The Key to the Golden Firebird – Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson is one of my favourite teen authors, so when I saw that hotkey books were releasing some of her earlier books with flashy new covers, I made it my aim to go and find a copy. Imagine my surprise when, on a trip to the library to find a copy of Monsters of Men, I find on the shelf instead this book.
The funny thing about stop signs is that they’re also start signs. Mayzie is the middle sister, sent to private school because of her brains. Brooks, the oldest, is a beautiful athlete who’s conflicted about her two loves: softball and Dave. Palmer is the youngest, tentative in all but her blistering pitches as the only freshman on varsity softball. Though very different, the Golds are sisters through and through.
When the unthinkable happens — the death of their father — a year passes in shattered silence. Brooks begins drinking, Palm withdraws, and May is left to fend for herself. She gets a job at a coffee spot, and hits the books. But the one thing she can’t do alone is learn to drive. That’s when Peter, her lifelong nemesis and all around thorn-in-side, assumes a surprising new role in May’s life: he teaches her to drive, and the connection between them changes from childhood animosity to one that May can’t understand, or doesn’t yet want to.
As May slowly starts to pick up the pieces of her life, her sisters struggle with their own demons. The Gold sisters have been changed irrevocably, and they are all but lost to one another, until the key is found. The key to their father’s Pontiac Firebird.
I love Maureen Johnson’s writing style, it’s funny and endearing and really cuts to the heart of teenage girls. These girls are smart, clever and driven towards what they want. Yes the writing was clunky at times, yes the prose was a little off beat on occasion and yes, reading about teen girls, teen boys and wanting to learn how to drive isn’t anything ground breaking, but Maureen makes it relevant.
The story is about three sisters who lose their dad and the different ways they deal with this. It’s mostly told from middle sister, May’s perspective, but has moments from Brooks and Palmer’s lives too. All three sisters are set to self destruct, but in completely different ways, Brooks turns to drink and friends that don’t care about her, May takes on responsibilities she doesn’t need to, works herself too hard and Palmer hides panic attacks and spends her time forgetting to eat and watching television. Seeing the different ways that each girl dealt with grief really tugged on the heartstrings, but in a really endearing way, its something that Maureen pulls off rather well. You’ll notice I read a lot of Maureen’s books, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes made me want to travel the world, The Shades of London made me want to solve crimes with ghost detectives, Devilish made me want to be in an episode of Buffy. This made me want to grab each Gold sister and give them a big hug.
This book is a touching look at how grief affects different people, it’s about families coming together, people realising that their interpretations of the world around them are different and its addicting. Its also nice that they have reissued the covers for this and so there is no longer a headless girl on the cover. Which makes a nice change from Maureen’s usual covers.
I ended up falling off track a bit with the book notes project towards the end of the year, I had so many books lying around my house that I didn’t have to go to the library too much. Now I’m undertaking a new book challenge for the year, I had to go and get myself a couple of things, so when I return this, someone will get a wonderful note when they hire it.