by Jessi Kirby
Expected Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
View at the Traffic light:
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.
I’ve now read three of Jessi Kirby’s books, and Golden is by far my favorite. With the other books by Kirby I’ve read, there’s always this thread of living life and growing up into the person you want to be, but they’re never quite made it there for me. That thread finally emerges strong in Golden.
Parker is a straight-A over-achiever who’s always done exactly what’s expected of her. When she becomes a potential finalist for a huge scholarship in her town, she sets out on a common journey of self-discovery, but her journey takes some unexpected paths. The scholarship is named for two people in her home town who died ten years ago right after graduation. As luck would have it, Parker finds one of their journals–Julianna’s. She knows she shouldn’t, but she ends up reading the journal and piecing together a mystery. . . and a love story.
Parker drags her best friend, Kat, and her crush, Trevor along with her. Together they end up doing some strange things in the name of finding out the truth. What’s most important, though, isn’t the result for Parker–it’s Parker learning out what matters to her and how her life doesn’t have to follow someone else’s plans for her.
While I liked the central message of Golden, which is a very much “seize the day mentality” I DID think it came off rather strong in the book. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I personally prefer when my books don’t try to hit me over the head with themes. That being said, I do think Kirby really explores Parker’s life and what this new self-discovery means for her. These types of stories are common in YA(and in fiction in general), and it’s important that a book not feel cheesy while using these themes. While Golden got close to that edge sometimes, it never strayed into over-sentimental territory in my opinion.
I had a lot of respect for Parker. I think a good deal of readers will see themselves in her. Part of it is her over-achiever personality, but a BIG part is the way she decides to take a leap of faith. I think those moments were you realize you have to make your own choices and they might be different than what most people would pick in the same situation are some of the most pivotal moments of life, and everyone has those, particularly in the stage of life that Parker is in.
I also liked how the romantic subplot in Golden mirrored the main plot. Parker has had a crush on Trevor for ever, but she doesn’t think he really feels the same way. While he does flirt with her and asks her out, Parker’s convinced that he’s only doing it because she’s a challenge and not because he truly likes her. Eventually, though, Parker has to decide if maybe that’s not true and she’s just using that as an excuse to hide behind something. It wasn’t romantic in that I necessarily felt their relationship was ever swoony, but I liked what it was for Parker at the moment.
Overall, Golden is definitely my favorite Jessi Kirby book and I understand why there’s so many raving reviews for it. While it didn’t really hit me emotionally, I enjoyed Parker’s exploration of what she wanted to do with her one wild and precious life.
Despite not always loving how heavy-handed this book could feel at times, Golden was sweet and heart-warming and also a little inspiring. 4/5 cupcakes.