Love, tragedy, and mystery converge in this compelling novel from “an author to watch” (Booklist).
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.
Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.
Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.
(Description from Goodreads)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
That Mary Oliver line is the one driving question throughout this book, and quite frankly, I’m starting to think it should be a driving question in everyone’s life. Very rarely do I come across books (especially YA ones) that make me stop, think, and reflect on my life, but this one did. Of course, like many of the adults in this book, sometimes reflecting on the past puts a damper on the now, as life may not have turned out like our teenage self may have imagined. However, reflecting on the past or constantly thinking about the future does no good for the present. Enter Parker Frost…
Parker is a high school senior who is about to graduate from high school not having done anything, except what is expected of her. Never has Parker taken a chance or done something spontaneous. However, while completing her duties as a TA to one of her school’s English teachers, Parker runs across something that sparks an interest in her and sets her off on what goes from a wild goose chase to a spontaenous trip that her best friend, Kat, has been nudging her to find.
I liked Parker a lot, probably because I saw a lot of my high school me in her; I sometimes wonder if I missed out on opportunities because I was so strait-laced. Parker starts to question the same thing toward the end of her high school career when a certain composition notebook falls into her hands. Everyone is always faced with the question of “what if,” though sometimes the question comes too late and the answer is never known. I loved watching Parker’s character evolve during the book, going from the quiet girl who did what she was told to the almost high school graduate who took a daring trip because of a romantic view on life. Along the way, Parker began to discover her true self and what she wanted to do with her life, not what others wanted of her.
Golden had not just one story, but there was a sub-story within the main story, that of a tragic romance that the little town Parker is from memorializes. However, Parker learns as the story progresses that the story the town remembers isn’t necessarily the actual truth behind it all. I enjoyed the fact that for at least half of the book, there were two perspectives being told, that of Parker’s and that of Julianna’s, the girl who wrote the journal in the composition notebook Parker finds. It was interesting to see Parker grow as a person, even while she was merely reading the entries written by Julianna. Even though Parker knew the journal was private, it helped her realize that she needed to be living her life more than what she was currently doing; she needed to truly think about what she wanted to do with her one wild and precious life.
I also really enjoyed the romance aspect of this book, though it resembled quite a bit to a Nicholas Sparks novel. Apparently Parker likes that kind of romance though, so it fits quite well into this novel. I wish there had been more between Parker and her longtime friend/crush, Trevor, but I enjoyed the romance story between Julianna and Shane, as well as Julianna and Orion. Swoon alert.
There were several aspects about this book that were a little farfetched for me, however. Of course, most of them would be spoilers for the book, so I’ll have to be vague with what and why. I think the ending is a little too perfect, especially with events that happened closer to the end. Yes, it’s the ending that makes us smile and feel giddy, but at the same time, after everything that happened prior, it didn’t really fit properly. Perhaps I’m thinking too realistically and should just be happy with the happy ending, especially since it is a YA novel, but something about it just didn’t feel right. The complete transformation of Parker was also a little out there. Yes, it’s good to change things up and do something for yourself, but to do a complete 180 and give up on something you’ve worked so hard for? Ehh, it just doesn’t sit well with me.
Despite those issues, I thought this was a rather compelling YA book and many teens could not only relate, but could learn a lot about their own lives from reading it. It makes you stop and think; truly, it does. You only get this one life, this one wild and precious life…so what are you going to do with it? In the words of Ferris Bueller (yeah, I went there), “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”