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The Key To The Golden Firebird (2004)

The Key to the Golden Firebird (2004)

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3.69 of 5 Votes: 4
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0060541385 (ISBN13: 9780060541385)
harpercollins publishers

About book The Key To The Golden Firebird (2004)

Review by Kate - Year 8Life has not been the same for the Gold sisters; May, Brooks and Palmer since the sudden death of their father. Their mother’s depression means they are left to cope alone, especially as she works night shifts in order to support the family.The third person narrative allows insight and focus on all the different characters and makes it easier to follow along with the story. Each sister has her own unique way of dealing with her grief. While they are all very different personalities they support each other through this difficult time in their lives. The story is emotional and gripping.May is the middle sister and against all stereotypes of the middle child she is the most dependable. Hard working and organised with a part-time job in order to fund college. Yet, despite her hectic life she manages to look after the youngest sister, Palmer, who is crumbling under the weight of her grief. May feels that is only she could pass her driving test she would be able to manage both her life and aid her sister better. Enter the boy-next-door, Pete, who offers to help her with driving lessons. Despite being neighbors all their lives May never imagined she would find herself falling for the boy-next-door :)Brookes is the oldest of the trio and an amazing softball player. Brookes turns to her wacky and often barbarian boyfriend, Dave, as a means of coping with her grief. However, she finds herself tangled in his web of eccentric tricks. Inevitably, leaving May to pick up the pieces. Dave’s hold over Brookes increases as she quits the softball team turning to drink, leading to even more trouble.The youngest sister, Palmer, good at sport but emotionally closed off while suffering silently from panic attacks. She has a habit of snoopiong around at home, while her mother is working she comes across something that could alter the happiness of their family. (Cue dramatic music here – you’ll have to read the book to find out what she found and if it altered things for the family).The Key to the Golden Firebird is an emotional character driven story dealing with death, bereavement and grief. Yet, surprisingly there were moments of humor woven through the narrative as well as the thread of hope that things will improve for the Gold family.Overall, The Key to the Golden Firebird is a captivating and lovable book laced with humor and touching incidents.Review by Nell - Year 8From previous novels, ‘The Name of the Star’ and ‘The Last Little Blue Envelope’; New York Times bestseller, Maureen Johnson takes on a new novel called ‘The Key to the Golden Firebird’.When the father of three Gold sisters, Brooks, May and Palmer has an unexpected, fatal death, the girls are anguished. A year on and everything has turned around. May is the middle sister. She is known as the responsible one. She is doing well in school, and has an after school job to raise money for college. But somehow she is still picking up the pieces. Her family is broke and their house is a mess. Her older sister Brooks found a boyfriend, Dave, who she is spending every minute of her free time with. He is being a bad influence on her life, she quits her main devotion, softball, and now drinks all the time. The youngest Palmer has become an unspoken girl and isolates herself from everyone; she likes to keep to herself, and never tells anyone anything about her life. She doesn’t bother anymore and dedicates herself to pitching and watching TV. The three of them can barely cope. May is now trying to learn to drive, she knows it will help the family out a lot, but they just can’t afford lessons. The incredibly annoying neighbour, Pete, offers to teach May, and she feels like the whole universe is colluding against her. The Gold sisters relationships with one another have changed irrevocably, they are all lost completely. Until they find the key, the key to the Golden Firebird.The Key to the Golden Firebird is filled with relatable situations, don’t be deceived by the chick-lit front cover, the three sisters have to deal with death, failure, heartbreak and pressure as they try to make peace with their father’s death. The characters all seemed very real to me and the way they acted throughout the story all seemed very natural. They were funny, engaging, moving and defiantly gripping. Sometimes girlie swirls of excitement, but defiantly read worthy. I would recommend this to young teens that are familiar with Maureen Johnson; otherwise you may find it a bit hard to get into the story at first.

