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The Suite Life of Scarlett Martin

Jenny finds Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett appealing to her inner theatre (and film) nerd. 

The Suite Life of Scarlett Martin

BOOK REPORT for Suite Scarlett (Scarlett Book 1) by Maureen Johnson

BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: I Heart NY
Bonus Factors: Auntie Mame! Guerrilla Theatre
Relationship Status: Theatre BFF

The Deal:

Scarlett Martin lives in The Hopewell, an Art Deco hotel in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Sounds totes glamorous, yeah? Well, not so much. The hotel has been in her family for generations, and by the time we meet Scarlett, The Hopewell is in pretty rough shape: slow elevators, rickety furniture, unreliable toilets, oh, and on the morning in question (Scarlett's 15th birthday) her parents have had to let go their last employee-- the cook. (So those yummy birthday waffles Scarlett was so looking forward too? They end up either burned or soggy.)

So now it's up to Scarlett and her two older siblings, Spencer and Lola, to keep the rooms clean. (Her younger sister, Marlene, gets away without doing any chores and is a pretty big brat, in Scarlett's opinion, but she did have cancer a few years back.) So when a certain Amy Amberson shows up and rents the best suite in the hotel (Scarlett's favorite, and the one that is her responsibility) for the whole summer, things start to look up. However, Mrs. Amberson is, shall we say, a personality, and before she knows it, Scarlett finds herself caught up in all sorts of subterfuge, a guerilla play, revenge, and oh, she also falls in like for real.

BFF Charm: Yay

Scarlett is the middle daughter in the Martin family, which pretty much makes her the middle child, and she really, really hasn't begun to find herself. She's smart and witty, and can banter (usually with her brother) like no other. Under the extreme pressure of calamity and zaniness in this book, she doesn't magically find herself, but she begins to, and discovers herself thriving. I also enjoyed the sibling dynamics, although in reality, Spencer's slapstick antics would NOT be cool.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

You know that really cool older/more worldly boy that you had a crush on, and then, it turns out, he likes you, too, (and this also just happens to be the first time that has happened) and he kisses you, and you go a few places together, and it's the most mind-numbing, body tingling thing you've ever experienced, and then, you accidentally blurt out the question of whether you are officially dating... and everything changes. You go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I remember that, and maybe so does Maureen Johnson, because she walked me right down that lane with a knowing wink.

Still, word to the wise: Don't. Date. Actors.

Talky Talk: I Heart NY

I lived in NY state for four years, and spent a lot of that time in 'the city'. During that time, I was in a theatre troupe with a family of performers WHO WERE JUST LIKE the family in this book! (In fact, they were the ones who introduced me to Auntie Mame! see below.) So there seems to be a thing, when you're a New Yorker, especially a NY theatre person. There's this whole separate way of interacting, and Ms. Johnson nailed it. It's comic and silly, and at once incredibly emotional and also removed, as though, even in the depths of despair, there is the ability to step outside oneself to look at things as you might look at them ten years from now.

Ms. Johnson writes this book in third person, and this could just be me, but it seems she maintains an adult narrative throughout the book. I liked this. I kind of felt like it was written for adults. Instead of me stepping into Scarlett's shoes, I felt like I was watching her from a slightly older and wiser perspective, remembering my own teenage experiences while she was 'living' hers.

Bonus Factor: Auntie Mame!

The 1958 movie Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME. I watch it once a year, usually some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And it always, ALWAYS makes me cry. Having said that, I think the reality of being at the whim of an eccentric might not be quite as fun when not scripted for a movie, but following in the Mame tradition, Mrs. Amberson means well. Things just don't always go according to her fantastic plans.

Bonus Factor: Guerrilla Theatre

Okay, I don't know if this is an actual bonus factor, or not, but I'm just going to go with it. I wasn't a theatre kid in high school. Worse, I was a home-school kid who wanted to be a theatre kid. Yeah, let's not talk about what level of dork that made me. Anyhoo, this story is full of theatre kids, and they are both theatre-cool and theatre-dorky (which is really one in the same, right?) Still with me? So anyone who's ever tried to put on a play knows all of the challenges that can arise: producers backing out, venues being condemned, cast romances turned bad... but theatre people are resilient, and they always seem to pull it together.

Casting Call:

Hannah Murray as Scarlett

There's just something about this girl. I found her captivating on Skins, playing a role I would usually dislike intensely. And she can play confused like no one else.

Julianne Moore as Amy Amberson

I think Ms. Moore is technically too young for this role, but Mrs. Amberson is fit, as the author points out on several occasions, (and shh, she's a bit of a cougar) plus this actress lady can do anything she wants.

Relationship Status: Theatre BFF

This book and I met at the theatre. We were in this play, and like you do when you're in a play, we connected. We started studying our lines together, then decided to go out for drinks after rehearsals, and before I knew it, we were texting each other all day long at our day jobs. We bonded about the things we liked and didn't like, and it was so awesome to have this book's support... while the play was running. But once the play closed, and we weren't being thrown into the same place together ever single night, the texts became more infrequent, hanging out is almost non-existent, and soon I fear we'll just be wishing each other 'happy birthday' on facebook. It will always hold a special place in my heart, and I'm sure if we're ever cast in another play together, we'll pick up where we left off.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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