Suite Scarlett, Maureen Johnson

When I got home from my internship, I went to the library and basically checked out all the books Memory has read over the last year or so that sounded awesome. What can I say? The girl’s persuasive, and she’s been reading a lot of fantasy while I’ve been away, and I’ve been hungry–starved–for fantasy. I checked out Ship of Magic (which, alas, I couldn’t get into), Purple and Black (blew my mind), Jo Walton’s Farthing and Ha’Penny, and Suite Scarlett. (Okay, I guess it was not all the books Memory has read over the last year. It is just the books Memory has mentioned recently that I wanted the most.)

I…thought Suite Scarlett was going to be quite different. Or really I thought it was going to be quite like it was, but I thought it was going to have magic in it. I thought Scarlett was the third of fourth siblings whose parents own a failing hotel, and on each child’s fifteenth birthday they become primarily responsible for a particular suite in the hotel. And right after Scarlett turns fifteen, a rich crazy woman moves into her suite, the Empire Suite. And the woman turns out to be magic, and makes a big magic mess, and the four siblings (but mainly Scarlett because she is eponymous) have to clean up after her magical mess, and then in the end the magic woman would do something magical to help them.

That’s how I thought the book went. I was almost completely right. I was only wrong about there being magic.

In spite of the disparity between my expectations and reality, I still enjoyed Suite Scarlett. Yes, I wanted magic. I kept waiting for Mrs. Amberson to reveal her magical powers, but that never happened. There were times at which I felt the narration jumped the rails a little, at the beginning, before the book settled down to being properly from Scarlett’s perspective. There were times at which the plot was predictable and I knew what was going to happen.

On the other hand, I like siblings. I like my siblings, and I like siblings in books. I like it when they have their differences but all pull together in the end, because they are siblings, and blood is thicker than water. Not to spoil things for you, but that is what happens in Suite Scarlett. It distracted me from the book’s other flaws. It was sweet. (THAT WAS NOT A PUN.) I shall read more Maureen Johnson books hereafter, particularly as Amanda has said that Johnson has written other books that are better.

Other reviews:

Stella Matutina (thanks for the recommendation!)
The Zen Leaf
Care’s Online Book Club
Angieville
bookshelves of doom
GAL Novelty
Fluttering Butterflies
The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Book Nut
Teen Book Review
The Book Smugglers
Bildungsroman
YA Fabulous
Reading Rants
Shelf Elf
Abby (the) Librarian
Becky’s Book Reviews
Miss Erin
Reading Keeps You Sane
Alison’s Book Marks
Welcome to My Den
YAnnabe
Dear Author
Stop, Drop, & Read
Reviewer X
Write Meg
The Reading Zone

Did I miss yours? I will add a link if so!

29 thoughts on “Suite Scarlett, Maureen Johnson

  1. So, I guess this one was a bit of a mixed bag for you, though it does sound as though you enjoyed it overall. I haven’t ever heard of this book, but you’ve made me curious about it. I will have to try to check it out. Thanks!

  2. I’ve never read a book written by Maureen Johnson, I am curious but not that intrigued. On the subject of magic I am currently listening to an audiobook by Ilona Andrews, “On The Ede” and it’s good (plenty of magic) but not as great as her Kate Daniels series

    • Ilona Andrews…she’s the one who writes the Magic Bites series? I’ve seen it around but I’m on a break from paranormal (as distinct from fairy-tale-y) YA stuff. When I come back from it perhaps I will give her a try. :)

    • Oh, yeah, that’s totally true. You do need to read Diana Wynne Jones NOW. You can put Maureen Johnson on hold until you have introduced yourself to DWJ. :D

  3. I got an audio of this at the Book Blogger Convention and I hadn’t decided if I wanted to read it or not. But I like sweet books when I need a break, and Maureen Johnson was so funny as a speaker… I’m convinced :) Now I just have to stop being lazy and load it on my mp3 player.

    • As usual, it probably all hinges on the narrator. This would be a fun book to read on audio, but it would also be easy to overdo. I hope you like it!

  4. I mistook your ramblings for Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, silly me :P At the back of my head (not having read either books) I was telling myself, isn’t Suite Francaise about the war? Ooops!

  5. I haven’t had that happen to me in a long time, but have a mistaken preconceived notion about a book can make for a peculiar read. :) I’m glad it turned out good even if it was different.

    • It was strange. Especially because a lot of the description from the flap copy made it sound a little like magic was forthcoming, in a vague circumlocutory way.

  6. This still sounds totally awesome despite the lack of magic :D But yes, I agree that magic would make it infinitely better :p I have GOT to read some more Maureen Johnson. The only thing I’ve read of hers was her part in Let it Snow and I absolutely loved it…now I have to actually read one of her books!

    • Magic makes everything better! (when you are in the mood for fantasy) But when I’m in the mood for regular YA again, I’m going to read more by Johnson too.

  7. Oh my goodness, I can see how that would totally throw you off! I actually had pretty well the opposite experience with DEVILISH. I knew it was about deals with the devil, but I thought the MJ wrote only real-world, general fiction stuff, so I spent the entire book waiting for the protagonist to discover that there was a logical explanation for everything that went down. Only, she never did, because it really was the Devil. (Or one of his minions, at least).

    (And I figure I’m okay mentioning that in a public place like this, because it’s right on the jacket flap. I sometimes skim jacket flaps to get a rough idea of what the book’s about, but I almost never read them before I’ve finished the book. I’m sure I’d have read the book differently if I’d bothered to do so).

    Also: SHIP OF MAGIC is my least favourite of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books. ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE is a much better place to start, and FOOL’S ERRAND is, like, a great big feast of charactery goodness. (It’s not a good place to start, though).

    • I’ve had similar experiences with Barbara Michaels–she writes slightly trashy but still entertaining supernatural thrillers. And quite often it’s someone playing a nasty trick on the characters, but equally often there are proper supernatural occurrences going on. So I never know what to expect.

      Okay, I will try Assassin’s Apprentice. I am beginning to fear that high fantasy is no good for me. I want to love it! I need it to cooperate! :p

    • Yes, yes. *Must* start with Assassin’s Apprentice. Sorry, I have no idea what you guys are talking about, but when I hear the name Robin Hobb my ears prick up and my strong opinions intrude themselves on others’ conversations.

      I think you might find she rescues high fantasy for you. I had sort of the same frustrated feelings about it until I read the Assassin Books. Now I at least have a cruel will o’ the wisp leading me on into the fantasy swamp.

  8. I haven’t read any of Maureen Johnson’s book but I follow her on Twitter and she is hysterical so I’ve really been wanting to try something by her. Suite Scarlet sounds like a fun book so perhaps that would be a good book to start with.
    Thanks for the review!

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