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The Key to the Golden Firebird

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  4,459 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews
The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.

Mayzie is the brainy middle sister, Brooks is the beautiful but conflicted oldest, and Palmer's the quirky baby of the family. In spite of their differences, the Gold sisters have always been close.

When their father dies, everything begins to fall apart. Level-headed May is left to fend for herself (and so
Paperback, 297 pages
Published August 2005 by Harper Collins (first published January 1st 2004)
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Aug 17, 2007 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen
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
Oct 19, 2007 stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 02, 2007 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Sarah Dessen, baseball fans
Shelves: teen, realistic, american, 21c
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.
Ellie Marney
Sep 07, 2013 Ellie Marney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
May 06, 2014 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guest-reviews
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
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 hear ...more
Allie Tooley
Mar 24, 2015 Allie Tooley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As an adorer of Johnson's writing style and quick-witted plots and humor, I was greatly disappointed by this book. It physically pained me to read it. I was so thoroughly angry at each sister's actions and reactions that I only forced my way through it for hope it would get better.

Yes, I recognize that this was largely the point, to point out the "realities of trauma and loss" and all that jazz. I appreciate that and could see that was what was being portrayed. Yet there comes a point in which
Mrs. S
May 05, 2013 Mrs. S rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I am always surprised at the amount of heart and sincerity in Maureen Johnson's books. Her online persona is so goofy and occasionally diabolical, and her books are so funny, that when I get to the end and I'm genuinely touched--as I always am--it startles me a little. This one was no exception. The Gold sisters--Brooks, May, and Palmer--are utterly lovable. They are each so broken up over their father's death, each in their own way. The shifting perspective gives us glimpses into each sister's ...more
Elspeth LaMorte
Nov 24, 2014 Elspeth LaMorte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-contemporary
My favourite thing about Maureen's books is that the focus is never between protagonist and love interest. This book, for example, is all about three sisters. I originally marked it as tree stars but then I read some one and two star reviews that had issues with things in the book that weren't issues at all so I bumped it up to four. My favourite Maureen book is probably still Suite Scarlett but I did enjoy reading this.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Nov 27, 2013 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
I like Maureen Johnson a lot - her characters and stories feel really real and honest (other than that one where jack the ripper comes back as a ghost or something)and all about relationships and families. I didn't like this one quite as much as 13 Little Blue Envelopes or Suite Scarlett but I still really enjoyed reading it. And just in case you want to know what it's about - it tells the story of three sisters coping in the aftermath of their fathers death and their different ways of dealing w ...more
Mar 16, 2013 7706cloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jackie Bletsch
In this book the 3 sisters loose someone very special to them and have to learn to survive on their own with their mother who works quite a lot! The 3 girls have very different personalities one who is very quiet and shy and another one who is ruled by her boyfriend and the last one who I think is most like me and i can relate most to, Palmer she is a lazy yet athletic girl just like me. When Palmer isn't out playing soccer she is home watching tv on the couch eating chips and donuts. I know how ...more
Juniper Shore
This is basically a womens' bookclub book, only it's for teens. There are deep-seated family issues and a lot of interpersonal conflict while the plot glides majestically (and very slowly) in the background. There are numerous events, but they're not strung together in a way that builds tension. Instead, the focus is on the characters, particularly the character of the middle sister, Mayzie.

It isn't a bad book, but it isn't wonderful, either, mainly because Mayzie is a chronic whiner. Okay, this
Nov 10, 2014 Gabi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Yet another procrastination read.

I know. I have a problem.

Throughout this book, I felt like I was listening to a toddler explaining some elaborate dollhouse story, brandishing the dolls by their feet as visual aides.

"This is May, she's the responsible one...."


"This is her sister, she has panic attacks. And this is her other sister. She drinks a lot. And she's all lazy and stuff."


"This is the daddy. He's dead now."


"And he's the neighbor. He follows May around. And he's go
Aug 21, 2014 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meh, romance, young-adult
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
Will Redd
Mar 24, 2015 Will Redd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maureen has been one of my favorite contemporary authors since I first read 13 Little Blue Envelopes several years ago. The reason i even found out about her was because of her friendship with John Green and her participation as "Secret Sister Maureen" in the original Brotherhood 2.0 videos. I'm so glad for those videos because not only did they bring about an awesome community, they helped introduce me to two of my favorite writers.

This was, I believe, the second book of Maureen's I ever picked
Candy Ikwu
Aug 15, 2014 Candy Ikwu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
“In fact, May didn’t have to say anything at all to her mother’s request because her answer would always be yes. There was no room to say no anymore.” p. 29

I found Maureen Johnson through Twitter. I don’t post there, but I do follow some people and one of them quoted Johnson. It was interesting enough to send me scurrying to my library catalog to see what books were available. I decided her first novel was a good place to start. (Of course, I need another source of reading material, like I need
This book follows May, Brooks, and Palmer Gold as they struggle to come to terms with their father's death. May, the middle child, is forced into the role of "responsible" daughter and has to pick up the slack left by Brooks, her older sister. While May struggles with her huge load of responsibility and her budding romance with Pete, the neighbor boy, Brooks tries to drown her feelings in partying, and Palmer tries to deal with her anxiety problems on her own. The story shows how each of the thr ...more
Aug 09, 2008 Lora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult-lit
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 it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends, any girl who loves chick-lit
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 Batykefer
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
Kymberly Couch
May 09, 2011 Kymberly Couch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very cleverly written! I expected a bit more madness from Maureen, but I certainly was not disappointed in any way.
And that plot drop at the beginning.... Thank God I didn't read the back of the book! I wish they hadn't put it on the back so then everyone will be as shocked as the girls at what happened.
Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
I'm a big Maureen Johnson fan, but this one didn't do it for me. It was kind of dull, and lacked the originality that her more recent books have. This one just felt really long and whiney. I didn't like it so much, but I love her other books.
Jul 05, 2014 Hermioneginny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 16, 2014 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 12, 2016 Minn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maureen Johnson is a great writer - authentic, without dragging it to extremities, her characters feel real and understandable. That's something that might be hard to avoid when you're writing about the death of a family member, but how the Gold sisters deal the loss of their father and the fact that the world is still going on around them was beautifully handled.

Johnson doesn't dwell on the death itself but the impact and how it floods all corners of their lives - for May, wondering why she al
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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 about Maureen Johnson...

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“The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.” 105 likes
“Lecturing Brooks was as useful as lecturing a cat.” 18 likes
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