I’ve been meaning to blog about Maureen Johnson’s new book, Suite Scarlett, which came out last week.
The book is set in a Manhattan hotel owned by a somewhat dysfunctional family. The hotel’s glory days are long over, so all the kids have to work there—including Scarlett, the 15-year-old protagonist.
The funny begins to roll when a wealthy (and strange) guest checks in for the whole summer and decides to make Scarlett her personal assistant. Then she decides to put on an off-Broadway show.
Now, those of you who’ve read Maureen will know that she is the master of many flavors of comedy. She can do dry-witted, surreal, and screwball in the same paragraph. Like this scene in which the wealthy guest, Mrs. Anderson, joins the family for dinner:
“I’m not late, am I?” Mrs. Amberson said with a smile. “I lose track of time when I’m meditating.”
Her face was tautly stretched into a smile that didn’t seem entirely sane to Scarlett. It wobbled just a bit at the corners. Also, she was carrying what appeared to be a dead ferret in her fist.
“No,” Scarlett’s dad said, obviously trying not to look at the dead animal. “Right on time. Please, sit down.”
The addition of Mrs. Amberson and her dead ferret to the mix was not something Scarlett had anticipated. She sat down quickly to steady herself, and Mrs. Amberson planted herself right next to her, slinging the ferret around the back of her neck in a swoop that grazed Scarlett’s ear.
“I hope you don’t mind this,” she said, flicking the thing with her finger. “It’s a vintage piece I converted into a bead cushion imbued with essential revitalizing oils. I call him Charlie.
So the ferret had a name. Even better.
That last line captures Scarlett’s dry fatalism perfectly. Life is just so weird. And the cool thing is, it turns out that Maureen’s life is weird too, as you can see in this post on John Scalzi’s blog. (Scalzi has been all about YA for several days now.)
You can order Suite Scarlett now on Amazon/Borders, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, or from any local bookseller. And check out this amazing contest on Maureen’s blog. Win a trip to Manhattan, a stay in a fancy New York hotel, and lunch with Maureen . . . even better.