(Forgoing the summary because it is basically all character description and I will cover that in the review, so... If you need more info, click here.)
Y’all, I think there’s something inherently wrong with me, because I had never, ever read a page upon which MJ bestowed her glorious talent prior to this made of awesome 300+-page collection of MJ scribe.
(Okay. So if you didn’t already guess it, this one will be very fangirly because I thought this book was, as Brits put it, “brill”. Now, so as not to detract from the review, I shall save the rest of my wordage for the end of the review, yes?)
As I have said many, many, many times before here and everywhere else where I am present and books are discussed (or I turn the conversation over to books), there’s no better way to enamor me than a great, well written and developed cast of characters. Why stop at three dimensions? I’m all about the layers. Similarly, why stop with a single, lone embodiment of brilliancy?
So, when you do what Maureen Johnson did here—which reminded me of what Steve Kluger did in My Most Excellent Year— you get my utmost attention, respect, awe, and support. I am at your mercy.
First and foremost, we’re introduced to possibly one of the absolute best sibling combinations in all of YA: Spencer, Lola, Scarlett and Marlene.
Spencer is an out-of-work, nineteen-year-old actor trying to catch his lucky break (or at least a casting as an extra— anything). Lola is a more mature and dainty eighteen-year-old, but for all her acquiescent attitude and focus, she’s got a lot of intensity brewing “behind those hazel eyes” which aren’t really hazel but I needed a pop culture reference because I feel I don’t do that enough. Scarlett is the 3rd-person focus (hey! I liked a 3rd person POV book!) of the book; she’s a efficient, serious, mature, and mercifully non-whiny and totally relatable fifteen-year-old. Marlene is a bitchy cancer survivor eleven-year-old who drove me bonkers but she was also devilish in that precious spoiled-kid way.
Those four rocked my world. I could’ve read about their laundry-day routine for all I cared, if only to see what kind of hilarious remark would escape Spencer’s mouth once he caught sight of Lola’s granny panties peeking out of her pants as she bent down to put her basket of regular panties in the wash. He’s right up there with Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen, TJ and Andy from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, and Jamie from Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, in my list of favorite male characters. Here’s a great exchange:
“Chip has a boat. Fancy boat,” Spencer went on. “And he did promise Marlene a(Spencer no-likey Chip, by the by.)
“This is my ex-boyfriend we’re talk about,” she [Lola] said.
“I know,” Scarlett said. “It’s asking a lot. I’m not asking you to get back together with him...”
“She’s definitely not asking that...” Spencer cut in.
“This is just asking him to take a little boat ride,” Scarlett finished.
“You mean you want me to use him.”
“Stop it,” Spencer said. “You’re making me love you more.”
Another thing I thought was super well done was Spencer and Scarlett’s close-knit relationship. They had a special bond neither had with their other siblings, and I’m very familiar with that because it’s the exact same way I am with my brother. Right down to his overprotectiveness when it comes to other guys. Love.
(Also, Spencer’s would-be love interest in this one—if she weren’t so damn annoying—is named Stephanie! It’s a sign!)
Ah, and perhaps my favorite character above all isn’t even a component of the Fantastic Four. There was this prima donna has-been starlet who ran around bossing everyone around in the hotel, Mrs. Amberson, and she ruled (in all possible ways). Here’s a ditzy, flaky character who has a lot of power and isn’t afraid to royally fuck things up from time to time. Great for conflict.
Oh and I just have to add in somewhere that I hated Eric, Scarlett’s lovebird. He reminded me of an ex, with his calculating approaches and scheming masked to look innocent and I thought he was an ass and I hope Scarlett does what needs to be done. But she’ll probably require more lovable slapping from me (and doubtlessly many other readers) before getting there.
And FINALLY, I loved Maureen’s witty use of language. Behold:
Scarlett picked up the Empire Suite key from the table.
“I need a plan,” she said to it. “Something needs to give. What do I do?”
The key did not answer, because keys generally do not speak. This was probably a good thing, because if it had replied, Scarlett’s problems would have taken on a new level of complexity.
And that, she did not need.
Although, in the subject of Maureen’s writing, I would have loved to understand why she used ellipses in spots where em-dashes would’ve fit better. The dot-dot-dot kind of worried me for a second.
There was a lot of theatrics in this one, many theater references and such, which, in conjunction with the great characters, is what reminded me of My Most Excellent Year. I’d recommend it to anyone, old or new, jaded or naïve, happy or depressed. You need this one.
So, easy grade: A.
(Continuation of my beginning intervention: Does anyone want a snarky review or anything? I’ve got the material, if you’re interested, for my next review reappearance.)