Cover of Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here courtesy of Penguin Teen / collage by Mimpmag
Have you ever been so obsessed with a certain TV show, book, musical, or movie that you feel like it’s all you can think about?
Scarlett Epstein has understood that ever since she watched her favorite TV show, Lycanthrope High, for the first time and became hooked. She soon started to dive deeper and deeper into the fandom by writing fanfiction about the beloved characters, and she is more than shocked when she hears of the show ending. Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw, is witty and laugh-out-loud worthy while still delivering heartfelt moments. This book is perfect for anyone who is a self declared fangirl or understands the desire to escape a small town.
In real life, Scarlett Epstein is a teenage girl who lives with a single mom and is trapped in a small New Jersey town, while her dad is a soon to be published author living in New York City. She also only has two friends who help her survive high school. There’s Avery, a very smart and quiet girl, whose sister, Ashley, happens to be the most popular girl in school and is bent on humiliating Scarlett. Then there’s Ruth, her eccentric 73 year old neighbour with a loud mouth and loads of stories.
On the internet, Scarlett is someone completely different. She’s known as a big-named fan of Lycanthrope High, one of the most popular shows on television. Along with her fellow fans, she writes fanfiction about the characters they love so much and live Tweets every show. Everything changes when Lycanthrope High announces their closing. How is Scarlett supposed to stay in contact with her fellow fans and writers? Then she gets an idea: to start her own fanfiction involving not only Lycanthrope High, but kids from her school like her crush, Gideon, and his possible girlfriend, Ashley. That’s when disaster ensues.
I had very high hopes going into Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here considering the fact that Jesse Andrews, the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, commented on how funny the novel was. His debut novel was hilarious, so I knew this book had a lot to live up to if he considered it humorus. I say this with complete honesty: this book was so funny. The main character, Scarlett, was so honest and sarcastic that I couldn’t help but laugh, even in situations where you wouldn’t think there can be comedy. Ruth was also a pretty hilarious character. Almost any scene Ruth appeared in guaranteed a laugh from me. It wasn’t even just the characters that made this book funny; it was the circumstances, too. The author did an amazing job at making the story flow with the awkward instances and sarcastic characters.
Just because the story is comedic, don’t be fooled because there are still some very serious parts of this book. For example, Scarlett has to deal with her parents being divorced. Her dad has already moved on and has a new wife, daughter, and home in New York City. Meanwhile, Scarlett is stuck in the same town as before with her mom and very little money. She also has to deal with her mom juggling work and online dating, and it isn’t easy.
Another situation the book deals with is what happens when we judge without knowing the full story and how to face the consequences of these actions. For example, one person might seem like they have a perfect life, but they could be dealing with struggles you don’t know about. By judging without knowing the full story, some of the characters get themselves in sticky situations and need to learn and deal with the outcome of the scenarios they put themselves in.
Other than the comedy, there were many other aspects I liked about this novel. First off, I really enjoyed the friendships portrayed in this book by Scarlett and her internet friends. Despite not knowing about each other’s lives outside of the fandom, they all seemed to really care about each other and were there when someone needed help. I also really liked seeing how Scarlett’s new fanfiction about the kids she interacted with tied into the story. It was interesting to see how similar and different the stories were. Another thing I thought was great was that Scarlett was a flawed character. She made mistakes, but she acknowledged them and didn’t act like she was better than everyone. She also tried to apologize when she thought she hurt someone.
There was not a whole lot that I disliked about this novel. The only thing I really didn’t like was Gideon, the main love interest. Some people might disagree with me on this, but I thought he didn’t really care about Scarlett. Gideon wanted to be in the cool crowd and avoided Scarlett in public, but suddenly, when the two of them were alone, he wanted to talk to her. Then, the next day in school, he would avoid her all over again. I didn’t understand how Scarlett still liked him even though this was happening. He also didn’t seem to really care about Ashley, either. Ashley was not my favorite character, but she still had feelings. In my opinion, Gideon basically used Ashley for her popularity.
All in all, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here was a comedic, relatable, and enjoyable read. I rated it four out of five stars due to how I felt about Gideon, but I thought every other aspect of the story was phenomenal. Any fan of Jesse Andrews’ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Chris Colfer’s Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal, or anything by Meg Cabot will definitely enjoy reading this novel. Anna Breslaw’s debut novel was amazing, and I absolutely can’t wait to read more of her work.