The Key to the Golden Firebird

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9780060541385: The Key to the Golden Firebird

The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.

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. Though very different, the Golds are sisters through and through.

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.

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Review:

When Mike Gold has a heart attack and dies in his 1967 Firebird, the car sits in the family garage untouched for a year. May, Brooks, and Palmer Gold--all teenage girls in what May calls the "Tall, Blond, and Wonderful Family"--suffer from neglect as well when their mother goes to work overtime at the hospital to pay the bills. The three girls deal with their father's death in different ways: Brooks quits softball and starts drinking, Palmer ferociously focuses on pitching and TV, hiding her panic attacks from everyone, and May tries to keep the family together. As the family unravels, the Firebird endures. Palmer uses the back seat as a place to escape, Brooks takes it out for a spin when she's drunk (and gets arrested), and for the grand finale, the three girls take the battleship-sized car to Camden Yards to throw their father's ashes on the pitcher's mound. Fortunately, this is the act that allows the girls to start anew, like the phoenix rising.

Readers will appreciate the character of the only really steady force in this novel--the frizzy-haired, wonderfully goofy Pete Camp, May's one-time nemesis who ends up helping out the family and ultimately winning her heart. As engaging, wryly funny, and issue-rich as Ann Brashares's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Maureen Johnson's The Key to the Golden Firebird will no doubt appeal to a similar audience of teens dealing with their budding sexuality, peer pressure, and much, much more. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson

About the Author:

Maureen Johnson grew up in suburban Philadelphia, PA. She studied writing and theatrical dramaturgy at Columbia University, from which she recently received her MFA. She lives with her husband in New York City.

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