Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: The Key to the Golden Firebird

The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: I love Maureen Johnson!; February author birthday for the Four Month Challenge and also for the Colourful Challenge

Description: "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...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."

First line: "Chome on," Palmer said, her words dulled from numb-tongue syndrome caused by the Icee she was slurping. "You haff to admit it wash funny."

My thoughts: This is definitely not my favourite Maureen Johnson book. I think that's still 13 Little Blue Envelopes. But it's still a good book. The reason I had put off reading it is that I (correctly) assumed that the death of a parent was going to cast a pretty big pall over the usual Johnson crazy-funny, and I was right. But that's not entirely a bad thing, it just makes it a different kind of book. It was really sad to see the way the Gold women completely fell apart. I felt sorriest for the girls, though, because even though I know the mother was suffering, too, she's the adult in the situation. But, of course, she had to support the whole family, so she ended up dumping most things on May and can't see that her one daughter is a drunk and the other has panic attacks so bad she never sleeps. But sweet Peter, who is definitely not May's childhood nemesis any more, continually steps in to save the day, so he's a real bright spot in the book. And there's definitely lots of Johnson's trademark humour, especially at the beginning (a plot to get naked photos of Peter) and the end (a highly illegal but wonderful stunt at a baseball game). By the end, the sisters have started to heal both themselves and their relationship with each other. And the Golden Firebird provides a nice link to their father - each girl has different memories of spending time in the car with him. And May's attempts at driving it are also humour high spots.

The verdict: This definitely feels like the earlier work that it is, but for a fairly quick read about an interesting trio of sisters, it's worth a look.


Coffeegrljapan said...

I love Maureen Johnson. I haven't read this one yet. I'm currently listening to Suite Scarlett on audio and enjoying it!

Becca said...

I haven't read Maureen Johnson yet, so I can't make a comparison between books. But, I think the death of a father would be a big impact on sisters. It kind of reminds me of my own family. Except we were all a bit older. The last year was absolutely uncharacteristic of all 3 of us as we dealt with the death of our father. Interesting.

Sammy1435 said...

I didn't like this book that much either. I did like Girl at Sea, which is by her too. You should read that book if you like Maureen Johnson.