This month’s Reading Mutiny topic is ADVENTURE, and as I sit down to write this review, I can’t help thinking about the greatest adventure each of us will ever encounter: LIFE. Jessi Kirby uses the following quote as a springboard for main character Parker Frost’s exploration of her own existence in Golden:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver
This not only gives Parker a sense of urgency to figure it all out and fast, but it becomes something of a mantra as the story progresses. But before I babble any further about this wonderful book, here’s the Goodreads synopsis for Jessi Kirby's Golden:
“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 long-time 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.”
Did I mention there are snippets from Robert Frost poems as the prelude to every chapter? This was probably one of the parts of the book I most looked forward to. And while it may seem cliché to say so, I loved the “road less traveled” flavor of the story. That said, my favorite aspect of Golden had to be the way that Parker’s struggle to figure out what she wants from life really resonated with me.
When you’re about to graduate from high school like Parker is, your whole life lies before you, exciting albeit a bit terrifying. There’s nothing you can’t do, and you’re eager to get doing whatever that is. But at some point, a few or several years down the road, many of us turn to that life before us and it feels somehow less exhilarating and more like a gaping void ready to swallow us whole. Because life doesn’t always turn out the way you expected it to—which isn't necessarily a bad thing—and each and every day brings more questions than answers.
At one point in the story, Parker reflects on her own life, and I had to stop and reread these thoughts over and over again. It was like Jessi Kirby read my mind and put it in print. It felt like the exact same doubts that plague me every day even as a thirty-something adult:
“Of course things change, that’s a given. I’ve spent the last four years of my life working and waiting for them to change. Always waiting for the next thing—to graduate, to leave town, to go to college. And it’s felt like an eternity. Time goes by slowly when you spend it waiting. But now, all of a sudden, it feels like everything has sped up. Or like it’s actually been flying by this whole time, and I’ve been too busy waiting to see what was happening all around me. Now I don’t know if it’s too late to try.” (p. 197)
How many of us have been so busy fretting, planning, and waiting for the next thing ahead, only to have it pass and leave us wondering, “What now?” Life flies by at breakneck speed and we don’t know where the last five, ten years went. What happens when there aren’t really any big ‘next things’ on the horizon? What then? What do we want to do with this one life we’ve been given?*
Something. Everything. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Parker’s journey struck a chord with me, and I’ve been thinking about this book and its themes ever since. The feeling of suffocation under everyone’s expectations of her and this all-consuming fear that she’d never figure out what she was supposed to do with her life—all of it felt familiar, like reading my own story. The characters are engaging, the story is captivating, and the romance simple but heart-warming. Golden is a finding yourself contemporary complete with mystery and swoon that will leave you asking yourself the same big questions about life, the greatest adventure there is.
* Assuming you don’t ascribe to beliefs in reincarnation, of course. I don’t.