4.5 22
by Jessi Kirby

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the last weeks of her senior year, buttoned-up valedictorian Parker Frost promises her adventurous best friend Kat that she will do something “Unexpected, worthwhile, and big” for once. While Kat was thinking of something along the lines of Parker hooking up with her longtime crush, another opportunity falls into Parker’s lap: she comes across the journal of “girl-turned-myth” Julianna Farnetti, a former homecoming queen presumed dead after a car crash with her boyfriend 10 years ago. Parker’s decision to read Julianna’s private thoughts and visit some of the sites mentioned in the journal causes Parker to consider that people aren’t always who they seem and that her own tendency toward obedience could have devastating effects on her future. Not unlike the snippets of Robert Frost poems that open each chapter and appear throughout, Kirby’s (In Honor) third novel is inspirational and contemplative in its mood and tone. Multifaceted characters and dashes of mystery and romance come together in a successful mediation on the value of taking an active role in one’s life. Ages 12–up. Agent: Leigh Feldman, Writers House. (May)
"The novel is rich in its characterizations, deep in its reflections about teenage life, and compelling as a mystery."
Lisa Schroeder
"Golden shimmers and shines—what a treasure."
From the Publisher
"Golden shimmers and shines—what a treasure."

"A satisfying counterpoint to conventional romantic teen fiction."

"Kirby’s (In Honor) third novel is inspirational and contemplative in its mood and tone. Multifaceted characters and dashes of mystery and romance come together in a successful mediation on the value of taking an active role in one’s life."

"The novel is rich in its characterizations, deep in its reflections about teenage life, and compelling as a mystery."

*Starred Review Booklist
"The novel is rich in its characterizations, deep in its reflections about teenage
life, and compelling as a mystery."
VOYA - Laura Lehner
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost dives headlong into a local mystery when she discovers and reads the journal of a girl who has been missing and presumed dead for ten years. As she chases her small town's ghosts, she also wrestles with her own demons, trying to answer the question of what to do with the rest of her life. At the top of her class, her opportunities are limitless except for the limits she puts on herself. With the wild and frigid beauty of a small ski resort town as her backdrop, and the poetry of Robert Frost providing momentum, Parker explores the landscape of her life as she delves into the past and contemplates her future. This lovely and engaging novel has an unexpected depth to it, in spite of having all the trappings of typical chick-lit. Parker is accepted into a prestigious university but does not know if that is really her dream or her controlling mother's, so she lets herself get distracted by a local mystery and a boy who is a little too cocky, but smells really nice. Author Kirby deftly uses poetry and setting to add a rich texture to the plot that teen readers will love. Fairy-tale endings, leaving a best friend behind, the way a cute boy smells—these are certainly things that a typical teenage girl contemplates, but the underlying question here is whether to live a life of fire or ice. In the end, Parker chooses her own road, less traveled or not. Reviewer: Laura Lehner
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
This luminous novel offers a probing meditation on the road not taken and how squandered chances and timid choices can haunt all that comes after. Parker Frost (a distant relative of the poet) is about to graduate from high school and make good on her diligent plan to win a scholarship to head off to Stanford. She has never strayed from the path prescribed by her controlling mother, never cut a class or met up with her snowboarder crush in the high school art supply closet. Parker's English teacher has his graduating seniors write deeply personal, private journals about what they plan to do with their "one wild and precious life" (Mary Oliver), journals which he saves, unread, to return to them a decade later. As Parker is assisting him in mailing the journals back to the class of ten years ago, she comes across one belonging to a town legend, Julianna Farnetti, a girl whose body was never found after a fatal car crash with her boyfriend on the eve of their graduation. Parker cannot resist reading it and then finds herself increasingly drawn to unravel the many-layered story behind Julianna's tragic disappearance. Haunting lines from a wealth of Robert Frost poems frame Parker's search for the truth about Julianna, and the truth about what she needs to do with her own "wild and precious life"—what choices she will make, what chances she will take, or forever regret not taking. Mesmerizing and deeply moving. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
The chance discovery of a private journal leads 17-year-old Parker Frost on a journey in which she finds out as much about herself as about the mystery she is trying to solve. Parker is a serious, hardworking high school senior whose goal up till now has been to fulfill her ambitious divorced mother's dream of a scholarship to Stanford. Reading the journal written 10 years earlier by a girl who supposedly perished with her boyfriend in a grisly accident, Parker finds clues in a painting that suggest that Julianna may still be alive. Some detective work leads Parker to the Kismet cafe, where Josh, aka Orion, works, the man Parker now believes to have been Julianna's true lover 10 years ago. Encouraged by her best friend and her longtime crush, Parker agrees to ditch school and try to find Julianna. A drive to the small hippie town of Harmony turns up the art gallery where the woman Parker believes is Julianna lives under the ironic name of Hope. Although her romantic plans fall apart, Parker learns an important life lesson. In her final dramatic career move, she takes the "road less traveled," mirroring the words of her namesake and favorite poet. Parker tells her story in the now-omnipresent present tense, unfolding it at a leisurely pace consistent with its theme of self-discovery. A satisfying counterpoint to conventional romantic teen fiction. (Fiction. 12-17)
starred review Booklist
"The novel is rich in its characterizations, deep in its reflections about teenage life, and compelling as a mystery."
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Parker Frost, 17, is about to graduate high school feeling that all she has to show for it are her grades and being a finalist for a scholarship that will pay for a full ride at Stanford. Her best friend, Kat, her opposite in every way, pushes her to do something out of her comfort zone, but Parker has difficulty challenging her mother's expectations. When an English teacher asks her to help return senior-class journals to students who graduated 10 years earlier, she stumbles across the one written by Julianna Farnetti. Julianna and her boyfriend, Shane Cruz, were the town's golden couple; they were killed in an accident right after graduation, and the grief surrounding their deaths still permeates the small town. Reading the journal is Parker's first act of rebellion, but other small acts follow, including not writing her speech for the scholarship, lying to her mother, ditching class, and making tentative steps toward the boy she's had a crush on for years. The journal leads Parker to discover unexpected truths about Julianna and what happened to her, bringing closure not only to the young woman's story but to Parker's as well. The protagonist is a well-drawn and sympathetic character. Her struggles to find herself will resonate with many teens, and the faltering romance will draw readers in. Sure to be popular.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.44(h) x 1.01(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


