Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages: 288
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Golden truly is a lovely little novel. While I often read dystopian or paranormal novels, my heart truly belongs to contemporary. Golden is the perfect example of a contemporary YA novel done right. The writing is gorgeous, you care about the characters, and the "mystery" is the perfect addition.
Parker's senior year is winding down. She is about to become her school's valedictorian and is one of only a handful of finalists who could win a scholarship that would make her dreams of attending Berkley a reality. Parker has always walked the straight and narrow path. She never breaks the rules and she always obeys her strict mother even when it seems like what she wants and what her mother wants for her do not always line up. She is best friends with her opposite, a fun girl named Kat, who is always trying to shake up Parker's life.
Things start to change for Parker when the English teacher she TAs for asks her to mail out the senior journals. Every year the teacher, Mr. Kinney, has his students to keep a journal for the last few weeks of their seniors years. He starts them with a prompt, a quote from Mary Oliver that asks, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" The journal is for the student's eyes only. Mr. Kinney collects them at the end of the year, seals them up and puts them in a box. After 10 years, he mails the journals out to the students so they can remember themselves as they were 10 years before. (As a future English teacher, I absolutely loved this idea. I also always appreciate when a teacher is portrayed in a positive light. Teachers, like so many parents in YA, are almost always shown as clueless, uncaring or vindictive which I find both insulting and unrealistic.) As Parker sorts through the sealed envelopes, trying to confirm addresses for the former students, she is shocked to find that one of the journals belongs to Julianna Farnetti, a girl who met a tragic end the night of her high school graduation.
Julianna was one half of the town's golden couple. Her and her boyfriend, Shane, were like royalty in the small town. The two were in Shane's car when a blizzard formed. The car was found in the lake outside of town that was formed by a crater. Their bodies were never found, but it is assumed they were either washed away in the river or that they sank through the deep hourglass at the bottom of the lake. The town is still mourning the loss of the couple. A billboard displaying their picture was erected at the edge of town and the scholarship Parker is going after is in their name. Even though Parker was only 7 when the accident happened, she clearly remembers Julianna, so even though she feels guilty about it, she of course reads the journal.
Parker is expecting to find proof that Julianna and Shane were the perfect couple the town remembers, and she is shocked to find that Julianna was doubting the path that was so clearly marked for her. Everyone, Julianna included, believed she and Shane would get married and spend the rest of their lives together in the town they grew up in, but in the dwindling weeks of her senior year, Julianna meets someone new, someone who throws her whole life into chaos. Reading the journal makes Parker begin to question her own path and whether or not she is living her "one wild and precious life" the way she should.
I truly loved this book. I loved Parker. I loved her friend Kat and their opposites attract friendship. I found Trevor and Parker's "will-they-or-won't-they" relationship delicious and loved that it didn't take over the story. I was rooting for Parker to find her right path and just found the whole novel to be so gorgeously written and a joy to read. This was my first experience with Ms. Kirby, but it will definitely not be my last. I cannot recommend it enough.
People always put their own spin on things, remember what they want to remember, and somewhere in the middle of it all is the truth--the real version--one you could only write yourself if you were willing to.
It felt like we were balanced on a thin, thin line. That fragile one that divides the invisible space between something and nothing, or before and after.
*I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All quotes may change in final manuscript.*