommend Girl at Sea or 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which I believe are of higher quality.

2.5 stars out of 5.

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