16-year-old Scarlet Williams enjoys the attention that comes with being a violin prodigy. She auditions for a chair in the Summerset Festival Orchestra, the well-attended local event in her hometown. She is the youngest person to ever get a chair in the orchestra, and she is so excited that they are playing John Williams’s American Journey that year. She blasts the news on social media and enjoys the attention that Finn O’Neal gives her about it. Her best friend Jillian is excited for her and promises to help her practice.
Then her sister Sadie gets cast in Young Gourmet, a nationally televised cooking competition for kids. Scarlet is excited for her, because she loves her little sister. Then Scarlet’s parents tell her that the whole family will be going to L.A. for the taping of the show. This means that they could possibly be there for the whole summer, which means that Scarlet will have to give up her spot in the Summerset Festival. Scarlet is horrified and tries to get her parents to reconsider; Mom can go to L.A. with Sadie while she and Dad stay home. Sadie might not make it very far anyway. But her parents are firm, and Scarlet has to suffer the humiliation of telling everyone that she won’t be in the orchestra after all.
Scarlet had decided being in L.A. for the summer might be fun, but it turns out it’s NOT. Things perk up when Scarlet and her dad go to the TV studio to tape a Family episode. Scarlet meets Isaac, a cute 18-year-old who works as a server on the show. Scarlet is excited to finally have something to tell Jillian. Scarlet is excited when Sadie makes the finale, but also excited to see Isaac. When Sadie wins, Isaac immediately stops flirting with Scarlet and just asks if he can meet her. Scarlet gets her first glimpse at what it’s like to be eclipsed by Sadie and doesn’t like it.
The Williams family gets back to Snowberry, and they are not allowed to talk about the show. Scarlet meets up with Jillian in the park and finds out she has been hanging out with the “cool” group from orchestra. The conductor of the Summerset Orchestra sees her at the park and asks her to be his assistant for the Festival, and Scarlet agrees so she can be a part of things. She quickly realizes that just being an assistant is not good enough. She decides to ask the conductor if she could still play and is convinced that he’ll say yes. It takes her a week or so to actually get the courage to ask. The conductor shuts her down with a lecture and tells her that arrogance won’t open doors for her in the musical world. Scarlet is humiliated and doesn’t tell any of her friends about it. She pretends to be sick on the night of the concert so she doesn’t have to go.
School starts the next week, and everyone is still buzzing about the Summerset Festival. Scarlet is especially looking forward to auditioning for her orchestra chair. She knows she’ll get first chair this year because she got a chair in the Summerset Festival. But Melody Golde gets first chair instead. Finn meets Scarlet in the parking lot to commiserate and encourage her. Over the course of the first week, she finds herself being welcomed with open arms by Melody.
Just as Scarlet is beginning to settle into the high school routine, Young Gourmet begins to air. Scarlet invites Jillian, Levi, Finn, and Melody over for her family’s big premier party. Everyone has a great time, and Scarlet is pleased with her situation in life. Finn and Melody begin to grab Scarlet to have lunch with them. The show continues to air, and the Williams host a weekly viewing party. Finn and Melody continue to show up, but spend a lot of time asking Sadie questions about the show. Scarlet fears she is losing her status with the upper classmen. So she creates a secret blog that exposes the secrets of the show and implies that Sadie’s win was rigged.
The blog spreads like wildfire, and the older students ask Scarlet about it. Scarlet has a great time discussing the blog, even pointing out where the inaccuracies are. At the semi-final viewing party, Finn and Melody talk more with Scarlet than Sadie, asking her what’s really going on. Sadie overhears and throws a big fit in front of everyone, embarrassing the entire Williams family. She runs and hides in her room, and Scarlet’s parents confront her in front of everyone. Scarlet is forced to admit that she lied, and then she runs and hides in her room.
Mom comes in to Scarlet’s room, and she spills her reasons for her actions. Mom tells Scarlet that she just should have been happy for her sister, because Sadie has always been happy for her. Dad comes in and Scarlet asks if Sadie is going to lose out on her prize money. She says she's sorry, and Mom asks Scarlet what she's going to do to make it right.
Scarlet tries to hide out in her bedroom all weekend, but Mom keeps making her come out to do chores. Sadie avoids her and refuses to cook. Scarlet is truly sorry and apologizes to Sadie. Sadie says she forgives her, but things aren't the same. Dad says he talked to one of the producers, and since Scarlet didn't spoil the ending, they aren't going to press charges. Scarlet dreads going to school the next day.
Scarlet spends the whole day at school avoiding everyone. She hides out in the bathroom until the last possible moment before class. She doesn't even make eye contact with any of her friends. She spends lunch in the orchestra room, playing John William's music. The music teacher hears her and applauds. She tells Scarlet that if she keeps up that level, she will definitely be first chair next year. She also tells Scarlet that she should audition for the Summerset Festival, and Scarlet spills her story. The music teacher gives her some advice, and Scarlet says she sounds like Mrs. Chen. Music Teacher gasps and says that she studied under Mrs. Chen too.
Scarlet had gone to the orchestra room after school to work on some of the music for the school musical with Music Teacher. She tried to stay as late as she could, so that everyone would be gone. When she gets to her locker, she finds Jillian, Levi, Melody and Finn all waiting for her. They tell her that they aren't going anywhere. Scarlet apologizes for what she did, and says that she was afraid she wasn't going to be noticed anymore, even though she knows that's not an excuse. They say they forgive her, and they apologize for making her feel unseen. Finn confesses that he Likes Scarlet, and the two of them start a relationship.
The friends decide to do what they can to make the last show for Sadie unforgettable. They plan a huge Finale Party, and plan on how they're going to stop Sadie from cooking the appetizers. On the night of the finale. Jillian and Scarlet had "kidnapped" Sadie and taken her to get mani/pedis and her hair done. Finn, Melody, and Levi had then decorated the Williams' living room. They had even gotten Sadie's cooking teacher to make the food for the party. Everyone shows up and the whole house freaks out when they realize that Sadie won. Scarlet is surprised to realize she feels nothing but pride for her sister. She's not even a little bit jealous. Mom and Dad whisk the family away; they have to catch a red-eye flight to LA for interviews for the next day. Scarlet is so happy to go with them.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10
Plot: This YA novel about teen prodigy and violinist Scarlet Williams has a strong, explicit emphasis on family and the sacrifices members must make for each other, with a Christian undercurrent. Kimble has done an excellent job of portraying Scarlet’s ambivalence toward her sister and her struggle to be a generous and supportive sister, a goal she achieves at times and at times misses, giving the story a verisimilitude in keeping with Kimble being the mother of three girls.
Prose/Style: Kimble is careful with her language, both in her choice of words suitable to the reading level of 8- to 14-year-olds and in creating family dialogue that is respectful while at the same time expressing characters’ thoughts and feelings with precision.
Originality: Kimble has written a life lesson for middle schoolers from a Christian point of view. A mother of three herself, she has a great ear for informal, functional family interactions and a deep empathy for the social and psychological challenges young girls must negotiate.
Character Development/Execution: Scarlet is challenged when she must give up her summer of music performances to accommodate Sadie’s filming schedule, but that’s nothing compared to coming to terms with her sister actually winning the cooking competition and being “The Prodigy”. Scarlet’s struggle through these unexpected events as “Sadie Williams’ sister” is the focus of the novel.
Date Submitted: July 02, 2021