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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

The Key to the Golden Firebird

The Key to the Golden Firebird - Maureen Johnson I read this book later in my initial Maureen Johnson splurge, and it’s one that I very quickly fell in love with. It doesn’t actually read like her first book, which is surprising for me, and I recommend this as one to start with when starting Johnson’s books (and I don’t necessarily start reading authors from first book onward).There’s a recurring trend in a lot of YA right now—mostly in the paranormal camp, but it crops in realistic YA frequently—to kill off one or both of the main character’s parents. And the majority of the time, the reader needs to be reminded that “My parent(s) is/are dead!” because apparently, grief is expressed through being bland and the death is so inconsequential to the plot, it needs to be thrown in there for extra angst. This is not that kind of book. After the opening chapter, the plot fast forwards a year after the death of the Gold girls’ father, and we do see them dealing with their own forms of grief. There’s a lot of emotional and financial fallout from this, and the Golds actually deal with it—from forced charity from their neighbors, to people feeling suddenly sorry for meeting any of the girls. It doesn’t feel like forced angst and Johnson really examines the damage from a sudden death.All of the main characters are dealing with their grief and frustrations in their own ways. May has to deal with her litany of chores and work, plus the stress of passing her driver’s exam AND still resentful of how little her sisters contribute. Brooks’s story does fall a little into the after-school special territory, with her DUI, but I still liked her story and how she does try to help May out through an emotional crisis. Palmer’s not as engaging as her older sisters, but she feels like she has the most grief to deal with. And while everyone has to comes to terms with the current situation and try to heal from it, I like that at the end, it feels like nothing’s automatically resolved and the Golds have a long way to go before moving on. The sisters are closer, but they’re still healing emotionally.I wouldn’t say that May is my favorite character, but she’s the one I connected with the most. There’s books where I could relate to the main character, but very few that I can stop and go, “Oh my god, that is my life right there.” May’s one of those characters. For me, personally, I could very easily relate to her frustration surrounding her family, being dumped with a bunch of errands, and her tumultuous relationship with a sports-loving father. There’s a great moment when May finally passes her driver’s test, only to have her mother rattle off a list of chores, and May snaps “Can’t I be normal and celebrate for a second?” This is my life on the page, right there. I’m probably identifying a little too much with her, but because of that personal connection, that’s why I gravitate toward May. This is not slight Brooks and Palmer. Like I said, Palmer’s grief feels the most raw, as she was the closest to her father. It makes a lot of sense that she’s the one who propels most of the healing process—finding her father’s ashes, and suggesting the trip to Camden Yards. And I liked that while Palmer’s thing with her dad was softball and sports, it’s what she uses to deal with her grief. It feels very natural, that Palmer would be so focused on improving her game, it shuts her pain away. And while Brooks delves into after-school special territory, it’s more due to her thinking that she doesn’t have anyone expecting anything of her. I also really like that Brooks and May have a quiet resent towards one another, both thinking that the other sister has it easy—May toward Brooks for being the oldest and doing whatever she wants; and Brooks thinking May gets it easy for going to a better school and getting better college prospects. The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry doesn’t often get into deeper details like this, so I liked that both Brooks and May’s resentments were explored.There are some things that I don’t like about the book. I don’t mind May figuring out that she’s been in love with childhood companion Pete Camp, but I don’t think it’s handled well. I really don’t like that May’s work supervisor, Nell, is thrown in there to make an unnecessary love triangle. And I don’t like Nell’s character in general—she comes off as too much of a hypocritical granola girl for me to consider seriously.That said though, I do really like this book. Even aside from my personal affection for May, it’s just a really good book. It’s one that actually explores a parent’s death and shows the family dealing with it and their respective grief. If you haven’t read this one by now, do so.