Monday, November 10, 2008

Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett lives in a famous old hotel in the heart of Manhattan with her family. It sounds terribly exotic unless you realize that the hotel is an economic failure (a pale shadow of its former glory days) and her family is a mixture of dysfunctional types. But everything changes when the exotic and eccentric Mrs Amberson arrives and takes an instant liking to Scarlett. Staying in the fanciest suite in the hotel and throwing money around like crazy, Mrs Amberson looks poised to change everyone's fortune until things go terribly wrong. Now, Scarlett must rise to the occasion and save the day.

An uneven work. Thoroughly fun and enjoyable in the first 250 pages, the final 100 pages become muddled as the plot treads water and losings its dramatic edge. Things aren't helped by one of the most boring romances to grace YA in a while. It was so bad that it took me totally by surprise, because I really was enjoying the book and couldn't put it down. But it just failed to deliver. In addition to the romance that isn't, there's a number of improbable plot turns, a major dramatic moment that isn't (when Mrs Amberson's secret conflict with her nemesis is revealed), and all sorts of rough ends. Johnson writes some good books and most of them are quite entertaining, but this one just bombs out. Disappointing!

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