I really wish The Key to the Golden Firebird had not sat on my TBR pile so long, collecting dust and sobbing to itself because it still hasn’t been read. In other words: I wish I had read this book sooner. Ditto to the rest of Maureen Johnson’s books.
When their father dies, the Gold sisters’ lives change irrevocably. The Key to the Golden Firebird follows the lives of May, Brooks and Palmer after the months following their father’s death. Brooks is on a slippery slope, falling apart inside; Palmer has changed a lot; and all May wants to do is keep the family together and pass her driving test.
I love how the novel followed the lives of all three girls and was written in third person to make this a lot easier. I wasn’t expecting it so it was a nice surprise and I grew to love all three of them. They all had their individual personalities and they all felt separate from each other: one of the things I was most worried about was whether I would be able to distinguish a difference between the three.
May was very much the character we saw the most out of the three. She is the middle sister, but she’s the one holding the fragile pieces of her family together. Their mother works nights and May has to work to bring some income into the family, both her other sisters being busy with softball practice. I loved reading about her relationship with Pete as it grew because it turned out to be so cute and sweet. I love relationships that come from nowhere and then blossom.
I could understand Brooks so well. Okay, so maybe not the whole drinking and going off the rails part, but I know how grief can change you and how you may want to feel different or act out. For me, when dealing with grief, I went into my little shell and didn’t want to come out. For Brooks, it was the complete opposite. Throughout her acting out, I still felt like we got to know the real her and Johnson has written her character so well and so deeply.
I had a really big soft spot for Palmer. She was kind of ignored by everyone and I just wanted to give her a big hug. Of the three sisters, I felt like Palmer matured the most throughout the book and I loved the few chapters towards the end of the book when we really saw her merge from her shell and do something out of character. I want her to be my sister!
There’s not one main plot you can pinpoint throughout the book but instead it mainly deals with the Gold family dealing with the unexpected death. There are lots of different, smaller plots though and there aren’t any bored moments where you can’t be bothered to read anymore because nothing is going on.
I loved the normality of The Key to the Golden Firebird and how I could imagine myself as anyone of the characters and feel very happy. Johnson deals with the subject of death in an emotional but realistic way, whilst creating a world I want to be a part of.