Golden: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Golden by Jessi KirbyParker Frost knows exactly what her future holds. It definitely doesn’t include any detours onto roads less traveled. If Parker’s mother has her way, it won’t include anything poetic at all.

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

Moonglass: A Review

“I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now I’ve thought maybe my mother drowned in both.”

Moonglass by Jessi KirbyTen years ago Anna watched her mother walk into the ocean without a second thought about anything–even her own daughter.

Now instead of starting her Junior year at home surrounded by familiar faces and memories, Anna is moving with her father to a new town and a new beach. Except, the beach cottage isn’t as fresh a start as Anna thought.

Sure, Anna does get a fresh start here with the cute lifeguards her father has declared off limits, runs along the beach, and even some new friends. But she is also surrounded by old ghosts and the weight of blame from her mother’s suicide still looms large between Anna and her father.

In a new town, with new people, Anna still hunts for sea glass on the beach–just like she did with her mother. The only differences is this time Anna might find a way to move on mixed in with those colorful pieces of sea-tumbled glass in Moonglass (2011) by Jessi Kirby.

Moonglass is Kirby’s first novel.

Anna is an excellent narrator. She loves the beach, she is athletic and above all she is ultimately real. Parts of the story felt almost too surreal but by the end of the story it all tied together in a way that worked for the characters and the plot. Kirby does an admirable job looking at loss and the often uncomfortable topic of guilt. All of the characters have a certain dignity about them and, by the end, they also have a bit of closure.

At 224 pages (hardcover), Moonglass is quite short compared to some books. The brevity allows Kirby to create a tight story that holds a reader’s attention even in a book that is much more about characters than plot in a lot of ways. Unfortunately it also does not leave time to expand certain areas including an almost abrupt (and definitely wide open) ending and backgrounds for some secondary characters.

Kirby’s writing is reminiscent of the evocative, subtle voice Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti use to such great effect. Her atmospheric writing brings the beach to life. Moonglass is a great, summery read with a lot of substance besides. Kirby is definitely an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: This is more of a buyer beware. I got a copy of this book for review through Amazon and was enjoying it when, much to my dismay, I reached the halfway point and found half a page torn out. So, you know, don’t forget to make sure all of a the book is actually in the book before you start reading it!