Friday, March 5, 2010

Review: Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Yay, another Scarlett book! I loved Suite Scarlett, so I was checking my library every day after Scarlett Fever was published to make sure I'd get this one ASAP!

Scarlett Fever picks up shortly after Suite Scarlett left off - Hamlet has closed and the set is being struck. Lola is still at her job at the spa. Spencer has signed with newly minted agent (and former Hopewell Hotel guest) Amy Amberson, and Scarlett is her assistant. Melanie is at her Powerkids summer camp, so Scarlett has a few blessed days without her antagonism to wallow in her own self-pity.

Why is Scarlett wallowing? She's still hung up over Eric, the super cute Southern boy who teamed up with Spencer in Hamlet and was a total jerk to Scarlett by seeing her when he already had a girlfriend back home.

Yeah, I wasn't an Eric fan.

School is about to start, and happens to bring big changes to the Martin family. Perhaps the biggest is Spencer's surprise role in Crime and Punishment (an homage to Law and Order) which makes him an overnight celebrity - the kind that attracts semi-creepy people to wander into the hotel and up into the family's living quarters looking for him. Chip, Lola's former boyfriend, is back in the picture with Lola, much to Spencer and Scarlett's disappointment. Oh, and Melanie? Melanie is back from camp and being nice. It totally freaks Scarlett out.

And Scarlett has enough on her plate. Mrs. Amberson is as demanding as ever - she wants to sign a promising young Broadway performer to the agency. Chelsea is 15 and has a beautiful voice, but is stuck in one of the worst Broadway performances in memory. Not to mention she is saddled with a crazy stage mother and a bitter older brother who just so happens to sit next to Scarlett in biology class. Mrs. Amberson has asked Scarlett to "keep an eye" on him on top of her assistant duties, which now include taking a terrified little dog out for daily walks. And to top everything off - Eric is trying to hang around again, ostensibly to get Scarlett's advice on acting, but how is she supposed to get over him if he won't just leave her alone?

I love the Martins. They are a crazy, mixed up, and totally loving family. Even Melanie this time around! (Even though I agree her being nice is really kinda creepy). I also love Johnson's descriptions of New York City. I've been here a year and a half now so I'm really beginning to get the geography. I also cackled with glee when Scarlett took Chelsea to my favorite food place in Manhattan, the Shake Shack.

Johnson also does a great job with the class issues the Martins face, both subtle and overt. The subtle bits are with Scarlett and her relationship with money and her thoughts about her friends who clearly have more money than her (friends who spent the summer in Europe rather than staging plays in their dining rooms). On the one hand it seems like her family should be fabulously wealthy since they own a hotel and all, but since the hotel gets next to no guests and the massive medical bills that piled up during Melanie's cancer, money is tight in the household. More overt bits are with Lola and Chip and his family. Chip comes from money and some of the Martins, Scarlett and Spencer in particular, feel he's a bit ostentatious with it. There are serious questions of why Lola is back with him, so once more I really appreciated a look at life for a family that is neither incredibly rich nor nearly destitute. The Martins get by, but it's no cakewalk.

Two gripes on this book: first of all, it just ends. It's really abrupt and I closed the book thinking "that's it?" The last scene isn't bad (it's actually quite hilarious), but it doesn't feel like a complete ending. There's definitely more Scarlett books to look ahead to, I guess.

Second of all, I feel totally bleh about the cover
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson cover


It's a golden key on a purple wallpaper background. It feels dull. It's really uninspiring to me.

Suite Scarlett in paperback has been redesigned to have a coordinating cover. I'm not saying the original cover was perfect, but it had a bit more character than the new covers:
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson cover


I have some nitpicks on this cover - Scarlett's hair is way too perfect for example - but that's so minor and so nitpicky that it doesn't matter. At least it has more character than the new ones.

Cover and ending aside, this is another great Maureen Johnson book. She has her own brand of wit and humor and uses it with ease. Scarlett Fever works excellently as a sequel (right up until that ending), and I can't wait to read the next Scarlett story.

3 comments:

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Coming over from the Saturday Network :)

I've seen these books around but never really paid them much attention. You're review has caused me to take notice more! I'll be looking at them next time I'm at the booksstore. I didn't realize they had humor in them. It's hard to find YA books that are funn! Thanks for the review.

InABox said...

Hi! I found your blog on The Saturday Network.

I really like your review style; it covers all of the things I like to consider before reading.

Angela Craft said...

Welcome fellow Saturday Networkers! Glad you both enjoyed the review - Jill, these books aren't just humorous, they're actually quite hilarious. Maureen Johnson is a great comedy writer, with just the right bits of poignancy to add some weight.

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