Golden | Jessi Kirby | Book Review

Readers, you know how sometimes there are books that are absolutely perfect for a certain season? Like, books that just scream I AM SUMMER, READ ME? Well, I thought that Golden by Jessi Kirby is an utterly perfect spring book. Especially as, much like spring in upstate NY, there is snow when there should be sun and rain. Kirby’s latest book is a beautifully written story that examines the myth and legend of a person versus their reality. It’s succinct but contains a nice amount of depth without being overwhelming or too terribly heavy.

Golden by Jessi Kirby | Good Books And Good Wine

On the verge of graduation, Parker Frost is up for the prestigious Cruz-Farnetti scholarship which will pay for her entire Stanford tuition. Named for two teenagers who disappeared in a horrific car accident when Parker was a little kid, the Cruz-Farnetti scholarship is awarded at a dinner where contestants must make a speech every year. Parker is valedictorian of her class and should be a shoo in for the scholarship. Yet, she finds that many things are getting in the way of her speech writing. You see, when Parker looks back at her high school career she sees all kinds of awards and achievements, but she doesn’t see any risk taking. So, her best friend urges her to do something totally wild and out of the ordinary before their high school days end. Which brings me to the something wild. Parker’s a TA for one of those Dead Poet Society type of English teachers. Part of her duties are to mail out these journals to alumni who wrote down their hopes and dreams and really encapsulated who they were as seniors. What Parker finds in the batch is Julia Farnetti’s journal and she becomes obsessed. And really, I can’t tell you more than that because it would totally give spoilers for Golden and trust, you want an open mind going in.

I think that we’ve all read about characters like Parker Frost before. We’ve all experienced the tightly-wound, overachiever. We all have come across books about the girl who doesn’t take risks because she’s got so much pressure to be the best and be perfect. To me, there’s nothing wrong with well worn tropes so long as the author provides a unique spin and writes well enough that it seems like we’re treading new ground. Also, likability is important to me, as a reader. Thankfully, I actually sympathized with Parker even though her childhood and life experience is vastly different from mine. Jessi Kirby did a great job of illustrating Parker’s coming of age and character shift. There’s a moment where you can kind of see Parker change from this girl who meekly does whatever her mom asks of her to someone who wants to forge her own path in life. I love that Parker does not start out fiercely independent. I like that she’s given room to grow within the space of 288 pages. Further, her character growth and catalyst felt quite realistic to me.

Stylistically, I think that Golden does a wonderful job exploring the theme of myth versus reality. For one, there’s the use of Julia Farnetti’s journal where we see that she is not exactly the golden child that the town painted her to be. There’s this whole legend that surrounded Julia and her boyfriend Shane Cruz when they got into their car accident and ‘disappeared’. Yet, as we all know reality rarely matches the history the town has given the two. The contrast between journal Julia and billboard Julia is awesome. Like, if you’re into cool literary things like themes and motifs, you’ll dig that bit of Jessi Kirby’s new book. We also see this theme when it comes to Parker’s dad who got divorced from her mother. And again, with Parker’s love interest Travis.

Holla if you like books with ROMANCE and KISSING. Duh, you are reading my blog so I bet you are down with the kissy-times, as that’s half of what I usually talk about in EVERY REVIEW EVER. So, Golden has got you covered when it comes to romance. Seriously, I ship Parker and Travis so hard. Travis is this boy in Parker’s class who she has always had a crush on. Only, she’d never let herself take the risk with him because he has a reputation. Anyways, there’s all kinds of TENSION between them. And BANTER. And MEANINGFUL GLANCES. Basically, I just ate their whole romance up and enjoyed the whole ride. For reals, it’s so adorable and I couldn’t help but be like ‘kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss’ in my head. Trust. You’ll likely feel the same.

After finishing Golden, I realized that I am totally missing out on not having read In Honor yet, as Kirby really wowed me with both this book AND Moonglass. Golden is not a book that should be missed by contemporary fans, especially if you like your books short but packed with excellent writing, strong characters, kissing and deeper meaning. Before you hit up various graduation parties and start your BBQ-ing, be sure to get your hands on Jessi Kirby’s Golden, it will certainly help set the mood for the season.

Disclosure: Received for review via Edelweiss

Other reviews of Golden by Jessi Kirby:

Into The Hall Of Books – “I dare say – swoony and very sweet” (FYI, this is the review that convinced me to request the book)
Rather Be Reading – “a lovely breakthrough in her talent
Chick Loves Lit – “she has started to truly master her craft

Books by Jessi Kirby:

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Ginger @ GReads! says

    I reviewed this book on Monday.. it must be Golden week, haha. Seriously though, I adore Jessi and thought this particular story really grew from her previous work. She told me this was a personal story for her to write and you can really see it in her words. I love when authors pour that much into their writing. It just makes it that much more meaningful for the reader. Great review, April!

    • It’s definitely Golden week, ha ha.

      Jessi Kirby is DEFINITELY awesome. And while I have not read In Honor, I’ve read Moonglass and think she’s certainly improved.

      Me too,me too about authors pouring themselves into their writing. It truly does give more depth and meaning to me.

      Thanks, G!

  2. I’ve both met and taught a bunch of those tightly-wound overachievers and I’m always worried that they’re going to burn themselves out before they graduate! Love that there’s a great romance in this story — I do love sweet romances! They’re perfect for summer reads (plus, that cover just fits summer, you know?).

