Parker Frost is about to be the valedictorian of her high school, and she’s played it safe her entire life. When she ends up with the task of sending out journals to seniors who graduated ten years ago, she discovers that she has a chance for some rare insight into a town mystery about star-crossed lovers. Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz were remembered as the golden couple of their high school before the car accident that ended their young lives. But when Parker starts reading, she starts to realize that there might be more to the story than she ever thought possible. Through Julianna’s journal, she starts to really live her own life.
Jessi Kirby’s latest offering helps to cement her as one of the contemporary YA authors worth rooting for. Her novels feature protagonists who are authentic, flawed, and absolutely compelling. Golden is a contemplative, inspirational novel that offers readers a different take on the well-traveled YA romance tropes. Absolutely satisfying, this one should work for readers who like their stories firmly mired in strong characters and a compelling (but not fast-paced) narrative.
Rich characterization adds to this story. Parker is a well-developed narrator whose safe little world starts to expand as she discovers just how much she might be missing out on by playing the good girl. A funny, well-developed best friend helps round out Parker’s personality, and other strong secondary characters make the cast of the novel all the more appealing. There’s a slightly underdeveloped plot with Parker’s mom, but with everything else going on in the story, this is forgivable.
A dash of mystery and a small romance round out this story nicely. Readers are likely to become as ensconced in the mystery of Julianna as Parker is, and while some readers will likely figure it out long before Parker does, the journey is still a lot of fun. Kirby doesn’t provide her readers with any easy answers, which makes this all the more satisfying.
A warm, thoughtful read. This one will work for fans of Sarah Dessen (especially her earlier works). Recommended.
Golden by Jessi Kirby. Simon & Shuster BFYR: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.