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Book Reviews
August 5, 2010 posted by Morgan

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Ever since Mrs. Amberson, the former-aspiring-actress-turned-agent, entered Scarlett Martin’s life, nothing has been the same.

She’s still in charge of the Empire Suite in her family’s hotel, but she’s now also Mrs. Amberson’s assistant, running around town for her star client, Chelsea – a Broadway star Scarlett’s age with a knack for making her feel insignificant.

Scarlett’s also trying to juggle sophomore year classes, her lab partner who is being just a little TOO nice, and getting over the boy who broke her heart.

Poor Scarlett. It’s the start of her sophomore year, and instead of escaping into her schoolwork and friends in an effort to get over her breakup with college student/actor Eric, she’s stuck sucking up to her boss’s new client, Chelsea, who comes with an overbearing stage mom and a brother who’s making Scarlett’s life even more miserable.

Scarlett Fever is the sequel to Suite Scarlett, a charm of a read from Maureen Johnson, which follows Scarlett and her family (older brother Spencer, an actor; older sister Lola, who’s taking a year off of college to figure out her life; and younger sister Marlene, a cancer survivor who makes no secret that Scarlett is her least favorite sibling) as they run a failing, falling-apart Manhattan hotel. It’s okay if you haven’t read Suite Scarlett, though, as Scarlett Fever fills the reader in nicely with the important backstory and still manages to succeed as a standalone title.

Here’s what you need to know: Scarlett works for Mrs. Amberson, a woman-about-town who’s now established her own agency for actors and has Scarlett at her beck and call. Meanwhile, Scarlett is still obsessed with Eric, the actor (who worked with Spencer) and ended up breaking her heart. And now, as Mrs. Amberson courts a new client, Scarlett is forced to “keep an eye on” Max, the would-be client’s older brother. Too bad he’s a total pain in the neck.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Scarlett books is Scarlett’s relationship with Spencer. They are allies, and their banter and tension rings really genuine. Spencer also provides some serious LOLs in Scarlett Fever, including a notable scene involving a boat-shaped cake. His plotline plays an important role in the book, too, though: having just finished a successful run as Hamlet (staged in the lobby of the hotel), Spencer spends the first third of the book auditioning for everything his agent – Scarlett’s boss – can get for him until finally landing a plum guest spot on a beloved television show. Unfortunately for him (though fortunately for us readers), his acting gig makes him the target of every television fan in New York.

I liked Scarlett Fever a lot, as I like all of Maureen Johnson’s work. Scarlett is accessible and easy to like; her sisters each have credible back stories that are easy to sympathize with; and of course, Spencer and Mrs. Amberson are hilarious. That said, this sequel kind of left me hanging. It ends a bit abruptly (there’s a planned Book 3, last I heard, so that explains that) and it feels really obvious that the real character arcs are being saved for the next book. But overall, Scarlett Fever is a light-hearted, smart read, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to spending more time with the Martin family and their bleak hotel.

Pages:352

Publication date: February 2010

Rating:: ★★★½☆

Teaser quote: “It was six-thirty in the morning, and Scarlett felt herself falling under. But before she gave up and just let the sleep come, she said to herself, out loud, ‘I am making a new start.'”

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