  • “To a Thinker”


    There’s no such thing as a secret in this town. But I’m keeping this one, just for today. I fold the letter once, twice, three times and slide it into my back pocket like a golden ticket, because that’s what it is. A ticket out. Being chosen as a finalist for the Cruz-Farnetti Scholarship is my version of winning the lottery. It means Stanford pre-med and everything else I’ve worked for.

    Icy wind sears my cheeks red as I cross the school parking lot, and I curse Johnny Mountain for being right when he forecast the late spring storm. If the biting wind and swirling white sky are any indication, we may be graduating in the snow, which is not at all how I pictured it. But today I don’t really mind. Today the wind and I burst through the double doors together, and it carries me like someone who’s going places, because now it’s official. I am.

    Kat’s already at my locker when I get there and it gives me the smallest pause. We don’t keep secrets from each other. Her eyes run over me, top to bottom, and she smiles slowly. “You look like you’re in a good mood.” It’s more friendly accusation than casual greeting, and she punctuates it by leaning back against the blue metal of the lockers and waiting expectantly.

    “What? I can’t be in a good mood?” I reach around her and spin the lock without looking at the numbers, try to hide my smile.

    She shrugs and steps aside. “I’m not. This weather sucks. Mountain says it’s gonna be the worst storm in ten years or some bullshit like that. I’m so over the frickin’ snow. It’s May. We should be wearing tiny shorts and tank tops instead of . . . this.” She looks down at her outfit in disdain.

    “Well,” I say, trying to pull my mind away from visions of the red-tiled roofs and snowless breezeways of Stanford, “you look cute anyway.”

    Kat rolls her eyes, but straightens up her shoulders the slightest bit and I know that’s exactly what she wanted to hear. She stands there looking effortless in her skinny jeans, tall boots, and a top that falls perfectly off one shoulder, revealing a lacy black bra strap. Really, cute isn’t the right word for her. The last time she was cute was probably elementary school. By the time we hit seventh grade, she was hot and all its variations, for a couple more reasons than just her tumbling auburn hair. That was the year Trevor Collins nicknamed the two of us “fire and ice,” and it stuck. In the beginning I thought the whole “ice” thing had something to do with my last name (Frost), or maybe my eyes (blue), but over the years, it’s become increasingly clear that’s not what he meant. At all.

    Kat shuts my locker with a flick of her wrist as soon as I unlock it. “So. There’s a sub for Peters today, a cute one I’d normally stick around for, but I’m starving and Lane’s working at Kismet. Let’s get outta here and eat. He’ll give us free drinks and I’ll have you back by second period. Promise.” She’s about to come up with another inarguable reason for me to ditch with her when Trevor Collins strolls up. Even after this long, that’s still how I think of him. Trevor Collins. It was how he introduced himself when he walked into Lakes High in seventh grade with a winning smile, natural charm, and the confidence to match.

    His eyes flick to me, not Kat, and heat blooms in my cheeks. “Hey, Frost. You look saucy today. Feelin’ adventurous?” He dangles a lanyard in front of me, and a smile hovers at the corners of his mouth. “I got the keys to the art supply closet, and I could have you back before first period even starts. Promise.” He hits me with a smile that lets me know he’s joking, but I wonder for a second what would happen if I actually said yes one of these days.

