Scarlett Martin is having a spectacularly bad fifteenth birthday. Her friends have all gone abroad for the summer and the hotel her parents own has just been forced let go the last non-related staff member. Meanwhile, one sister hates her, the other has a hateful boyfriend, and her brother is about to be forced to give up on his dream career. Also, the strange and demanding new guest with the dead ferret draped around her neck is apparently her responsibility.
Style & Pacing
I read this book in 24 hours. Things just never stop happening. Part of the reason for this is that there are a lot of different plot threads going on. All four siblings have shit going down in their lives, so there’s always a new development. Another thing that kept me engaged was the chatty style. Despite the third person perspective, Johnson still manages to get the reader inside Scarlett’s head, which is pretty impressive.
By far my favourite character was Spencer. To some extent, this is because I want a funny, talented older brother to keep an eye on me. But also, one of the strongest elements of this book is the humour, and Spencer is by far the funniest. Aside from the fact that he wanders around doing pratfalls at odd moments, he’s also witty and has a tendency to go off on tangents at just the moments when his attention would be helpful. I also really like the dynamics of the whole group of siblings. Sometimes they team up and sometimes they all hate each other, without it going too far in either direction.
The writing in this book isn’t especially beautiful, but it performs its function perfectly: it makes the reader laugh, and it gets us to empathise with Scarlett, even when she’s being an idiot.
Generally speaking New York City is a good place to spend your birthday. You can go to a show, you can shop, you can eat and see the sights. There is very little you can’t do in New York if you set your mind to it.
The problem, however, is if you are alone and broke. If you have about sixteen dollars left to your name, with no prospect of getting many more… if your friends have scattered around the globe, your older sister is working a ten-hour shift, your younger sister probably wouldn’t put you out if you were on fire, and your brother, who would normally have spent the day with you, is out trying to save his career… it’s not all it could be. Especially if you live there are have therefore seen all the sights, because the “sights” are really just the “things on your street”.