Scarlett Fever: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Scarlett Fever by Maureen JohnsonSummer’s end is upon the Hopewell Hotel and the Martin family. After a summer spent working around the Hamlet production taking place in the Hopewell’s dining room, Scarlett Martin is ready to make a new start in all aspects of her life.

In fact, all of the Martin children seem to be working toward something this fall. Lola, the eldest, seems adrift and desperate to find something to cling to. Spencer is still trying to launch his acting career–even if it could mean playing one of the most hated characters of all time. And Marlene, the youngest Martin, is being nice; a little too nice to avoid raising suspicion among the other Martins in fact.

Meanwhile Scarlett is determined to stay on track at her rigorous high school–even if her new lab partner is determined to drive her insane. More importantly Scarlett is ready to get over Eric, her dreamy almost-boyfriend from the summer. Scarlett is even prepared to deal with her new job assisting Mrs. Amberson, formerly the Hopewell’s crazy resident, now Spencer’s crazy agent.

When Mrs. Amberson acquires her second client, a rising Broadway star Scarlett’s age, everything starts to get complicated. Scarlett finds herself dragged into the lives of both the new client Chelsea and her maddeningly annoying older brother Max (see mention of new lab partner above). Resolutions aside, nothing goes quite the way Scarlett planned, but maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be in Scarlett Fever (2010) by Maureen Johnson.

Scarlett Fever is the sequel to Maureen Johnson’s earlier book Suite Scarlett. It is also the second book in what Johnson says on her website will be a trilogy (the books really stand alone if you happen to for some reason decide to only read this one but really if you are intrigued, reading from the beginning will make it that much more fun). If you thought you liked the first book, boy howdy are you in for a surprise with this one because you are going to LOVE it.

As Johnson’s amazing website puts it, the summer was nothing. In Scarlett Fever school is in session and things are about to get real for Scarlett and the Martin family. Law & Order and a dog with what appears to be Social Anxiety Disorder may or may not also play large roles in the story.

Sometimes with a trilogy, or any extended series, the middle books suffer because everyone knows the books before and after will be around to pick up the slack. This situation creates what I refer to as a bridge book– a book that cannot stand without the support of the series (I’m looking at you Playing with Fire).

That situation does not exist here. While I’ll never suggest skipping books in a series, you could here. Johnson provides just enough information about earlier events without getting repetitive or, gasp, boring. The story here is also fully developed and grounded, for the most part, in this book. There are, of course, unresolved threads since there is going to be a third book.

Maureen Johnson is a really funny writer, a fact that is especially clear on her blog and when she tweets. Being a talented writer, Johnson sometimes handles some heavy issues which don’t always allow her keen humor to come through. It comes through in Scarlett Fever without making this a slapstick story . . . except maybe for that one time with the cake.

I fell in love with Suite Scarlett when I saw the hardcover jacket (the paperback with the key was a bit of a surprise although having had time to acclimate I quite like the key cover for this book) but, to be brutally honest, I was really disappointed that Eric was so lame compared to Scarlett’s brother Spencer (who remains incredibly awesome). Happily, Eric is not in Scarlett Fever as much and his vacancy is filled by Max who is a much more enjoyable, generally fantastic, foil for Scarlett. I can’t wait to for Scarlett 3 to come out, whenever that is, because I’m hoping it will have a lot more Max!

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, City Love by Susane Colasanti, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Statistical Probability of True Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Semi-related: Points to anyone who can direct me to the real life counterpart of Sonny Lavinski (if there is one which I don’t even know)

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