    I meet his eyes, barely, before opening my locker so the door creates a little wall between us, then give my best imitation of disinterested sarcasm. “Tempting.” But between his dyed black hair and crystal blue eyes, it kind of is. I have no doubt a trip to the art supply closet with him would be an experience. Half the female population at Lakes High would probably attest to it, which is exactly why it’ll never happen. I like to think of it as principle. And standards. Besides, this has been our routine since we were freshmen, and I like it this way, with possibility still dancing between us. From what I’ve seen, it’s almost always better than reality.

    Kat blows him a kiss meant to send him on his way. “She can’t. We’re going to get coffee. And she’s too good for you. And you have a girlfriend, jackass.” There’s that, too, I remind myself. But I’ve never really counted Trevor’s girlfriends as legitimate, seeing as they don’t generally last beyond being given the title.

    “Actually, I’m not,” I say a little too abruptly. “Going to get coffee, I mean.” I shut my locker and Trevor raises an eyebrow, jingling his keys. “I uh . . . I can’t skip Kinney’s today. He’s got some big project for me.” Oh, the lameness.

    Kat rolls her eyes emphatically. “You don’t actually have to show up to class when you’re the TA and it’s last quarter. You do realize that, right?”

    “You don’t have to,” I say, matching her smart-ass tone, “because Chang has no idea she even has a TA. Kinney actually realizes I’m supposed to be there.”

    The bell rings and Trevor takes a step backward, holding up the keys again. “Best four minutes you ever had, Frost. Going once, twice . . .”

    I wave him off with a grin, then turn back to Kat, who’s now giving me her you know you want to look. “Never,” I say. I know what’s coming next, and I’m hoping that’s enough to squash it.

    But it’s not, because as we walk, she bumps my hip with hers. “C’mon, P. You know you want to. He’s wanted to since forever.”

    “Only because I haven’t.”

    “Maybe,” she shrugs. “But still. School’s gonna end, you’re gonna wish that just once, you’d done something I would do.”

    I stop at Mr. Kinney’s doorway. Now it’s me with the smile. “You mean did, right? Because I distinctly remember my best friend being the first girl here to kiss Trevor Collins.”

    “That was in seventh grade. That doesn’t even count.” A slow smile spreads over her lips. “Although for a seventh grader, he was a pretty good kisser.”

    I just look at her.

    “Fine,” Kat says in her dramatic Kat way that communicates her ongoing disappointment every time I plant my feet firmly on the straight and narrow road. “Go to class. Spend the last few weeks of your senior year pining over the guy you could have in a second while you’re at it. I’ll see you later.” She smacks me on the butt as she leaves, right where my letter is, and for a second I feel guilty about not telling her because this letter means that Stanford has gone from far-off possibility to probable reality. But leaving Kat is also a reality at this point, and I don’t think either one of us is ready to think about that yet.

    When I step through Kinney’s door, future all folded up in my back pocket, he’s headed straight for me with an ancient-looking box. “Parker! Good. I’m glad you’re here. Take these.” He practically throws the box into my arms. “Senior class journals, like I told you about. It’s time to send them out.” His eyes twinkle the tiniest bit when he says it, and that’s the reason kids love him. He keeps his promises.

    I nod, because that’s all I have time to do before he goes on. Kinney drinks a lot of coffee. “I want you to go through them like we talked about. Double-check the addresses against the directory, which’ll probably take you all week, then get whatever extra postage they need so I can send them out by the end of the month, okay?” He’s a little out of breath by the time he finishes, but that’s how he always is, because he’s high-strung in the best kind of way. The million miles a minute, jump up on the table in the middle of teaching to make a point kind of way.

    Before I can ask any questions, he’s stepped past me to hold the door open for the sleepy freshmen filing in. Most of them look less than excited for first period, but Mr. Kinney stands there with his wide smile, looks each one of them in the eye, and says “Good morning,” and even the grouchy-looking boys with their hoods pulled up say it back.

    “Mr. Kinney?” I lug the box of journals a few steps so I’m out of their way. “Would you mind if I take these to the library to work on them?”

    “Not at all.” He winks and ushers me on my way with the swoop of an arm. “See you at the end of the period.” Right on cue, the final bell rings and he swings his classroom door shut without another word.

    I linger a moment in the emptied hallway and peek through the skinny window in his door as students get out their notebooks to answer the daily writing prompt they’ve become accustomed to by this point in the year. Sometimes it’s a question, sometimes a quote or artwork he throws out there for them to explain. Today it’s a poem, one I’m deeply familiar with, since my dad has always claimed we’re somehow, possibly, long-lost, distant relatives of the poet himself.

    I read the eight lines slowly, even though I know them by heart. Today though, they hang differently in my mind—too heavily. Maybe it’s the unwelcome, swirling wind outside, or the fact that so much in my life is about to change, but as I read them, I feel like I have to remind myself that just because someone wrote them doesn’t make them true. I would never want to believe they were true. Because according to Robert Frost, “nothing gold can stay.”

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    Lisa Schroeder
    "Golden shimmers and shines—what a treasure.

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