Oh, sweet fluffy chocolate-coated Maureen Johnson goodness for my brain. (Not actual Maureen Johnson covered in chocolate. I don’t need to give her any more ideas.) I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book when I first picked it up, but it grew on me very quickly.This is one of her more romance-centered books, but it never feels that way. And what I think works in its favor is that so much of Scarlett’s story is also about her family. I mentioned in my Golden Firebird review that a lot of extraneous family members show up in YA only to establish a vague relationship for the main character, and that they only show up for a few pages or are conveniently gone. Here though, there’s a great supportive family element between Scarlett and her siblings and her parents. Although there is some favoritism towards Marlene, but the Martin parents are very supportive of their children, even when they’re going through hard times. Lola and Scarlett actually get along very well—there’s some slight antagonism with Lola’s boyfriend, but other than that they both truly care and worry about one another. While Spencer and Scarlett are very close, I also like that Scarlett isn’t an automatic tomboy from hanging around Spencer so much. And while the parents don’t show up very often, they do act like real parents in a tough situation.And, much like Golden Firebird, this is another family that has fallen on hard financial times. Scarlett mentions that she dreads telling people that she lives in a hotel, as people assume that her family’s well-off. I liked that it’s brought up that the family quirk of everyone taking care of the hotel is more due to financial reasons rather than a tradition. I like that the reason Scarlett’s so lonely during the summer is because she can’t get the opportunities that her friends have. As the majority of Scarlett’s story is about her and her siblings, I like that they actually have roles to play. SPENCER. Oh I love Spencer. Like I said, I like that his and Scarlett’s relationship is this joshing, teasing one, without either feeling like they have to be more boy/girl-ish. Lola doesn’t have much to do, but I liked that she and Scarlett didn’t conform to the Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry. Marlene is more problematic. I don’t like her to begin with, but I like that Scarlett does point out to Marlene that she can’t get everything she wants by playing the Ill Girl card for the rest of her life. And Marlene slowly begins to change her attitude. The romance aspect is the strongest force. It’s very standard ‘ordinary girl meets cute boy, conflicting feelings and making out and then a bombshell like he still has a girlfriend.” I did like Scarlett’s quick crush on Eric and her conflicting feelings on how this would change her relationship with Spencer. But what impressed me is that even when Scarlett finds out that Eric did have a girlfriend this whole time, she still has feelings for him and vice versa. And that is messy and complicated and fairly realistic, and not a clean breakup. (I’m in the middle of Suite Scarlett now, and their feelings are still messy and complicated.) If there’s one thing that I don’t like, it’s Amy Amberson. Unfortunately, she’s the driving force for a lot of the action. She’s not much more than a New Agey, theater actress recalling the glory days of Seventies New York who tries to justify her stunts as quirks. The good thing is that Scarlett’s at least savvy enough to call Amy out on a lot of things, particularly the whole Donna Spendler prank. (There’s much less of it in the sequel so far.)Aside from that, this is a fun summer read. It’s frothy without skimping on most of the characterization and is very smart and funny. Even Marlene’s cancer backstory doesn’t come off as cloying or trying to make the reader sympathetic (in fact, it’s the opposite). Perfect beach read.