Saturday, May 9, 2015

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham// In which I use the word "diversity" way too much

A voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks -- and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel

Let's get down to the core of what Jennifer Latham does best (in my opinion): the depiction of diversity in Scarlett Undercover was something all writers should use as an example. It was magnificent!

I read Scarlett Undercover right after I read a book that seemed to have just inserted diversity because it was the "thing to do." With the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign popping up all over the YA world, many authors are tacking on diverse characters in order to appeal to readers. But many times I feel that the authors are trying to reach a "diversity quota," just so they're not accused of subtle racism. Diversity is an afterthought, cumbersomely added after the story has been created.
But this is not the case with Scarlett Undercover. In Scarlett, Latham has gently interwoven a glorious abundance of ethnicities within the plot, giving the story a breath of life and realness. Ethnicities - not race. I think this is what underlies diversity - this appreciation of culture - and Scarlett is full of cultures. Even the SIDE CHARACTERS have ethnicities! (Can I just say how remarkably excited I was to read that Scarlett's landlord was Ukrainian? O My People!)
And then, of course, Scarlett. She is Muslim American (as it says in the summary), but her religion is woven in gently. Her more casual view of traditional practices contrasts with her sister, Reem, who is more conservative. We get a full spectrum of beliefs, acculturation, and traditions, and - OH it's just glorious. 
Now that I have flailed sufficiently about the diversity, let's talk about plot.
I was definitely not expecting supernatural twists, from the summary. Immediately when something a little not-logical came up, my hackles raised and I was on guard. I abhor when a book switches genres on me. 
Thankfully, all my fears were unfounded. Though there is a factor in the story that is inexplicable by scientific logic, it is not important to the solving of the mystery, and all is discovered with basic human capabilities and the logic of the human mind. Ultimately, it becomes a good-old-mystery, and my suspicious brain was appeased.
The climax was wonderfully suspenseful. It would actually make a fine film. (WAIT This whole book would make a fine film. Now THERE'S an idea. I WANTS IT.)

The writing style is nice and sharp, and keeps the story moving and the tension high. There is one issue I had with the writing though. (I do not know how final this ARC is, so it may yet be changed before publication.)
So many times, chunks of sentences with a disappearing subject like this appeared: "His eyes lifted. Searched mine. Found whatever it was he'd needed to keep going." 
"I rolled my eyes. Asked him if we could talk about something more important."
Do you see what I mean? As much as I commended the sharp writing style, this is TOO choppy for my liking. And I wouldn't point it out, usually, but it happened All The Time. Perhaps commas instead of periods, and it would flow better? "His eyes lifted, searched mine, and found whatever...." sounds much nicer, in my opinion. 

But that's just my minor pet peeve. Everything else was glorious, and I highly recommend it. 
In conclusion, a quote from my Goodreads review that sums up my feelings on Scarlett Undercover quite adequately: 


Yes. I can be quite eloquent if I want to.


Scarlett Undercover  comes out May 19th, 2015! Thanks to (Little, Brown) for the ARC!


  1. :D A book with diversity that is actually done well, I am intrigued. I think I would actually enjoy this, especially because the synopsis says perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, I am a huge Veronica Mars fan. I think I will have to read it.

    1. I think you should! I think you'll like it :-)

  2. Great review! I really liked this one as well. I agree- the spectrum of religion and cultures was so well done.

    1. Wasn't it? It's so rare in books nowadays.

  3. Wow, this sounds actually really interesting... when I read the title of the book it didn't seem promising but know that I've read your review I'm pretty excited. Yes! I'm going to read it!

    1. It's true, the title isn't very impressive, but the book is quite good. I hope you enjoy it!

  4. Okay, adding this to my "to read" list! p.s. You did not use the word diversity too much! :)

    1. Haha it is kind of impossible to overuse diversity, no? :-)


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