Book Review

REVIEW: The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson

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.

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  • Reply
    Nova Lee @ Musings of a Blogder
    9 December, 2013 at 2:04 am

    YAY! I love that you enjoyed this. I haven’t read it, but it looks cool. That cover looks so different and eyecatching.

    I love how you had a connection with the characters and I’m hoping that if I read it, the same’ll happen to me. WHee!

    – Nova
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  • Reply
    Maya @ The Book Nook
    9 December, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Ooh, love that cover! I have the same in pink, but I think I prefer the blue… Glad you enjoyed this! I really like Maureen Johnson’s books, although I’ve only read two of them (this and 13 Little Blue Envelopes). I’ll definitely be checking out her other books soon, great review!
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  • Reply
    Sara O'Connor
    9 December, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Thank you for the lovely review! So glad you enjoyed it, and that it’s helped you realise that MJ should be moving up those TBR piles.

    @Maya: We had a lot of fun designing that cover – and then redesigning it with the different colour.

    The first printing was the pink jacket, but then we worried that it was too soft/pastel, which this story isn’t. So, we went for the stronger blue.

  • Reply
    Sarah @ TotalTeenFiction
    9 December, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this for a while because a) it’s MJ and b) it’s about sisters and your review has convinced me even more! I love books with relatable characters so it sounds perfect for me. Bumping it to the top of my wishlist 😀
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  • Reply
    Rachel @ Read. Write. Ramble.
    9 December, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I’m so happy you enjoyed this! I’m a huge fan of Maureen Johnson, and I especially love this book. I actually just convinced my mom to start reading this, and she loves it so far. I love recommending this to friends and family because it’s a lesser known book that’s so good.
    Excellent review, Lucy! 😀

  • Reply
    Rebekah@The Reflections of a Bookworm
    9 December, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Yaaaaaay! Glad to see you enjoyed it 😀 Love some of Maureen’s work and she’s pretty zany so thanks for throwing it onto my radar!
    So happy to see that you enjoyed third person and it didn’t take away from the personalities of the characters.
    Great review, Luce!
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  • Reply
    Georgia Walters
    10 December, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Loved this review! TKTTGF looks like such an amazing book. And I’m really tempted to buy it, also because of that pretty cover! I agree with Maya- I do prefer the blue cover, I think.
    Maybe I should get it asap now. Your review made it sound so much more awesome than it already did! 🙂

    Oh, also, I’m adding your new button to my sidebar right now, as I forgot to 😛

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  • Reply
    Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life
    10 December, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Aww, this really seems like such a fun book! I am so excited to read it now. I’ve been meaning to read a Maureen Johnson book for FOREVER now, and I am seriously loving the sound of this one, especially because these days, all I want to do is get my driver’s license as well. 😉 It’s so awesome how this story follows all 3 girls, and how you managed to love all 3 despite how different each is. I think I would be able to relate to May really well, and at least understand Brooke’s actions, despite her acting out and all. The romance sounds so sweet as well! <3 I also love those romances that come out of nowhere and then really develop. =)

    Lovely review, Lucy! <3
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  • Reply
    10 December, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    I really need to read this! I read Suite Scarlett and was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. I can’t wait for Scarlet Fever. I *may* be getting this one for Christmas, so I’ll definitely be picking it up then. Glad you loved it so much Lucy (and be sure to check out Suite Scarlett 😉 )

    Cait x
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