Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Scarlett Fever (YA)

Scarlett Fever. Maureen Johnson. 2010. February 2010. Scholastic. 352 pages.

It was four thirty in the morning and Scarlett wanted answers. Unfortunately, four-thirty-in-the-morning questions are often of a very different nature than, say, three-twenty-in-the-afternoon questions. At three twenty in the afternoon, the questions you might be asking yourself are, "What's for dinner?" or "I wonder if that button on my cell phone is stuck or completely broken and if I keep pressing it will I fix it or will it fall off?" You can wave those questions off with a quick swing of the hand. They scare easy.
The questions that creep around at four thirty in the morning are not the kind that can be easily dismissed. You can beat them with a shovel, and they'll just keep getting back up. "What are you going to do with your life?" they demand, pulling themselves from the ground with no visible damage. "Who are you, really?" (3)
I loved this one. I just love, love, loved this one! It is the sequel to Suite Scarlett. It contains the further adventures of the Martin family. Of Scarlett, our narrator. Of Spencer, her older brother, (that I love oh-so-very-much). Of Lola, her older sister. Of Marlene, her younger sister. What is this one about? Everything and nothing. Scarlett trying to balance her work for the ever-eccentric Mrs. Amberson and school. Scarlett trying to get over Eric, her summer love that ended badly. Scarlett trying to figure out just why that new-kid Max, her lab partner, annoys her oh-so-much.

But Scarlett Fever is about so much more than Scarlett. It's about her family, her wonderfully crazy family. Her older brother, Spencer, who is still trying to break into acting. Her older sister, Lola, who is trying to sort out where she belongs since she isn't going to college like most of her classmates, like her boyfriend, Chip. Of her younger sister, Marlene, who is for some strange reason or another being oh-so-sweet-and-cheerful. It's about Scarlett's job as well. Her eccentric boss, Mrs. Amberson is always good for a laugh or two. And this time she's keeping an oh-so-naughty dog, Murray, for a friend. And there is a new client as well. A girl named Chelsea. A girl with a very annoying brother.

Maureen Johnson is amazing. I expected Scarlett Fever to be good, really good because Johnson is great at what she does. And I was not disappointed.

The characterization. I love Scarlett. I love Spencer. I love how close these siblings are. How they are able to listen to one another, to support one another. I love the family dynamics. I love how all the characters are so well developed, how they all seem so real, so human.

The storytelling. The writing. It's funny. It's charming in a wonderfully quirky kind of way. I marked so many passages. But I'll try to limit it to just a few.

After a few hours of fitful midmorning sleep, Scarlett made a second attack of the day and headed for the shower. It always took a moment for the Hopewell water pipes to figure out what temperature you wanted. The default setting was "death by ice or fire." Scarlett didn't care at the moment. She would take what came, and what came was cold. Bitter, impossible cold that almost felt good in the heat. She locked her teeth together and accepted it, letting it run down her back. As she reached for her shampoo, she got dangerously close to singing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," a song she learned when Spencer was doing South Pacific in high school. She stopped herself just as she opened her mouth. New start or not, there was a line to be drawn, and that line was singing musicals to yourself as serious psychological motivation. (13)
And here is just one description of Mrs. Amberson:
Once you entered her world, you forgot where you came from. You forgot there was any world of which she was not a part. She made sure of it. (25)
And listen to Scarlett's thoughts on people asking how school was:
When normal adults asked this question, Scarlett would move through a rote response indicating that school was school and the experience had yet to kill her. (128)
I just loved the descriptions, the observations. I definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Kate T 1:50 AM  

Uh, oh, I may have another book for my readathon pile! Suite Scarlett holds a special place in my heart not only because of the characters (I love Spencer too) but also because it was the first book I read on my Kindle. I really need to get this book, thanks so much for reminding me of characters I love!

Lydia 12:44 PM  

This book sounds great! I am officially adding Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever to my "to-read" list. I love stories with great characters. thanks for the recommendation!

Michelle 4:29 PM  

I'm reading this one right now and am loving every minute of it. Maureen Johnson is too funny!

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
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  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
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I am not a fan of:

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  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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