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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Key to the Golden Firebird

Author: Maureen Johnson
Originally Published: 2004
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Library

The Story

Sisters May, Brooks and Palmer returned home one afternoon to find that their father has passed away from a heart attack in his beloved Firebird. One year later, each of them are dealing with the death in a different way – no way of which is particularly heathy.

May is finding things especially hard as the middle sister. She believes that her father never loved her like her other sisters because she didn’t play baseball. She failed her driving test – and the only person available to teach her is Pete, the boy she has had a long-time rivalry with. She works with the girl Pete is now dating, and has to listen to all the dirty details. She has to take care of her younger sister, and do the chores her older sister doesn’t want feel she has to do.

What the sisters have found out is that the keys to their father’s Firebird are also the keys to their own healing. (Ignore how cheesy that sounds. Really.)

The Response


I devoured this. DEVOURED it. And it was QUITE tasty, if I do say so myself.

I think this may be one of my favourite of Johnson’s books. Here’s the thing. It’s kind of dealing with a really tough period in a teen girl’s life – not only does she have to deal with regular teen stuff, she also needs to adjust to her father’s death the previous year. Goodness. It’s hard enough just being a teen, but to throw that into the mix too? It’s a whole new level of tough stuff.

Each of the characters in this book were so well written too – they were all very three-dimensional. Even the side characters that we only saw a few times, you could see the depth that was there. Like May’s best friend (don’t remember her name and don’t have the book with me at the moment, my apologies).

I also really like how, while the book was primarily about May, each of the sisters got plenty of screen time. They all had issues that they were dealing with – Brooks has started hanging out with a bad crowd and turned to alcohol, while Palmer has been suffering through crazy panic attacks on a weekly basis – and they all went through a whole heck of a lot of character growth before the end of the novel.

Another really great thing about this book was the fact that it didn’t focus on the blossoming romance between the main character and her perspective beau – which is something that can be found in quite a few of Johnson’s books. This particular one was more about family and coming to grips with the death of a father.

The Bottom Line

I loooooved this and I am bemoaning the fact that I have to wait until APRIL until I get another one of Maureen Johnson’s books. Highly recommended.

Other Reviews

Stacked, Stella Matutina. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 12:41 pm January 15, 2011.
Category: Young Adult
Book Author(s):

  • Memory

    I’m also sad I have to wait so long for more new MJ. I actually still have THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE to read, but I’ve been hoarding it so I won’t be done with her bibliography.

    My review of this one is here.

  • sassymonkey

    This was one of the first books by her that I had read. It might actually have been the first book. I can’t quite remember.