Since turning 15, Scarlett Martin’s life has changed in an astounding rush: she’s now in charge of a suite at her family’s business, the charming but decaying Hopewell Hotel in New York City; her brother Spencer has finally landed an acting gig, introducing her Spence’s gorgeous fellow actor and Southern gentleman Eric; she’s making in-roads toward spending more time with little sister Marlene; and she’s been introduced to Amy Amberson, her suite’s dynamic, demanding and semi-famous resident.
Under Mrs. Amberson’s guidance, the summer opens before Scarlett like a fan: full of unexpected turns, small adventures, money and new friendships. As the financial situation at the Hopewell seems to become more and more desperate, the Martin siblings — Scarlett, Lola, Spencer and Marlene — try to find new ways of chipping in and helping their worn-out parents drum up some new business. Ironically, Mrs. Amberson’s arrival starts to do wonders almost immediately.
Above all, Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett was a really fun, almost whimsical look at the bonds of one family. I have to say honestly how refreshing it was to read a story about a family that wasn’t fractured, difficult, divorced or not speaking to one another. While the Martins have their difficulties, they definitely love one another.
Each character in the novel was fleshed-out and almost larger than life. While I could argue they were a bit “typecast” — Spencer is the funny one, the ambitious actor trying to make his way acting in the city; Lola is the type-A oldest sister, trying to keep everything afloat, etc. — I can’t honestly say this bugged me at all. Though Scarlett is our titular character, Johnson’s novel is in third person; we pop in and out of everyone’s heads, getting their take on the scene before them. Surprisingly, I loved that about it.
The sense of place in this novel was awesome — I really felt like I’d stepped into the Hopewell’s lobby and was looking up at the sparkling (but dusty) chandelier as the Martin siblings scurried around. The mild romance that developed in the story was cute, and I loved all of the theatre references as Spencer’s play gets underway.
Overall, a fast and fantastic read — and a really different, fun way to spend time in New York City. I could pack up my little suitcase and get to the Hopewell to share in family dinner and catch a performance myself! The book’s sequel, Scarlett Fever, was released in February 2010.
4.5 out of 5!