    • Yeah, we had some over achievers where I went to school, but a lot slacked because you know, that’s the culture I grew up in — semi-rural, where football was valued over brains. Anyways. Another rant for another day.

      The romance is fabulous, it’s understated and just so fitting for the book, ya know?

  3. I’m so excited to read this, though I haven’t read any of Jessi Kirby’s books either. I love how Kirby managed to include mystery in what I would’ve thought would just be an ordinary contemporary read, and the romance. Seriously, every YA contemporary should at least have good romance (I know I’ve read some crappier ones in the past, but hey – forgive and forget, right? :P). Before, I wasn’t that interested to read this, but after your review… I’m going to go see if I can get it on Edelweiss, okay? 😉

    Great review!

    • Ahhh, she’s so great. You MUST read her if you like contemporary.

      I am okay if the book doesn’t have romance in lieu of having a mediocre one.

      Also the mystery is so cool.


  4. I’ve been on a huge contemporary kick lately and have really been wanting to read this one! Definitely think I need to go out and enjoy the sunshine with it!

  5. I have been kind of curious about Golden, but I have also been hesitant because I actually didn’t love In Honor. I mean In Honor is well written, but the main character got on my nerves and frustrated me so much. Maybe I just couldn’t identify with her that much.

    But I should try Golden, because I’ve heard good things, and I shouldn’t just push the whole work of an author because I didn’t care for one book.

    Thanks for the review, April. 🙂

  6. I really liked In Honor and have been SO excited for Golden ever since hearing about it and you’re review only makes me want it all the more! I love the sound of how much Parker starts to grow into herself and start down her own path rather than following down the path her parents want her take and have in mind for her. The mysteriousness and the kissing and romance and all of it combined sounds SO GOOD and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. It sounds stunning and I love to see it being enjoyed my so many, it definitely looks like this is going to be Jessi’s best yet. Fabulous review, April!

  7. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH, SO VERY VERY MUCH! I am convinced that somehow Jessi Kirby has an idea of how I was back in high school because basically I was Parker Frost for the most part, and that is one of the reasons this book resonated so loudly with me. Gosh, what if I hadn’t finally decided to take some risks (right at the very last minute)? Parker is a superb character. But to take it a step further, it’s really the story-within-a-story that made me love this book even more. The layering is perfect, with the release of information in bits and pieces that are timed just so – so perfect. And the journal. And the teacher and the quote! And the relationships are awesome – the friendship, the teacher-student, the parent-child, the Parker-self, just every one of them are SO WELL WRITTEN. AS my first Kirby, it WILL NOT be my last. I’ve told so many people that along with Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, these are my two standout books so far this year. I want to push this book into the hands of contemp-lovers and also reluctant contemp readers because I think that there is truly something special within these pages. GAH I love this story so much! I want to sit down with Jessi Kirby and have like coffee or something and let’s just TALK ABOUT THIS STORY.

  8. This sounds like the perfect me book. Parker’s character sounds really relatable, which is always something I like. I was totally one of those overachiever types, and kind of still am, so it’ll be neat to see that in a book. And of course, ROMANCE. All you have to do is mention the word and I’m in.

  9. I’m looking forward to the publication of this one. I’ve preordered it for my library, and it sounds better with each review I read. Thanks!

  10. This book sounds very tempting and I Should really give it a try since I have yet to read anything by Kriby and I have wanted to for a couple of years.

    Thanks for sharing your review 😀

  11. Every review I’ve seen of this has made me weep for my lack of contacts at S&S, because I thought Moonglass was fantastic, and I’m probably not going to get to read this for ages. Wahhhh! Book blogger problems, yo!

    This sounds so good, like themes of myth vs. reality and kissing? I am SO ready for that. SO READY.

  12. I think it speaks volumes to an author’s talent if readers are able to sympathize and empathize with a protagonist very different from them, and it sounds like Kirby definitely hit that mark for you. Though I don’t imagine I’ll have much trouble relating to Parker’s character at all. I love books with meaningful themes/bigger literary messages. Thus I am super excited to get my hands on this, even though YA contemp isn’t normally my thing. I honestly haven’t heard much about Moonglass or In Honor, so I am more than willing to let Golden act as my introduction to Jessi Kirby.

  13. I am loving the Robert Frost quote on the front of the book!

  14. It is making my heart so happy to see all this love for Golden. It’s such a beautiful book, beautiful in a quiet sort of way, and I loved it when I got to read it. Parker’s story was completely compelling, and I found myself caught up in it from start to finish. I could relate so much to Parker’s story and her transformation over the course of the book, as it’s something I’ve been through. Out of all the Kirby books I’ve read (Moonglass is the only one that remains unread), this is definitely my favorite. Can’t wait to have a finished copy in my hands!

  15. I’m late to this review party (and I just started Golden about 20 minutes ago and had to put it down to drive my daughter someplace…) but I have to say this – I can’t believe you haven’t read In Honor!! WHAT?!?!

    Although, I can say that from what I’ve read so far? I think Golden is shaping up to be as fantastic as (if not better than) In Honor was! (Although In Honor has Tim Riggins/Rusty – which is hard to beat!)

    Anywho – as always? Thank you for your absolutely fantastic review! It makes me remember why I love reading and reviewing books.

  16. Your review has definitely made me want to go out and buy this book!! Love contemporaries =)


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