This story is about a girl reading about another girl's story.
And you are reading a review about a story about a girl reading about another girl's story.
Immediately after reading Golden my impulse was to give it a 4. Despite the sluggish start, I found myself captivated by a good and tautly drawn mystery in the middle wrapped in the simplicity of the character's thoughts and voices. My problem lay in the execution of the last act of the story, right when the mystery gets solved when somehow, everything just became a hodgepodge of cliches and misrepresentations that the longer I think about it, the more I wanted to lower my rating.
Every town has its stories. Events that bind its locals by the collectively ingrained emotions that they elicit with remembering. Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are Summit Lakes' Golden Couple that went missing the night of their graduation, leaving nothing but a trail of blood and an upturned vehicle in the deadly icy depths of the lake. The promise of their unrealized dreams and open-ended tragedy are captured and preserved behind a plexiglass billboard at the edge of their ever grieving town never to be forgotten.
Ten years later, class valedictorian and all around square Parker Frost finds Julianna Farnetti's journal among a pile of a decade old project where she answers: What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? a few days before the accident. A finalist for a scholarship to Stanford Pre-Med, a daughter to an ever discontented mother, a best friend leaving to pursue the dream that she needs and deserves and a girl unkissed, Parker doesn't really need to read the thoughts of a girl that's been presumed dead for ten years with all the things going on in her life.
Until she did and gave her exactly what a girl like her needs and deserves at that point in her life.
While I love this writer's ability to capture emotions with the simplest turns of phrases, I found the writing non-economical. The build up to Parker reading Julianna's journal was agonizingly slow. This would have been okay if this was spent in the development of the secondary characters (i.e. Kat, Trevor and her mother), instead of solely digging into the depths of Parker's restlessness and confusion which only got repetitive as the story moved along. Because come the second act when Trevor, Kat and Parker goes on a road trip with a Julianna mission, the moments and dialogue were charming but I could not tether any emotions towards Kat nor Trevor. Nor can I be sympathetic to Parker when she eventually confronts her mother. It was reading a confused protagonist's interaction with practical strangers all throughout the book.
I don't know if you can ever truly see yourself in the present. It's too close. It's easier to see who you were in the past.
The premise of this story is hardly original nor the message it was trying to deliver and I genuinely think it would still have worked for me had I read this at a different point in my life. Because while I can relate to Parker's restlessness about living the life another person has intended for her and not the life she wants, crossing off items on a seventeen-year old's bucketlist for the sake of crossing them off is hardly a lesson I can get on board with. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say and coming from a thirty year old's standpoint, I can relate to the fear and urgency in Parker's character, but what this book failed to include is what Parker wants.
Because doing things for the sake of doing, or carpe diem-ing everything to death? That's how people become memes. For bad tattoos and shit.
The focus was just too zoned-in into Parker going beyond her comfort zone and making choices without delving into the greater difficulty of knowing what you want at that age. That was what I was waiting for from Parker's side, for her to live the life she wants. More than that speech and that dubious decision in the end because there never really was much reflection on her part if she actually wants to go to Stanford. Instead the reflection was focused on her mother wanting her to go to Stanford.
I love small-town, golden couple stories. I think that's a big reason why Kristen Ashley's For You worked so well for me. But unlike Feb and Colt's characters where I understand WHY everyone in town is rooting for their HEA, Julianna and Shane is a golden couple because this book TELLS me so. What little I know of them together was from Julianna's entries in her journal making their legend very shallow and dull. Though I actually liked reading Julianna's entries. It does sound a little too literary for a high school senior's journal entry, but I just glossed over that nitpick seeing as its a school project meant to be seen by a ten year older version of herself. I mean, if I was in her place, I'd want to impress my older self too as much as I possibly can. What I couldn't fathom was how her story indulges Parker's fantasy down the line. It's just too Nicholas Sparksy fantasy, which is okay on its own, but making it a template for Parker's direction just feels… wrong. How that subplot panned out was this side of a cliche for me, selling a fantasy (a delusional fantasy) trying to mingle with the realism of Parker's storyline.
Or maybe I really am just that jaded.
It's strange how much I liked this book before I started this review. I think I'm going to stop thinking about this now before I downrate it any further.