by Cathy Cassidy
(Oct. 19th 2006, Viking Juvenile)
12-year old Scarlett’s parents are divorced and she hasn’t been coping well. She acts out and gets into fights. Now, after being kicked out of her fifth school in two years, her mother is at her wit's end, and decides to send her to live with her father in Ireland. There, Scarlett is surprised to find a welcoming step-mom and sister and even more surprised to find that there is a baby on the way.
But Scarlett’s hates it here. She lives in small cottage in the middle of nowhere and has to go to a one-room school with a bunch of elementary kids. That is, until she meets handsome Kian, who might just give Scarlet a reason to stick around.
The best thing about Scarlett is that it is first and foremost an enjoyable read. There are a lot of books out there that deal with divorce and the effect it can have on children and the book does deal with those issues, but without being too preachy or letting the subject-matter take over the story.
Scarlett’s voice and personality are pitch-perfect. Cassidy has really captured the confusion and frustration of being that age and going through a tough time. It’s hard to make a main character that’s privileged, bratty and immature likable, but once you understand the impact that Scarlett’s parents’ divorce had on her and the real pain and abandonment she feels, all you want to do is to give her a huge.
The adults are harder to like, but very realistic and well-realized. They mostly want Scarlett to behave but don’t want to take the time to understand why she’s acting out in the first place. I found it especially unfair that her parents wanted her to move on, because they have, without helping to do so.
Clare (Scarlett’s step-mom) was a wonderful addition. She was such an emphatic person who genuinely cared for Scarlett and was willing to give her the attention and understanding she so desperately needed.
Kian isn’t the most realistic teenage boy. He’s a good-looking bad boy who literally came into Scarlett’s life on a gleaming horse with the wind in his hair. And though he is in no way a bad character, I would have liked it better if he was more normal or just a friend, rather than a fantasy dream boyfriend.
I also wish the Scarlett’s father had learned as much form this experience as Scarlett and her mother did. I felt that that author blamed Scarlett’s mother (who was guilty of a few things) more than her father, who I think could have owned up more to his part in the Scarlett’s downward spiral.
Scarlett takes you on a beautiful and rewarding journey, pulling you in with its warmth and vivid characters, a story that’s suffused with an everyday magic that will stay with you longer than you think. Recommended to anyone who has ever felt lost or misunderstood.
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