The Key to the Golden Firebird

The Key to the Golden Firebird

by Maureen Johnson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061973949
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Maureen Johnson is the bestselling author of several novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, the Truly Devious series, the Suite Scarlett series, and the Shades of London series. She has also written collaborative works such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle and The Bane Chronicles with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. Maureen lives in New York and online on Twitter @maureenjohnson or at 

Read an Excerpt

Key to the Golden Firebird, MSR The

Firebird, golden
(largous automobilus yellowish)

  1. A car manufactured by Pontiac. In this particular case, a car painted a color called Signet Gold and built in Lordstown, Ohio, in 1967. Almost sixteen feet long, with extremely poor gas mileage and no modern amenities. Has a cream-colored interior and a black convertible top and belches noxious clouds of instant-cancer fumes whenever started. Attracts an unreasonable amount of attention from car buffs (for its collectability) and others (because it's brightly colored, noisy, and as big as a battleship).
  2. A mythical creature prominently featured in Russian folktales. Possesses magical powers. Wherever the Firebird goes, princes, princesses, kings, and mad wizards are sure to follow.
  3. Presumably, any golden bird that's on fire.


"Chome on," Palmer said, her words dulled from numb-tongue syndrome caused by the Icee she was slurping. "You haff to admit it wash funny."

May, who was sweating profusely and peering longingly through the bottom of the screened window at a swimming pool, turned and stared at her little sister."No, I don't," she said.

"It wash . . . ambhishious."

"Ambitious?" May repeated. "Looks like you got a new vocabulary word.""It wash."

"They didn't play 'Wind Beneath My Wings' for you," May said. "Just be quiet for a minute, okay? I'm trying to listen."

She turned back to the window.

"I shtill can't believf the Oriole pickhed you up," Palmer went on, grinning at the thought. The Icee had turned her teetha faint blue, which looked even creepier against her braces. It was as if the disguise was being dropped and thirteen-year-old Palmer was revealing herself to be a monster with blue metal teeth.

May wasn't smiling, because the memory wasn't funny to her. She was here for a reason. She was getting revenge...revenge that had been a long time coming. Peter Camp was going down.

Pete was the son of her father's best friend and had been eleven months old when May was born. There were pictures of him lurking above her as she was swaddled in baby blankets, unable to move. He looked surprisingly the same...brown curly hair, body covered in head-to-toe freckles, a slightly goofy, yet predatory expression as he reached for her stuffed duck.

Right from the beginning, May had been the unwilling straight man in Pete's ever-evolving comedy routine. There was the lick-and-replace sandwich gag from kindergarten. The yo-yo spit trick at the bus stop in third grade. The terrifying "lawn sprinkler" (don't ask) from fifth grade. The dribble holes in her milk, the lab worms in her lunch, the bike-by Supersoaker attacks . . . There was nothing too low, too stupid, too disgusting for him to try. Then Pete had moved on to Grant High, and they'd been separated. The next year May had ended up going to a different high Girls' Academy, in downtown Philadelphia. Aside from the occasional whoopie cushion at holiday gatherings, she believed the menace had ended.

Until last weekend, when the Golds and the Camps had taken their annual trip to Camden Yards.

The Camden Yards trip was one of the major events of the year. Even May, who didn't like baseball, was able to work up some enthusiasm for it...if only because her father and sisters were practically humming with excitement. Also, May's dad always saw to it that she was entertained in one way or another. He'd let her choose some of the music in the car. (Along with the obligatory Bruce Springsteen. Her dad had to blast "Out in the Street" and "Thunder Road" as he tore down I-95 in the Firebird. Had to. As if the earth would explode if he didn't...or worse yet, it might rain and the game would be a washout.) He'd glance at her through the rearview mirror and make his "big tooth" face, pulling his lips back in a horselike grimace that always made her laugh. As a reward for sitting through the game, her dad would slip her some cash (he had developed a very slick move, which even Palmer couldn't detect) so that she could buy herself an extra snack from the concessions. So May had come to peace with the event.

On this last trip she had been biding her time during the seventh-inning stretch, staring absently into the depths of her cup of lemonade. The next thing she knew, a pair of huge and fuzzy black wings embraced her. Suddenly she was being lifted out of her seat by someone in a black bird costume and was on her way down to the field. Once there, she was immediately set upon by five members of the Baltimore Orioles, all of whom shook her hand. One gave her a signed ball. The crowd began to cheer her. Then, just when things couldn't get any weirder, she looked up and saw her own face...big as a building...stretched across the Jumbotron.

Underneath it was the caption May Gold, formerly blind fan.

She didn't even have time to react before she was escorted back to her seat.It had taken over an hour to get an explanation because that was how long it had taken for Peter Camp to stop laughing. He revealed at last that he had told one of the public relations staff that May had been born blind, had just been cured by surgery, and was fulfilling her lifelong dream of seeing a live baseball game. It was an incredibly weird weird that they'd actually believed him.

The audacity of the stunt had kept Pete from getting into any trouble; in fact, the Gold-Camp contingent now ranked Pete among mankind's greatest thinkers. May's father had immediately claimed the baseball and held it carefully with both hands for the remainder of the game, as though it were his very own egg that he was protecting until it hatched.

