Suite Scarlett

Scarlett Martin lives in one of the most exciting cities in the world but her summer is shaping up to be a drag. Her friends are off doing exciting things, some in places like Paris, while she's stuck at home helping her parents with the family business. Said business sounds glamorous (her family owns a hotel in New York City) but the reality is a lot of physical labor, little to no money, and a crying need for repairs. The hotel is beautiful, designed by a gentleman who went on to make gorgeous sets for black and white films, but decrepit and doesn't really attract enough clientele.

The story begins on her fifteenth birthday as her family throws her the worst birthday breakfast ever. Instead of the wonderful food (complete with lemon sugar) served by the hotel's chef she's used to she gets burned waffles and cobbled together attempts at all the sides. After they eat her parents announce that the last of the hotel employees have had been laid off and everyone will have to take drastic measures. Her beloved older brother Spencer has just a few days to get a paid acting job or he'll have to accept a scholarship and go to chef's school. (I realize a fabulous scholarship to chef's school is far from a hardship but Spencer lives and breathes physical comedy and has eyes on only one career path. Anything else would break his heart.)

Scarlett will not be able to take a summer job outside of the hotel as she'll be needed to help fill in for the missing employees. Her two sisters, one older and glamorous and one younger and whiny, will also have to do their share to keep the family business going. Scarlett is also given a room of her own to care for, a family tradition, which turns out to be the Empire Suite. With the Empire Suite comes a new and complicated guest, Mrs. Amberson.

Mrs. Amberson plans to stay for quite some time and promptly hires the hesitant Scarlett. Mrs. Amberson says she is writing a book and requires an assistant but she doesn't spend much time writing. Instead she shops, goes through exotic health rituals and meddles, which is what she does best. Meanwhile Spender lands a role in Hamlet and introduces Scarlett to Eric, a boy that she finds so attractive she can’t think straight around him. Eric is another actor specializing in physical comedy and Scarlett is especially able to appreciate his gifts as he and Spencer are closely matched in abilities. When the Hamlet troupe loses their rehearsal space Scarlett comes up with a daring plan; letting them rehearse in the basement of the family hotel without telling her parents.

Soon Scarlett's life will be even more complicated. She won't just be juggling her feelings for Eric, her strange job for Mrs. Amberson and the need to hide an entire play from her parents; she's about to get tangled in a prank with serious repercussions, a breakdown in her family's dynamics and a whole lot of anxiety. As usual Maureen Johnson has written a terrific story with charming, complicated characters. I'm sure at least half of the girls who read this book fall in love with Scarlett's brother Spencer, who is just about perfect. I especially enjoyed Mrs. Amberson who appears to have gone to the Machiavellian School of Drama and aced her lessons.

You can read an excerpt here:

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from OM and is super short, saying, "We saw Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town’ last night. It was quite good." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at