I love this @elockhart @HotKeyBooks #wewereliars
“Secrets are more powerful when people know you’ve got them.”
—E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (via rachel-franke)
Review: The Key to the Golden Firebird
The Key to the Golden Firebird
by Maureen Johnson
Age Group/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Themes: Grief, family, driving, baseball
Publication date: June 1st, 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
SYNOPSIS: There are lots of rules for the road, but none when it comes to love.
Life’s just not the same for the Gold sisters since their father died. Brooks is not-so-quietly falling apart, May is desperately trying to keep everyone together, and Palmer… well, who know’s what’s up with Palmer.
May knows that if she could just pass her driving test, things will start picking up. But will that ever happen with Pete, the incredibly annoying boy-next-door, as her teacher?
This summer May’s going to have to learn a lot more than the Highway Code if she wants to keep her family together, get the guy and maybe - just maybe - earn the key to the Golden Firebird.
The Key to the Golden Firebird was a lot deeper and more serious than I expected it to be from the cover and my previous experiences with Maureen Johnson’s writing. I went into it blindly, not knowing much about the plot. It was a bit hard to get into, so I’m not sure if that was the best way to read it, but I really started to enjoy it somewhere in the middle.
You can really tell that this is Maureen Johnson’s debut novel (published in 2004!). For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much of her dry, subtle humour that her other books (and tweets) do have, so I think she must have developed that, and integrated it into her books, over the course of her writing career.
(Note on the cover: I know this pink one is different from the one above, but the one I have is an older edition. The newest edition is the blue one I used in this review, which I think was an excellent decision from Hot Key Books. I had a hard time taking this book to school with me because IT’S SO DAMN PINK!)
The novel basically documents the year after their father’s unexpected death, how it affects them and how they deal with it. I think Maureen Johnson did a really great job of describing the different ways people grieve, because as many of my grief counselors told me: there isn’t just one way, and there is no correct way to grieve. (She also does sibling relationships really well!)
Brooks, the oldest sister, goes out and drinks a lot. Palmer, the youngest sister, struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. And then there’s May, the middle sister (who we read about most), who tries to keep their family together, but has a lot of self-conscious thoughts about her dad not liking May as much as he did her other sisters.
I feel like their mom wasn’t around as much as she should’ve been (Disappearing Parents Syndrome: look it up, it’s a thing.), but it was sort of explained by the fact that she works nights at the hospital to make sure the family has enough money to get by, and I can live with that explanation.
Another big part of the story is May and Pete’s relationship. Pete is their next-door neighbour, son of her father’s best friend, and the sisters’ childhood friend.
May needs to learn how to drive but keeps failing her tests, so Pete volunteers to teach her because his family has been very supportive and helpful to the Gold family, especially since the dad died. May and Pete have a kind of love-hate relationship because of their history of playing pranks on each other in their childhood. Throughout the book, May discovers that he really has grown up, and slowly starts falling for him.
A lot of people have said that they don’t think Pete is complex enough, but I don’t mind it that much. I feel like the story was mostly about the sibling relationships and grief rather than the romance, and Pete was just complex enough. I know he is into theater and bad shark movies, and knows stuff about cars. That’s enough for me.
At one point, Pete talks about Jenna (his ex-girlfriend). May’s first reaction is thoughts on those on-the-surface things you notice about people, in this case: “Jenna Cazwell was an unreletingly perky girl with huge boobs and an amazing singing voice. (…) Jenna always reminded me of a stewardess, with that creepy smile. And she was kind of dumb.” May could barely believe that Jenna collected bad shark movies or had mental health issues. What I really liked about this part is that it shows how people are more than they seem on the outside.
The ending was great! So adventurous. I wish I was that cool.
Overall, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’d recommend this if you like contemporary YA that deals with more than just a romance… or if you want a more specific recommendation: you should read this if you 1) are learning to drive, and/or 2) have ever lost someone close to you.
Thanks to Hot Key Books for providing me with a physical copy in return for an honest review.
"Today had reminded May, with shocking clarity, of what the first few weeks had been like last year. Constantly being watched. Constantly being asked if she was all right. Having conversations stop when she walked by. Facing that strange collage of forced smiles and concerned expressions at every single turn. Repeating the mantra "I’m fine" over and over again until it lost all meaning, and she had no idea what fine was anymore."
"She sometimes had the strange fantasy that her father could see her whenever she was doing something embarrassing, as if the dead watched the living like they were the cast of a reality show. And as on a reality show, no one would want to see the boring, virtuous parts. The bits when she was studying or when she got to work five minutes early, May was sure were edited out. But the sight of May hunched over a photo of a naked Peter Camp-that would be included."
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
Thanks for the review, Lauren!
- the abhorsen’s house -
the abhorsen’s house in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series rules; i want to live there.
here’s my take on the design of the island and of the house. more to come!
Cover Close-Ups | #8
Can you guess which book cover this is? Click here to find out!