A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there isn't much to worry about in this book. Fifteen-year-old Scarlett shares some smooches with a cute college freshman and her brother makes some references to his past wild sexual behavior (and flirts with one of the hotel's much older guests). Mrs. Amberson smokes and tells Scarlett it's OK for her to drink a little at a cast party. Also, Scarlett helps her boss pull a mean prank on a rival, and they do hide from her parents the fact that they are staging the play in the hotel.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Scarlett lives with her quirky family in a formerly fantastic Art Deco hotel in Manhattan that is now falling apart. She becomes the assistant to one of the hotel's only guests, a rich, eccentric woman who on a whim decides to finance a production of Hamlet, in which Scarlett's brother plays a part. Scarlett's summer in the city just got a lot more interesting, but can she handle a crazy boss, a new romance with a handsome cast member -- and some serious family drama? Everything really spins out of control when she secretly helps to stage the play in the hotel's dining room.
Is it any good?
Readers will adore the setting -- a dilapidated hotel that was once an Art Deco jewel (the author includes its glamorous history throughout through fictionalized accounts). And they will appreciate Scarlett's wacky family, especially her charming older brother Spencer, who has a special talent for physical comedy. Really, a little more Scarlett -- and her family -- and a little less quirky Mrs. Amberson, and this would have been a much better book.
In Johnson's Girl at Sea she managed to pull off a complicated plot that included a Mediterranean adventure, an onboard romance, a strained father-daughter relationship -- and some far-flung antics. Here, Johnson's complicated combinations don't work so well. Between Scarlett's far-out family; their falling-apart hotel; Mrs. Amberson, an eccentric guest who stirs up trouble wherever she goes; her brother's role in a low-budget production of Hamlet, which is constantly on the verge of collapse; her relationship with his cute co-star; her little sister's recovery from cancer; her older sister's on again, off again relationship with a dull rich guy; and a really silly revenge plot between rich Mrs. Amberson and a former friend she now considers a rival, readers will find it easy to forget that this is Scarlett's story -- and wonder in the end how she has really changed. And the main character's transformation is what the young adult genre is all about.