Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are as much a part of Parker’s town as any of the buildings. Once they were the golden couple of the local high school with everything ahead of them. Now they’ve been dead ten years leaving nothing behind but a crashed car. No one really knows what happened to them; no bodies were ever found and no one knows what caused that fatal accident even if everyone still wonders.
With a path to a full scholarship to Stanford followed med school and a successful life laid out for her, now is not the time for Parker to stumble. But when the key to the mystery surrounding Julianna and Shane all but throws itself at her, Parker has a hard time paying attention to the road she’s supposed to travel in Golden (2013) by Jessi Kirby.
Golden is Kirby’s third novel.
A funny thing happens sometimes with books. Sometimes everyone, almost universally, can love that book while you are sitting down, reading that book, and wondering what you missed. That, unfortunately happened with this book. (It actually happened with several books over the past couple of months.) Part of the problem here was absolutely me. I read Golden the week my mom had her brain surgery and this book wasn’t what I needed at the time. I’m not sure any book would have stood up to the scrutiny this one got while I waited twelve hours for news. That’s how it happens sometimes.
Kirby is good at what she does. Like her debut Moonglass, Golden is a story about a complicated family and a girl who feels apart in a town where everyone knows her. Parker is a narrator that a lot of readers will recognize and identify with. She’s the girl who always does the right thing and never takes a risk; she’s the girl who, at the end of high school, is wondering if all that caution was really worth it.
Kirby expertly captures the claustrophobia and unpredictability that surround life changes–especially graduating high school. Although I took very strong issue with how Parker handles (read: throws away) her chances at a full scholarship to a great school* I do think Parker is a strong point in this story. She is real and whether or not she is related to Robert Frost she was a decent character to travel follow through this book.
The problem is that for all its talk in the plot summary, Golden isn’t really a book about Parker Frost. Parker is essentially just a framing story for the mystery that unfolds surrounding Julianna Cruz and Shane Farnetti.
Golden is strongest in the beginning and the final chapters. In between what we have is a draggy story told in journal entries as Parker learns that the alleged golden couple of her town were really anything but.
A lot of time is spent with both Julianna and Parker wondering what they will do with their one “wild and precious” life (that quote is a key plot point). And many of the high school experiences rang true. Still, this story never came together for me as anything more than a frustrating read. Part of that, I am absolutely sure, is because I wasn’t in a good place while I was reading and there was too much other stuff taking up head space. Part of the problem might also been that, for better or worse, a lot of the big choices in my life are made and I’m on this road wherever it leads for the next while.
Golden is an interesting book and another solid if not (to me) exceptional read from a competent author. If you can get past the obvious framing structure and the frustrations I outlined here it might be more of a winner for you than it was for me.
*I also needed a full scholarship to get to college. Which I happily did get. I find it hard to believe anyone who wants to go to college so badly would throw that chance away just to see what comes next. This is what changing majors was designed for people!
Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten