Title: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here
Author: Anna Breslaw
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
The worst thing that 16 year old Scarlett Epstein could imagine has happened: Lycanthrope High, a television show featuring werewolves in high school, has been cancelled. This tragic turn of events forces Scarlett and her online fanfiction community to start writing with original characters and extend the story with the help of the creator of Lycanthrope High John St. Clair.
So Scarlett starts pulling inspiration from her life and the people around her, but in order to do that she has to first engage with her world and step out of her comfort zone. So she approaches the buy that she has had a crush on for as long as she cares to remember and the resulting disasters that follow fuel her fanfiction featuring Gideon and a high school with AI robots.
Through Scarlett’s online community and writing Scarlett will discover that the world is not as black and white as she originally thought, and that maybe it can be seen through more than one perspective.
Quick and Dirty:
This is the modern-day, technology driven, teenager’s manifesto of using the internet community of fanfiction, also writing in general, as a way to understand the tumultuous nature of high school and growing up.
“THIS IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS I’VE EVER HAD TO WRITE.”
When I received this new release through the may Uppercase subscription box, I was hesitant to say the least. The title Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here conjured up the image of a high school outcast that would spend the majority of the book whining. After reading the first few chapters I found that I was wrong.
The narrator, Scarlett Epstein, is not perfect by any means. She tends to complain, over dramatize situations, and judge everything and everyone around her; but she is smart in the way that matters and has a unique take on the world around her that makes what she has to say matter, especially to a younger version of myself that was not so different. Scarlett also speaks to a whole culture of people who care so much about pop culture that they have dubbed themselves fangirls for life.
The true magic of this book is the reality of the story. This book does not rely on a supernatural being to swoop in and save the day, nor does anything truly bizarre happen. Every event and moment in this story is commonplace in many ways, which in turn means that any girl reading this can relate. For instance, in many ways the main conflict that happens in this book is the narrator’s “arch enemy” dating the boy that she has liked for years. Everyone has had that boy or girl that they have crushed on forever but has never done anything about it. Although this conflict is, what many would consider, shallow, it is only the first of many obstacles that Scarlett has to go through and as the book progresses these obstacles become more profound.
The other elements of this book that have been garnering a lot of attention are the way that the online world is blended with the physical world and the constant use of pop culture references. Although this book does not feature other worldly characters it does simultaneously hold two worlds within its pages: the physical world and the online world. The author does a great job of connecting the two and drawing parallels between the fanfiction that the narrator is writing and her real life. What was also interesting about this was the evolution that occurred in the narrator’s writing as the story goes on. By the last installment of the fanfiction the reader has seen Scarlett not only grow as a person, but also as a writer. The other aspect of the online world that is integrated well is the online chat room. Each of the recurring screen names develop just as much of a voice as the characters that Scarlett interacts with in high school. The chats are also well identified using bold lettering and names that could only be screen names. This integration between worlds just adds to the realisticness of this book seeing as most of us spend a large chunk of our time online. Even as I write this I am online now.
One of the similarities between Scarlett’s two world is the constant stream of pop culture references. As I was reading this it seemed that I couldn’t go more than two paragraphs without running into some sort of reference to a television show, movie, book, comic, or other form of popular media. While I personally enjoyed these references and fully expect most of the targeted teen audience to also enjoy them, I do worry about the longevity of a book that relies on pop culture in this way. Due to the ever changing world of pop culture I wonder how long it will take for this book to become “outdated” to the point where readers no longer understand the references. This may not be a problem for the more subtle references, but the references that rely on the reader knowing enough about them to understand the sentence may be in trouble. Granted these concerns do not become valid for a while.
All in all I would recommend this book for a quick and entertaining read. Scarlett will have you laughing out loud.
The bleachers are reminiscent of Diane Arbus, smattered with a handful of homely Girl Geniuses and a couple of weird guys with a pube-y facial hair who haven’t had a growth spurt yet. As soon as I sit down way up on the highest bench, I feel a lot more like myself, in my natural habitat, but in keeping with today’s little forum trauma, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Down below, my classmates are dancing or awkwardly milling around in same-sex groups. The guys seem aimless and doofy, trying to love-tap one another in the balls. The girls move with more of a purpose. Natalie Wetta and Liz Lanteri jokingly slow dance together. We’re all going to graduate soon, and go to college, and grow up, and get married, I think, and realize with a start I’ve said we instead of they. Usually the only we is me and Avery, or me and the Were-heads. Or me and Gideon, before he outed himself as Lord of the Douche. I was so delusional to think he was above his popularity stuff.
I’ve tried to look everywhere except at Gideon and Ashley, but I’m a masochist, so I glance around for them. Ashley’s nowhere to be found, and hearing a few thuds of dress shoes on the bleachers, I realize Gideon’s climbing up toward me. I am still mad at him, no matter how cute he looks.
This is the part where I am supposed to be a sparkling, vindictive angel of revenge whose cutting remarks make him feel like shit.
“I like your shoes,” I blurt.
He glances down at them. “Oh. Thanks.” Then he sits next to me, leaning a little bit forward with his hands on his knees, staring straight out at the dance floor like he’s intentionally trying not to look at me.
“So did you get to the Sam Kieth illustrated editions?”
I don’t say anything. I freeze helplessly, torn between wanting to yell at him about his cisgender white male sense of entitlement and whisper to him that he smells like pine needles and dreams.
“It, um, was really stupid, what I did.”
He has now given me permission to go with option one.
“It was pretty spectacularly stupid, yeah.”
“I didn’t know who lived there. Not that that’s better, but if I knew it was, like, an old lady by herself-and that you knew her-then I might not have…” He trails off. “I totally forgot you lived in that neighborhood.”
“Well, I do.”
“Can you, um, tell her I’m sorry? For me?”
“I already told her.”
“Yeah, I told her I was sorry that I go to school with a bunch of idiots who
ruined her garden, and that people do really shitty things to fit in without thinking about it at all. And that I ever thought for a split second that you were cool.”
He looks stunned, which makes me even angrier, because it’s obvious that he
chooses to hang out with girls who never tell him off and just let him get away with everything. And I’m so, so annoyed at myself for caring about it.
He turns toward me, his nose crinkled up with irritation, as if I’m being An Emotional Girl™ and missing some major piece of information that makes him not an utter ass.
“Scarlett,” he says.
He shakes his head, one side of his mouth twisting in kind of an embarrassed smile.
“The only reason I went with them in the first place was because you said I had no friends.”
He sighs. Then he gets up and walks back down to the dance floor.
That’s bullshit, I think. Maybe it was partly what I said, but he loves having baller status at school. It’s so unfair-I put on the dress, came to the dance, and actually tried, and nothing worked out the way I wanted it to. I should have known that coming was a stupid idea.
I track down Avery and tell her I’m gonna go.
“No! Why? Did Gideon say something to you?”
“Yeah, but that’s not why. I’m tired. I’m in a shitty mood. I’ve been sucking in my stomach for, like, two hours. I need to go home.”
“Come dance with us.”
I glance warily at Mike, who nods and smiles in a seemingly genuine way. I really don’t want some bullshit charity third-wheel routine.
“Okay. I’ll need some more punch.