I was of the opinion that YA fiction was in general very sloppy. Between this and the other YA I've read this week, I'm disinclined to alter that opinion. Was this story good? Well, it had elements that were charming - teenagers coming to the realisation that friendship and loveship aren't so widely separated always has the potential to be charming. However, this book sunk under the weight of the Issues it attempted to tackle, not limited to: grief, teenage drinking, sexual awakening, sibling rivalry and poor parenting. Given that it revolved around three viewpoints and had a lot of action, three hundred odd pages - possibly less - were far too few to give them the space and attention they deserved. Had Johnson chosen one protagonist and one Issue, this would have been a very good book. As it is, it's sketchy and weak.(view spoiler)[The character we're supposed to care most about, May, is an almost painful cliche. She's the clever and plain one in a family of beautiful jocks; she goes to a different school because she is just so smart and she's working for a scholarship. I understand that in the States getting into college can be hard, unlike here where you could walk in off the street. If it had been a book about her struggles to attain entrance to a good university I'd have no issue with this part of her character, but it's not. I don't see why she couldn't have been a jock too. There was an attempt to inject realism into her relationship with Pete, in that he slept with other girls while liking her. I applaud this presentation of the reality that when it comes to relationships, people take what they can get, not what they want. But it was never followed up! Instead we get a ridiculous movie-ending about Palmer - dear god what a ridiculous name - committing GBH and coercing her sisters into breaking the law. This was trite and unnecessary. Yet I ordered two more Maureen Johnson books before I realised how short this fell of my expectations; maybe she gets better. Hopefully she gets better. (hide spoiler)]

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Read my full review (with pretty book photography and some more detailed bits!) here.The Key to the Golden Firebird was a lot deeper and more serious than I expected it to be from the cover and my previous experiences with Maureen Johnson’s writing. I went into it blindly, not knowing much about the plot. It was a bit hard to get into, so I’m not sure if that was the best way to read it, but I really started to enjoy it somewhere in the middle.You can really tell that this is Maureen Johnson’s debut novel (published in 2004!). For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much of her dry, subtle humour that her other books (and tweets) do have, so I think she must have developed that, and integrated it into her books, over the course of her writing career.Another big part of the story is May and Pete’s relationship. Pete is their next-door neighbour, son of her father’s best friend, and the sisters’ childhood friend.May needs to learn how to drive but keeps failing her tests, so Pete volunteers to teach her because his family has been very supportive and helpful to the Gold family, especially since the dad died. May and Pete have a kind of love-hate relationship because of their history of playing pranks on each other in their childhood. Throughout the book, May discovers that he really has grown up, and slowly starts falling for him.Overall, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’d recommend this if you like contemporary YA that deals with more than just a romance… or if you want a more specific recommendation: you should read this if you 1) are learning to drive, and/or 2) have ever lost someone close to you.
—Lauren (Lauren Reads YA)

You know how much I love Maureen Johnson. In case you haven't heard me say it before, if you like teen novels, go out and read 13 Little Blue Envelopes.Maureen's novels are funny because she only has one protagonist. Her main girl is always introspective, too-goody-goody-for-her-own-good, but kind of cool anyway. Quiet, but has her noisy moments. Thinks too much. Is too responsible and finds her resolution by letting go and being wild.It's all the same girl. The reason I don't mind so much is because the situations are all so different that if I read them far enough apart, I don't realize how they're all the same person with different names.This book is no exception. May Gold is the middle, responsible sister. Older sister Brooks is irresponsible and admired, younger sister Palmer is a baseball prodigy who doesn't remember to do things like eat. And one year ago, while sitting in the drivers seat of the golden Firebird that he loved so much, their father had a heart attack and died.Now, a year later, the Gold family is falling apart. Brooks is falling in with a bad crowd. Palmer is having anxiety attacks that keep her up all night. And May is shouldering most of the resonsibility for keeping the family afloat as their mother works the night shift.It's a touching book about grieving and moving on and coming together as a family, and liking the people who you can't help but love. Like all of Maureen's books, the writing is excellent, and it has laugh-out-loud moments, and moments that bring tears to my eyes.

I like Maureen Johnson a lot - her characters and stories feel really real and honest (other than that one where jack the ripper comes back as a ghost or something)and all about relationships and families. I didn't like this one quite as much as 13 Little Blue Envelopes or Suite Scarlett but I still really enjoyed reading it. And just in case you want to know what it's about - it tells the story of three sisters coping in the aftermath of their fathers death and their different ways of dealing with it...
—Sian Lile-Pastore

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