Key to the Golden Firebird, MSR The. Copyright © by Maureen Johnson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Key to the Golden Firebird 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
stephxsu on LibraryThing 3 months ago
One minute May Gold was the average teenage girl, trying to balance being a good daughter and sister while simultaneously plotting revenge on the boy next door, her father¿s best friend¿s son Pete Camp (hint: it involves nudity). The next, she¿s father-less, Mike Gold the victim of a heart attack that leaves behind a struggling nurse wife and three shocked sisters, who whirl off into their own ways of dealing with the news.A year later, things have not improved much in the Gold household. Their mother is constantly at work, and is thus unable to notice how Brooks, the eldest sister, sneaks out every night to get drunk with her ¿boyfriend¿ Dave and his motley crew. Palmer, the youngest, struggles to hide her panic attacks while becoming the next softball star on her high school¿s varsity team. And May, the middle sister, the responsible one, feels constrained by the chores laid upon her because no one else will do them.Even worse, May fails her driver¿s test¿and May never fails any test. She has no choice but to accept Pete¿s offer of teaching her how to drive, providing him with even more opportunities to tease her and play jokes on her. Pete has always been ¿just Pete¿ to May¿ until he starts dating her coworker. Suddenly, May¿s not sure if she¿s comfortable with the situation. Which means¿ what? And what can she possibly do about it, when she and her two sisters don¿t know yet when they are allowed to be normal again?The plot, while basic, comes alive at the skilled hands of Maureen Johnson, who provides wit, humor, and heart aplenty for everyone. It¿s an easy read, but the writing will stay with you and make you yearn for more from this highly acclaimed author.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Three sisters find their family falling apart a year after their father's unexpected death. This is a sweet story of how they manage to reach out and pull themselves together, as well as survive the regular complications of being a teenager.The three sisters are very different people, but the author brings each of them vividly to life.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
May and her sisters survive a confusing year, as a death makes them seem to self-destruct and she deals with her feelings for an old friend.Affecting, despite first-book woes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I was caught in it and could not put it down. May is the main character. She has an older sister and a younger sister. The book is about them and there mom dealing with loosing there father. The gold sisters fall apart. To answer kristin's question, there is romance between may and the fathers friends son.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
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) by Maureen Johnson was at the top of the pile. May doesn't always understand her older and younger sisters, she isn't even sure she looks like them. But even though May lacks their athleticism or general interest in sports, the three Gold sisters were family; they always had each others' backs. That was before their father's death shattered their previously strong family unit. Brooks, the eldest, is so busy drowning her sorrows that everything else begins to fall to the wayside. Things get even worse as she begins to run with the wrong crowd and her drinking escalates. Palmer, the youngest of the Gold sisters, is trying to understand all of the changes at home while being the youngest member of her school softball team. But as the pressure and anxiety build, Palmer begins to wonder if she'll ever be able to cope with anything ever again. That leaves May, the smart, responsible middle sister. While her mother is working overtime and her sisters struggle through their own crises, May is left to handle the more quotidian tasks of making dinner and otherwise ensuring the continued (albeit relative) stability of their household. Adrift among a family in crisis, May is putting on a brave face as she balances work, school, and the even more daunting task of learning to drive. When May's lifelong friend, and sometime nemesis, offers to teach her to drive things get even more complicated. Unlike driving, there are no instructions for grieving . . . or falling for the last person you ever thought you would. As the girls drift apart each gravitates, in their own way, to their father's 1967 Pontiac Firebird and also the site of his death. The Golden Firebird might be a horrible reminder of everything the Golds lost, but it might also be the key to finally moving on. This book is written in the third person. Segments are told from each sister's perspective with the bulk of the story going to May since it is, arguably, her book. Initially the structure was surprising, but it makes sense since a significant amount of this novel is about how the Gold sisters relate to each other--seeing events from each of their perspectives both complicates and clarifies these relationships. The novel artfully traces the healing process of each sister, and the family at large. Although some things remain up in the air the story ends, as it should, with a sense that these characters will make it through. Johnson became one of my favorite writers before I ever opened one of her books, but The Key to the Golden Firebird showed that my admiration was well-founded. The story here is incredibly compelling and the characters come alive on the page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have read this book, can you tell me if there is ant romance in it? I only read teen romance/teen realistic fiction books. Please let me know!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LUVbooKs_3 More than 1 year ago
this book was very easy to get into. i thought it was great. may was definitely someone i relate to, besides us both having 2 sisters. the bad news is that i didnt like one certain characters. they have such issues and its not exactly explained why! (im sure you'll get what i mean) overall i think it was good but the ending ruined it for me. it felt like the story was cut off. i think it needed more to it. it made me throw the freakin book across my living room.
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Stella_rules More than 1 year ago
it was really powerful but really sad i sometimes had to put it down 2 grab the kleenex! great story line
Brittany Russell More than 1 year ago
maureen writes awesome books. its an epic win. she deserves a jar of dirt. cuz its a win.
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This book was amazing from beginning to end!It is a great TEEN book.I recommend it highly!
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