The Key to the Golden Firebird
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The Key to the Golden Firebird

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  3,735 ratings  ·  251 reviews
As three teenaged sisters struggle to cope with their father's sudden death, they find they must reexamine friendships, lifelong dreams, and their relationships with each other and their father.
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Community Reviews

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You know how much I love Maureen Johnson. In case you haven't heard me say it before, if you like teen novels, go out and read 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

Maureen's novels are funny because she only has one protagonist. Her main girl is always introspective, too-goody-goody-for-her-own-good, but kind of cool anyway. Quiet, but has her noisy moments. Thinks too much. Is too responsible and finds her resolution by letting go and being wild.

It's all the same girl. The reason I don't mind so much is be...more
i think i liked this best, so far, of marueen johnson, though i can't quite put my finger on why. i love the relationship of the sisters, and while i wish the focus wasn't so much on may, i therefore loved whenever the others came in. poor brooks, i really wish she had her own story. and i think i want to be palmer. palmer is my hero.

maybe there was a bit of projective identification going on as well - two of my sisters play softball (one with complete passion, one more just because) and i'm t...more
Book Angel Emma
Review by Kate - Year 8

Life has not been the same for the Gold sisters; May, Brooks and Palmer since the sudden death of their father. Their mother’s depression means they are left to cope alone, especially as she works night shifts in order to support the family.

The third person narrative allows insight and focus on all the different characters and makes it easier to follow along with the story. Each sister has her own unique way of dealing with her grief. While they are all very different pers...more
Jul 02, 2007 Joy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Sarah Dessen, baseball fans
Shelves: teen, realistic, 21c, american
Don't be deceived by the misleadingly chick-lit cover. Three sisters cope with the death of their father in this teen novel set in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Recurring themes: baseball and softball, and the titular Pontiac Firebird. This novel gets extra points for not being gratuitously depressing; in fact, it's often gently comic. And the characterization is moving and authentic.
Stacey (prettybooks)
After reading and thoroughly enjoying Suite Scarlett , I was very much looking forward to picking up Maureen Johnson's other novels, so I went for The Key to the Golden Firebird, which is very much in the same vein as Suite Scarlett. Maureen Johnson has a brilliant way of showing just how complicated family dynamics can be. The Key to the Golden Firebird starts with describing the heart-warming, close relationship that the Gold sisters have with their father, but then he dies from a sudden heart...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ellie Marney
I confess now that I LOVE Maureen Johnson's writing. Everything she writes has this incredible can't-put-your-finger-on-it luminous quality, and I think it's because she allows the characters to be themselves. She doesn't seek out the dramatic high-point, or display the pivotal apex of the scene - it's as if she shows you the bright self-aware moments on either side of the drama, and because they're not the 'sound-bite/tv scene' moments, they're so much more real. She doesn't automatically follo...more
The Key to the Golden Firebird is about three sisters, Brooks, May and Palmer. Their father has dies near the story's beginning, and the rest of the book takes place roughly a year later, as the girls are trying to come to terms with their father's death and find a way to move on.

