Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 14th, 2013
Genres: mystery-thriller, young adult
Buy on Amazon
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.
Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.
Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.
Everyone ranted and raved about this novel when it came out. So naturally, I ran the other way when the book hit the shelves. My heart slowly turned the other way when people I trusted reviewed this book with some positive feedback. It was time to wade through the hype and give Golden a chance to shine.
Golden was true to its name – a bright, and sometimes costly, lesson on being honest to yourself and about the life you want to lead.
Characters. The novel tended to be geared towards the philosophy of “live your life,” which caused the characters development to take a backseat, resulting in a little flatter than usual role for them cast. There is the bad-girl best friend, love ppotential and the shy main character who is living a lie to please others. This would have quickly turned me away from the book if I wasn’t so vested in the story.
Parker is a back-seat, no-nonsense, live-to please others type of girl, one that I could identify with immediately. One thing I love about YA is that the character personality range. Parker was me in high school, with less brains and a lot less sense, so seeing my own highly unpopular category represented was awesome. I also really enjoyed how the whole mystery fell into Parker’s lap, and if I can be honest here, I would have made the same choices as her.
Mystery Machine. Most mysteries seem to have a gloomy or dark atmosphere, but Golden seemed to sidestep this plan and made a higher, more summer-orientated mystery. Watching all of the pieces fall into place for the bigger picture, and the smaller picture surrounding Parker, made the entire book more open to people who tend to avoid the entire genre of mystery-thrillers.
The backstory surrounding the questions in the novel is certainly addictive. The mythology created by Kirby behind the love story and the two star-crossed lovers is beautifully constructed, delving into the mentality of Small Spaces, USA, and also enforcing how most urban legends take rumors and gossip as gospel truth. This was a nice inside glance into the culture of small-town dwellings.
Choices. The major theme that held the story together centered around the idea of choices, and how one decision can create dissonance further down in life. The major twist in the story used this theme, which strikes a chord with Parker, who absorbs how today’s choices can either make or break you down the road. Kudos for taking the meat of the story and allowing the side story to stew in the same sauce. What can I say – I love a good reoccurring theme.
Expect a Bit of Cheese. Yes, this book has a trace of Lifetime movie in the bloodline. It is going to ruin the book? No. Did it make the book a bit weaker? I certainly thought so.
Barns created a moving and very touching novel through the use of poetry (Robert Frost, of course) and urban myths to build her too-real mystery story. Each of her characters are tied together by her choice topic, and watching Parker blossom out of her protective cocoon surrounding herself made the book a delight to devour.