Living with her family in a vintage Art Deco Manhattan hotel, you’d think fifteen-year-old Scarlett Martin was living the good life. But when said hotel is run-down and employs only one staff member (a chef), her life is actually pretty normal. Enter hotel guest Mrs. Amberson, a has-been middle-aged actress with loads of extra cash who has taken a sudden liking to Scarlett as her personal assistant/confidante/partner-in-crime. Just when Scarlett thought her summer vacation would include more love/hate time with her siblings and helping her parents make ends meet, it might not be as uneventful as she thought.
While there are interesting plot lines (one involving her brother’s struggle to prove to his parents he can be a paid actor and another involving Mrs. Amberson’s retaliation over a missed part), my favorite part about reading this book was the whole sibling dynamic, which felt so genuine. I loved Scarlett’s older physical actor brother (and best friend) Spencer, her beauty queen sister Lola, and her spoiled youngest sister Marlene. And where neurotic, self-absorbed, new-agey Mrs. Amberson could have been unbearable, she’s actually quite endearing. There’s even a little romance (which is always sure to please). The characterizations are just great overall, and I found myself grinning and chuckling as I read Johnson’s sarcastic dialogue and the tour guide excerpts of the hotel’s history.