Author: Jessi Kirby
Genre: YA Contemporary, Coming-of-Age
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Publisher-provided ARC via Edelweiss
Summary: Love, tragedy, and mystery converge in this compelling novel from “an author to watch” (Booklist).
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.
☆: 5/5 stars – This book packs a serious emotional punch and gets when when you least expect it.
From the time I write this review, it’s been nearly a week since I read Golden. It’s unusual to take me so long to write a review for a book, but every time I tried to sit down and sort out my thoughts, I started crying. Golden packs a strong emotional punch unlike many novels of its kind. I came into this novel wanting it to break my heart and break it wide open it most certainly did.
Parker’s possible relation to Robert Frost may be insignificant in the course of the novel, but excerpts of his poems and occasionally just the titles provide perfect framing devices for each chapter. As tightly laced as she is, her naive notions about how the world and people work balance her out. Her best friend Kat is a little grating sometimes, but Parker’s love interest Trevor Collins is so adorable. It builds slowly and largely fits the idealistic tone all the way up to the end. That’s when everything you think about the novel gets turned upside-down in the space of a few pages.
For most of the novel, it seems like a sweet read–almost an ode to “perfect” romances a la Nicholas Sparks (who gets mentioned more than a few times). Julianna’s story in particular comes off as sort of a Romeo and Juliet story, but it works somehow. Parker’s blatant naivete to the world around her is a strong indicator of the novel being much more than something cute to read, it still punched me in the gut and made me start crying when the novel’s climactic scene came. This line in particular broke me:
“I want her to stay golden (ARC p. 227).”
It’s a line that applies to so much within the novel and too much of the world outside it. The entire town of Summit Lakes considers Julianna golden, especially after her death. Even when Parker gets ahold of her journal and learns of Julianna’s conflicts, attraction to someone other than her boyfriend, and general discontent, Parker is unable to see her any other way. When she thinks there might be something more to the story and chases that lead with gusto? She is still unable to see one of her town’s greatest legends as anything other than golden.
Then we get to our final destination and learn exactly how tarnished the legend of Julianna Farnetti really is–a tarnish so well hidden that no one knows it’s there. As the tagline (and Robert Frost by proxy) says, nothing gold can stay. No matter how much Parker and we the readers want it, it’s simply impossible.
Though the novel ends on an implied happy note, it stays true to its themes because we also know there is no wiping away the tarnish at this point. It’s been too long and and is set in too deeply. Jessi Kirby’s other novels are on my TBR and I hope to get to them soon. If they’re as strongly written as Golden, I may have a new favorite author.