Our April Book Club was “Golden,” the latest contemporary novel by Jessi Kirby, whose roadtrip coming-of-age tale “In Honor” we raved about last summer. If you like books by Abby McDonald, Morgan Matson, and Justina Chen, be sure to check this wonderful pick for your summer reading. The reviews for “Golden” were positive by those of us at Teen Lit Rocks. This coming of age novel that also includes a story within a story was overall, well liked and we believe that it’s definitely worth the read. If you happen to be a fan of Robert Frost’s poetry that is another perk to reading this book, it includes excerpts of many of his poems.
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.
Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.
Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.
Reader Average: B+
Diana graded the book an A
It’s difficult not to enjoy this coming of age novel about senior Parker Frost who has always done everything the way her mother expects her to. She is an incredibly outstanding student who is sure she wants to go to Stanford, her only problem is that she needs the finances. Then she finds out she is a finalist for a scholarship that will provide a full ride. The scholarship is from a foundation that was founded in memory of two high school students who died in a horrific car accident their senior year when Parker was a child.
Then through a twist of fate, Parker ends up with the journal that belonged to Julianna Farnetti, the girl killed in the accident. As Parker reads the journal, it begins to affect her own life in many ways. What makes Kirby’s story unique is that it’s not just about Parker, but it’s also about Julianna, a girl that was killed ten years ago. In many ways the story in the journal is just as riveting as Parker’s story.
To top it all off, since Parker’s last name is Frost, Kirby cleverly begins each chapter with an excerpt from one of Robert Frost’s poems and his poetry plays a part in the characters’ lives. It made me revisit Frost’s works and any book that leads you to Frost is deserving of an A rating.
Jenn graded the book an A
As someone who often walked the straight and narrow in high school, I could identify with Parker Frost. When you’re so close to reaching the goals you’ve worked for, you’re afraid to do anything that might derail you from that path. However, in Parker’s case, going “off-road” is probably the best thing that happened to her. She had no real passion for her goals and for someone who was so driven, she seemed terribly lost. So much of her life was dedicated to doing what everyone else wanted her to do. By going on one last adventure before high school graduation, she learned what she really wanted out of her life. This idea is visited often in YA lit, but what I liked about Parker’s journey is that she did it on her own terms. Her best friend Kat urged her to do something unexpected, and Parker chose to do something that was meaningful and in character for her.
I also really liked Parker’s relationship with her best friend Kat. While it’s true that Kat could be a little interfering at times, she was proud of Parker and was one of the few people who not only accepted her for the person she was, but also supported her wholeheartedly. I thought this was a great book. It has a little mystery, a little romance, but at its core, it’s a story about finding the strength to find your own path in life. I wish it had been written when I was in high school.
Keely graded the book an A-
“Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”
There are a lot of YA novels that are “coming of age” stories. Many are good – some are great. Golden fell in the great column for me.
Parker Frost is that kid – you know the one – rises to her parent’s every expectation, follows all the rule, and solidly on the path to a successful if not somewhat mundane life.
Until the journal of a past student falls into her hands – the journal of half of the school’s perfect couple Julianna. The journal causes small tremors in Parker’s life and we see her start to step off of her predetermined path in an effort to unravel the mystery of Julianna and her boyfriend Shane’s perfect relationship and their tragic ending.
Through the past Parker begins to realize that how things look on the outside isn’t always how they look on the inside – that perfection isn’t always so perfect and that life is full of surprises. And that sometimes the hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself.
I am new to Jessi Kirby, but I really like her characters and prose. The cast of characters was well rounded – Kat is a great best friends always pushing Parker to step outside of her comfort zone knowing that Parker needs the nudge. Trevor is the consummate love interest – teasing Parker and leading her to second guess her interest and his. And Parker is that kid all of us – perhaps she’s even us and watching her stumble and falter and finally stride down her own path make for a wonderful read.
Jessica graded the book a B+
Jessi Kirby deftly weaves together a coming of age tale with a little mystery — and it’s very well done. It’s exciting to watch Parker take control of her life. In the course of investigating Julianna and Shane’s accident, she’s forced to stand up to her controlling mom and find the courage to reconsider her future. Then there’s the bonus of Trevor Collins, the boy who’s been flirting with her for years. He’s charming and comes to her rescue a few times — and it’s a wonder how Parker took so long to kiss him.
Her relationship with Kat is also done well. Parker’s future is leading her out of town to bigger things (Standford!), while Kat will be left behind. So their final days at school and their looming separation is an added stress and catalyst to Parker’s awakening.
I enjoyed the Robert Frost quotes (Parker is possibly a distant relative) that introduced all the chapters. My favorites were “I shall set forth for somewhere,/ I shall make the reckless choice” and “He asked with the eyes, ore than the lips…”
Melanie graded the book a B+
In Jessi Kirby’s Golden, Parker spends much of her senior year reflecting on the impact that a single decision, made however casually, can have on one’s life. As she struggles to make decisions that will please her more rebellious friend while balancing decisions to please her strict and uptight mother, she wonders what kind of decisions she should make for her own happiness.
I have often wondered (during the not-so-happy days) how my life would be different if I had decided to go to school in Michigan. would I ever have left Michigan? Would I have gotten married? Then I realize that I definitely wouldn’t have had the four (lovely) kids that I do now. That thought is just a little too freaky for me (in spite of the fact that two of them are having the most inane argument right now), and I have to stop.
I do wish that I could be at this stage of my life and not still wondering what kind of decisions I should make for the future. the fact that I can be this age and still relating to a senior in high school trying to make decisions about school and career is somewhat humbling. I feel like I should be a little bit further down the path to a career.
On the other hand, it is exciting still to have a world of possibility open to me. What is it that lies just around the bend for me?
Let’s just say, I hope there’s something…
Cara graded the book a B-
On the edge of graduating high school and winning the college scholarship that will make all her dreams come true, 17 year old Taylor takes a leap and does something unexpected on the trail of a decade-old mystery. But she discovers more than just the answers to the mystery in her quest.
The story centers on Taylor’s discovery of the private journal of a girl, Julianna, who went missing and was presumed dead 10 years ago. I enjoyed the interplay of Taylor’s story and the journal of the ill-fated Julianna. Despite their differences, the parallels between their lives were striking and poignant, each with a seemingly *golden* path ahead of them that they began to question as events in their lives unfold.
Despite this, I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t get emotionally invested in this book. Too much of the plot hinges on quirky, unbelievable elements that didn’t ring true to me. And I say this as someone who regularly reads fantasy and science fiction. The author has to make me believe and I just didn’t here. I couldn’t even understand how Taylor and Kat could be best friends. Class valedictorian and town screw-up? Has this ever in the history of teenage girls happened? Since this relationship is pivotal to the story, that’s a pretty big flaw for me.
Ultimately, I would put this in the beach read category: it’s fast paced with a light emotional payoff, but flat, stereotypical characters and predictable turns make it unremarkable and easy to put down when you want to run out for a swim.