This Golden State
– Marit Weisenberg –
Published 1 March 2022
This Golden State is a delicious book that features mystery in a very realistic fiction style, sweet summer romance with a more serious side of family secrets.
The synopsis is vague. Poppy’s whole life is a little vague. She knows only what her parents have told her and lives by the rules they have set. Never use your name, don’t get close to anyone. Poppy, her sister and their parents have spent their life living off the grid and moving from town to town. Never staying long, always being ready to leave at a moment’s notice, taking nothing with them. For Poppy, it means never having friends, never getting far with her school work, never growing roots. But they must live that way if they are to stay together. Poppy doesn’t know what they are running and hiding from or who, just that her parents are scared and that it would be bad if they were ever caught. Really bad. So she follows the rules. But this latest move is different. Her mother is acting strange. There are mysteries surrounding the house they are staying in and her father seems even more on edge. But he does allow Poppy one luxury she’s never had before – access to a summer school. Finally, Poppy gets to see how well she can really do at something, to test herself and fall in love with the wonders of the world of mathematics. Then there is the mysterious boy who sits next to her in class who everyone seems to know but no one talks to. And then Poppy breaks the rules. It will have far reaching consequences and reveals truths she didn’t even know to look for.
This Golden State is the perfect mix of contemporary and mystery. The questions Poppy asks, her investigation, the scant details she pieces together made me want to know more, to question and investigate with her. The perpetual threat hanging over her head, the fear that one wrong move would bring down disasters, yet not really even knowing what that disaster would be, kept the tension and suspense high throughout the novel. What would happen next? Would this finally blow things wide open? What would happen to Poppy, to Poppy’s family?
Poppy’s math class is followed each day by a class on genetics and one day she sees a pile of genetics kits. She grabs one and ends up mailing it. It unleashes the change to finally discover who she is, who her parents are. As she starts to investigate, she is helped by her mysterious classmate, Harry. Harry too has secrets. He too keeps himself distanced from other and has a complicated family life. It works for Poppy. Finally, she can get close to someone without having to reveal anything about her family. They form a close friendship which turns into more. But their future is always in question and as Harry helps Poppy to uncover more about her family and why they are on the run, Poppy’s chance of a future, any future, is more and more in doubt.
This is a compelling book. On reflection, it should be slow as not a lot happens in the story and yet I couldn’t put it down and it feels so full of secrets, tension and what if’s that slow is not a word I’d use to describe it? It’s dramatic, romantic, sweet and made me question, what would I do? I’m going to love adding this to our school library collection.
I was left with so many questions. It’s a satisfying enough ending but still so many open threads. What happens next? I’d love a sequel just to see what happen. But maybe the unknown is the point!?!!
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Family, schooling, DNA, identity, maths, summer school, romance, secrets, secret identities, online safety,
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Representation: White characters, heterosexual relationships.
Advisory: Sexual references, condoms, references to intending to have sex or making a decision to have sex. Heavy making out. Vague references to murder. F-18, sh-18, as-4, Pi-9,
Published: 1 March 2022 by Flatiron Books
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 400 pages.