Monday, February 19, 2007

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass


I received a review copy of Jeremy Fink in a flood of books for consideration for the Middle Grade Fiction Cybil Award, and it took me awhile to get to it. I couldn’t help thinking, “What kid wants to read about the meaning of life? I’m an adult and I don’t even want to read about it.” I could eat those words now because this book was wonderful from start to finish. Wendy Mass is a genious. How does she draw her readers into a quest for the meaning of life? She makes it a mystery even the most skeptic of readers can’t help but be curious about.

12 year-old Jeremy Fink and his best friend Lizzy are hanging out in his New York City apartment when the mailman delivers a package addressed to Jeremy’s mom. Jeremy lives by the rules, but Lizzy can’t overcome her impulsive nature and convinces him to open the package. Inside they discover a wooden box with a keyhole on four of it’s sides and the words, “THE MEANING OF LIFE: FOR JEREMY FINK TO OPEN ON HIS 13TH BIRTHDAY.” Jeremy immediately recognizes the box as the work of his father, who passed away several years earlier. This makes the note explaining that the friend taking care of the box lost all of the keys, even more disappointing. Jeremy and Lizzy are determined to find a way to open the box. A locksmith tells them that he can’t pick the locks or break it open without destroying the box and possibly the contents so they set a goal to find the keys by the end of the summer so Jeremy can still open the box on his 13th birthday.

Lizzy’s impulsiveness gets them into trouble and they wind up having to spend a good part of their summer performing community service. Luckily they are assigned to work for Mr. Oswald, an antique dealer preparing to retire to Florida. He assigns them to run errands for him delivering some special antiques. They have no idea until they reach the first home that they are returning valuable items to their original owners who pawned the items dearest to them when they were only teenagers. Each item is being returned with the original letter stating why they chose to pawn the item.

They are countless mysteries in this book: what is the meaning of life, where are the keys to the box, did the people who pawned their items get what they wanted, why is Mr. Oswald returning the items now? Interwoven between the answers is the story of an admirable friendship between Lizzy and Jeremy as they try to grow and transition into the teenage years. As with any book by Wendy Mass, there are also millions of delightful details, only she could invent.

Pick up a copy! Even if you don’t discover the meaning of life, you’ll have an enjoyable time trying to figure it out, and even if the plot sounds a bit too ridiculous too you, you’ll find the ending satisfying.

9 comments:

crissachappell said...

Hi Stephanie,

Would you be interested in checking out an ARC of my debut YA novel, Total Constant Order? Let me know and I'll mail you a copy.

kittenpie said...

I loved this book, too. So good.

Miss Shears said...

I've been looking for a book to entice my 6th-graders, and I just finished reading this book. I loved it from start to finish, and I think my students will too. Now, I'm on a "net-quest" to find 32 copies on a teacher's budget.

Anonymous said...

It's an awesome book!!

Winter47 said...

I'm Getting the book soon i cant wait

Anonymous said...

i read this book for book report, i love it! this book is one of my favorite.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely adore this book! it is so passionite!

Anonymous said...

hey this is a pretty good book

Anonymous said...

this book is truly amazing. it teaches a great lesson and is acceptable for all ages, even adults. its a mush read -ALA book reviewers