The main protagonist of The Golden Firebird is May, the responsible middle sister. She and her sisters appear to have been close until the death of their father, as the book opens with the three playing a practical joke...more
this book was amazing!
it is about a girl named Mayzie (aka May) and her father dies from bad health. May's family is a huge fan of baseball, especially her dad. in the story, her family struggles with getting over the death, trying to get good grades, making some money and May deals with a little romance when her close friend and neighbor gives her driving lessons.
i loved this book because it brought so many emotions to me and it sometimes made my heart skip a beat. i couldn't put the book down....more
I was of the opinion that YA fiction was in general very sloppy. Between this and the other YA I've read this week, I'm disinclined to alter that opinion. Was this story good? Well, it had elements that were charming - teenagers coming to the realisation that friendship and loveship aren't so widely separated always has the potential to be charming. However, this book sunk under the weight of the Issues it attempted to tackle, not limited to: grief, teenage drinking, sexual awakening, sibling ri...more
Jessica Harmon
I don't want to give away all of my vlog review ideas here, but here are the important bits of my thoughts about The Key to the Golden Firebird. First, this book felt very different from the other Maureen Johnson books I've read. Not worse, really, just less of the hilarious optimism in the face of ridiculous situations. This book was definitely at least as sad as I was expecting from a book where a parent dies. I think that made it difficult to read. When you are portraying real grief, you can'...more
The Key to the Golden Firebird is a family saga about the Gold sisters, May (the main character), Brooks, the older sister, and Palmer, the youngest sister. The bulk of the story line is set a year after the sudden death of their father, and how they are all still very much reverberating from his death and dealing with it in their own individual, slightly unhealthy and ultimately incredibly lonely ways. May is desperate to pass her driving test, as it will serve as a pick me up and she can help...more
This is the first Maureen Johnson book I've read, and I have to say I really liked it. It did read like a lot of YA lit for girls, but I think that's what its purpose is. The main characters were all girls searching for themselves after the loss of their father. It had a nice sports angle and it really dealt with the sisterly relationship well. However, it really would be enjoyed most by fans of YA lit only.
Apr 20, 2008 Jerrica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: friends, any girl who loves chick-lit
Shelves: favorites
This book is really good, especially if you've read other Maureen Johnson books. Maureen really helps you understand each one of the characters. You can't help but hate Brooks for being so forgetful, but you also have sympathy for her later in the book. Each one of the characters has a distinct personality, May's shyness, Palmer's determination, and Brook's independence. It's a really good book!
Erinn Paige
I loved everything about this and read it at speed, over the course of two marathon sessions. The interaction between the three Gold sisters was spot on-- they each had very clear personalities from the start, but you could see how they were sisters, too. The opening chapter was also instructive from a writing perspective-- start with something both hilarious and telling, and start with action, action, action involving all the main players.

The story isn't perfect. There are one or two holes I n...more
Mayze è un'adolescente che ama lo studio. Poi ci sono Brooks, che ama lo sport e i ragazzi sbagliati; e Palmer, che vive per il softball. Quando il padre muore all'improvviso, le loro vite vanno in pezzi: May deve avere buoni voti, lavorare ma non riesce a prendere la patente, Brooks abbandona lo sport a favore di alcol e Dave, Palmer gioca a softball e nasconde gli attacchi di panico, mentre la madre lavora di notte per guadagnare di più. Le sorelle fanno vite separate, ma si accorgeranno che s...more
Morgan F
3.5 stars. I liked it, but it doesn't stand out.
This is the only book I have read from this author but I think I can say that I like her style of writing. I bought this book to read during a vacation when I was about 12 or 13 and I can't even remember anymore how many times I've read it again afterwards. I wasn't expecting too much from this book but it really surprised me. The story is very deep and real, in my opinion the cover art is a bit misleading. Even now after not having read this book for a while I find myself thinking about it from...more
This book is about the three Gold sisters, Brooks - 17, May - 16, and Palmer - 14, a year after their father died of a heart attack in his beloved golden Firebird car on a beautiful summer afternoon. All three girls are struggling to adjust to their changed family and deal with their emotions. The story is told primarily from the POV of May, who is a short, intellectual redhead in a family of tall blonde jocks, although some parts are seen through Brooks' and Palmer's eyes. At the beginning of t...more
Lucy (Queen of Contemporary)
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; Palm...more
Full review at

Summary: After their father’s heart attack, their mom starts working overtime and it’s up to the three Gold sisters—May, Palmer, and Brooks—to pull through it on their own.

Review: This story is about how grief can turn you into a zombie. And Johnson’s humor was the perfect way to temper the heavy topic.

Although I’m not usually a fan of alternating points of view, it worked for me in this story because a common grief united the three girls.

I really loved this novel about coming of age, coming to terms with grief, growing up, & of course one amazing car. The Gold sisters' journey through the grieving process following the unexpected death of their father feels very real & is very affecting. Told in the third person but mainly from the viewpoint of well-behaved middle sister May, we see her struggling to keep her family together as the loss causes her mother's work hours to increase & older sister Brooks & younger si...more
Mar 05, 2011 Jay-wa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I would not like to make this uber specific, but any one who breathes would be good.
Recommended to Jay-wa by: No one.
This book is about self-discovery, which is such a beautiful and twisted thing, but it's also about family ties and what it takes to want to keep those ties as they start to deteriorate. This book is full of realistic things, things that happen in teen life which I'm guessing is what makes it so great.

