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The Key to the Golden Firebird

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  4,774 Ratings  ·  281 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 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 16, 2007 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.
Ellie Marney
Sep 07, 2013 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
Jun 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 06, 2014 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
Mrs. S
May 05, 2013 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
Sian Lile-Pastore
Nov 24, 2013 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 03, 2013 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.
Jul 16, 2008 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.
Els (Tragic Romantic)
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.
Apr 13, 2008 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!
Kymberly Couch
Dec 23, 2010 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.
Morgan F
3.5 stars. I liked it, but it doesn't stand out.
Kylie Formosa
Okay, so this book dealt with a lot. And I like how there was some character growth throughout the story. But I also really feel like it's not yet finished.

The romance needs more growth. You can't just have Pete date other people throughout the whole book, and then after 200 damn pages... 200 FREAKING PAGES, (view spoiler) Like, honey, I need mor
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summers
Apart from a few odd stray lines, Maureen Johnson has yet again given another smart story. I especially like how, despite the fact that the sisters each have weird names, that least the reasons for them are justified and not a product of the author trying to be all cutesy
Gary Sweet
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books
Good and fun read!
Laura Martinelli
Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this book later in my initial Maureen Johnson splurge, and it’s one that I very quickly fell in love with. It doesn’t actually read like her first book, which is surprising for me, and I recommend this as one to start with when starting Johnson’s books (and I don’t necessarily start reading authors from first book onward).

There’s a recurring trend in a lot of YA right now—mostly in the paranormal camp, but it crops in realistic YA frequently—to kill off one or both of the main character’s
Very enthralling. this was the first book I'd read most of the year and it was the first book that kept me wanting more and made me want to keep reading until it was completely devoured. :)
Nov 10, 2014 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
Charlotte Jones
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 of The Key to the Golden Firebird shows 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 attac
Emma (Miss Print)
I'm embarrassed to say that this book has been on my to read list for almost as long as it has been published. But then I started following the author's blog and her twitters and they were so amazing that the idea of still not reading any of her books became unbearable, especially since the author is so awesome that I want to write to her and ask if we can be friends. So, last week I put every YA book I could think of that I had been dying to read on hold. The Key to the Golden Firebird (2004) b ...more
Lucy Powrie
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
Angel Johnson
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson

The Key to the golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson tells a wonderful and well common story that a younger generation could experience at some point in life. It focuses on three sisters, Mayzie, Brooks, Palmer and their father. The three young girls lose the most important person in their life and have to live life without their amazing father together, united as one. This book has some tragic events but as my grandmother always told me “in order to
Candy Ikwu
Aug 12, 2014 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
Sarah Hipple
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, contemporary, romance
This book takes place (mostly) one year after Mayzie, Brooks, and Palmer's father has died, so if you think you're getting through this book without shedding a few tears, you're wrong. In case you can't tell from the names, Mayzie, Brooks, and Palmer are all sisters, all named after their father's favorite baseball players.

The story primarily follows the middle sister, Mayzie, or "May" as she's called. She's the smart, responsible one who feels like everything rests on her shoulders. She, of cou
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, romance, meh
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
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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.” 17 likes
More quotes…