Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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.
I almost missed out on Jessi Kirby’s books from a lack of interest, and I am so glad I decided to pick up her first two books anyway. Otherwise, I probably would have ignored all the gushing about her latest book and I wouldn’t have found such a reliable contemporary author.
Parker was a pretty interesting protagonist. Yes, she’s the good girl who only cares about school and has a best friend who’s very care-free and loud, some common tropes that are becoming quite tired in YA, but I didn’t mind it too much. I didn’t mind that there’s a guy she’s had a crush on for a while who often flirts with her and has many short relationships while waiting for her to take a chance on him. I didn’t mind the controlling mother who refuses to give her daughter the chance to screw up yet acts like she would always screw up if she wasn’t there to plan out her every moment. So, there are some formulaic bits in this story, especially concerning its characters, but I really didn’t mind because they all still seemed quite fresh.
Parker was a pretty interesting protagonist. I really connected with her and her worries of not achieving anything because she was too busy following the rules and doing what her mother wanted. I’m not exactly like Parker, but high school for me did consist mostly of small, but great, moments with friends and plenty of days just waiting for something in the future, whether it’s a fun event or a new book or the day after a giving a presentation in class. I wanted Parker to do some crazy things even when it’s something as cliché as ditching school (which I never actually did – people in my school were much more likely to wander the halls or pop into other classrooms while skipping class, which I very rarely did and usually had quasi-permission to do, which Parker also kind of does at one point).
The mystery was also quite interesting. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mystery, but the story of Julianna and Parker’s connection with her was entertaining and engaging. The best part about it was Parker realizing she was dealing with a real girl and not a character in a romance novel or romantic movie. Julianna is a golden girl with the perfect life in Parker’s eyes, and she wants to learn more about her to complete the perfect story; instead, she learns that life isn’t perfect and that Julianna was a real person who felt conflicted and confused and unhappy and loved and scared and other those other emotions that real people experience.
There were some minor issues; well, really just one – the drama of Parker’s relationship with the love interest. It was just a bit frustrating when Parker randomly jumped to some conclusions and angsted about it for a little bit. She also had some friend drama, but ultimately that was better because it helped show a complex friendship that has to go through a difficult period (one friend going to college while the other stays home) and hopefully coming through on the other side.
So, I definitely see why so many people have loved this book. I don’t know if it was the Best Book I’ve Ever Read This Year, but I did really enjoy it and it cemented my interest in future books by Jessi Kirby.