The Gold sisters lost their father a year ago, but no one is really over it yet. Brooks, the oldest sister, takes the key off the key holder, breaks the magikal boundary around the car,(the Golden...more
The Key to the Golden Firebird was a quick read, but it hooked me, like all of Johnson's books have so far. I knew, logically, that it was 1:00 in the morning, but I also knew that I wasn't going to stop reading until I was done.

Mayzie's world falls apart when her father dies. Brooks starts hanging out with a bad crowd, drinking and quitting the softball team that would have guaranteed her a college scholarship. Palmer starts having panic attacks in the middle of the night. Mayzie is the center...more
Anna Motteler
I was a little hesitant about this book at first because whenever I got it at the library it had a sports sticker on it, and I'm not a big fan of reading about sports. But once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. The story line was really addicting. May, Brooks, and Palmer are all sisters and they lost their father to a heart attack. May is the bookworm, Brooks was the amazing softball player and Palmer was the one following in Brooks footsteps. Their neighbor Pete obviously is crushing on Ma...more
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson was an incredible story of love, loss, friendship, and family. The three Gold sisters, Brooks, May, and Palm, have suffered through the loss of their father and have each responded in completely different ways. Johnson focuses on May’s side of the story, but with hers you learn a lot about Brooks, the older sister who has become wild, and Palm, the younger sister who has become a very intense pitcher.

Ever since her father’s death, everything in...more
Michelle (Much Loved Books)
I have read a few of Maureen's other books so I already know I like her style of writing. When I got the chance to review The Key to the Golden Firebird it was an instant yes.
Brooks, May and Palmer are sisters, the beginning ofThe Key to the Golden Firebirdshows us the type of relationship they have as they tag team Pete in order to prank him and get him back for pranks he ha carried out on May. They are happy and carefree until they go home to discover their father has died of a heart attack. A...more
Jodi Papazian
I loved this story. It was such a quick and engaging read that I put it down only long enough to eat dinner and even then my eyes kept drifting back to the page.
May, Brooks and Palmer come home one day to find an ambulance at their house. The unthinkable has happened - their father has died suddenly of a heart attack as he was pulling into the garage in his beloved Firebird. The story next picks up about a year later and the girls are all a mess trying to deal with their pain. Palmer suffers f...more
Charlotte Jones
From the very first page of this book, I was hooked. I knew from the synopsis on the back that this wouldn’t start out as a happy contemporary due to the death of the protagonist May’s father, but I didn’t expect it to have as much of Maureen Johnson’s usual witty humour and quirky characters.
May, Palmer and Brooks, from the beginning, seem to have very different personalities and deal with their father’s death in very different ways which makes them more individual to the reader, distinguishin...more
Very enjoyable and witty, a nice fast-paced read that I didn't want to put down, but compared with Maureen Johnson's other books it just wasn't up there as a huge favourite. I guess because some of her other ones are just SO ABSOLUTELY AWESOME and this kind of felt like an earlier one where she just hadn't quite found her stride yet or something. I absolutely love her narration though and how she always has me laughing out loud every few pages at some observation or other... just the way she tel...more
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Maureen knew from an early age she wanted to be a writer. She went to high school at an all-girls' Catholic school and graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in writing. She now lives and writes in New York City.

Many of the adventures Maureen's characters face in her books are based on real-life stories. Maureen has traveled all over Europe, and is a Secret Sister to vlog brothers Han...more
More about Maureen Johnson...
13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1) The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1) The Last Little Blue Envelope (Little Blue Envelope, #2) Suite Scarlett (Scarlett, #1) The Bermudez Triangle

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“The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.” 105 likes
“You should really, like, dump her and date me instead,' May heard herself saying, all confidence. 'I'm not as irritating. I mean, I'm irritating, but I'm not as bad as she is. And you know me better. Wouldn't that be funny? I mean, we've already hooked up, so we're good.'

We broke up,' Pete said quickly. His voice was so bright that May could hear the smile coming through. For a moment she was confused.

Who, you and me?'

No. Nell and i.'

Oh . . .'

The meter in her brain clicked once or twice, signaling May that she'd probably said enough.

I have to go,' she said suddenly. 'Okay? I think that's great. Cool. Okay. Gotta go now. Hey, Pete, I love you!”
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