Sonderbooks Book Review of

Suite Scarlett

by Maureen Johnson

Suite Scarlett

by Maureen Johnson

Reviewed March 20, 2010.
Point (Scholastic), 2008. 353 pages.

In Scarlett's family, when you hit your fifteenth birthday, you get keys. But these are not keys to a shiny new car. These are keys to a hotel room in an old Art Deco hotel in New York City.

Scarlett's family owns the Hopewell Hotel, and a fifteenth birthday tradition has developed:

At age fifteen, each Martin was "given" a room in the hotel to care for. This was not an ancient tradition -- it had started with Spencer four years earlier. He had gotten the rough-and-ready Sterling Suite. Lola had the attractive but small Metro Suite. The Empire Suite was something else entirely -- the showpiece, and the most expensive of the hotel's twenty-one guest rooms. It was rarely occupied, except for the occasional honeymoon couple or the lost businessman who couldn't get a room at the W.

So this was either an honor or a "we don't actually want you to have to deal with any guests" gesture.

But soon after Scarlett receives the key, a guest arrives, planning to stay the whole summer. Her name is Amy Amberson, and she's a former actress. She's extremely interested in manipulating other people's lives, and soon is messing with Scarlett's, and manipulating Scarlett into messing with other people.

Meanwhile, the Hopewell is not doing well. They've had to let their cook go, and Scarlett will not be able to get a summer job, so that she can help at the hotel. Meanwhile, her brother Spencer is running out of time on the deal he made with their parents. If he doesn't get a role on Broadway before his scholarship offer to culinary school expires -- next week -- then he needs to give up acting long enough to go to culinary school.

So when Spencer gets a part in a version of Hamlet that's not on Broadway in the usual sense (it's in a parking garage on the street called Broadway), he wants to make it work. And he wants Scarlett to help him. And Spencer's new friend on the cast happens to be tremendously handsome. But things don't go smoothly, so of course Mrs. Amberson wants to get involved.

Suite Scarlett is a whole lot of fun. I've been meaning to read it for awhile. I actually started listening to it in audiobook form, but the narrator was too perky for me. However, I was already interested, so I finished the book in print form.

This book is a big elaborate comedy with plots and counterplots all fitting together in the end. The characters are varied and believable, from meddling Mrs. Amberson to Scarlett's spoiled little sister Marlene, who recovered from cancer and now thinks the world revolves around herself. I like the interaction in the Martin family -- They definitely love each other, but have some realistic bumps in the relationships between siblings.

This light-hearted book is a lot of fun to read.