Skip to main content

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Review

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

One month before his 13th birthday, Jeremy Fink receives a mysterious box in the mail. It is securely locked and has the engraving "The Meaning of Life. For Jeremy Fink to open on his 13th birthday" written across the top. Even stranger than the cryptic message and the security system is the fact that the box is from Jeremy's father, who was killed in a car accident five years earlier. Along with the box is a letter from a lawyer, explaining that before he died, Jeremy's father had instructed the lawyer to send the box to Jeremy for his 13th birthday, but unfortunately the keys to the box are missing and cannot be replaced.

Although Jeremy has never strayed far from his New York apartment on his own, his best friend and neighbor Lizzie is somewhat braver and more adventurous. So she convinces Jeremy to begin a search for the missing keys, which takes them through New York and New Jersey. Desperate to find the keys before Jeremy turns 13, they scour flea markets and visit the lawyer's abandoned office, all to no avail.

As events lead them to a summer job working for a retiring pawnbroker, delivering pawned items to their original owners, Jeremy and Lizzie find themselves meeting intriguing people who introduce them to fascinating things and new ideas about the world. Their one-month journey to open the box containing "the meaning of life" soon turns into a much bigger adventure with many life lessons learned along the way.

JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE, like other books by Wendy Mass, is a truly optimistic look at the world and the people who inhabit it. Though Jeremy and Lizzie suffer from the loss of a parent, each is fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who want the best for them --- loved ones and strangers alike. Jeremy's sadness over his father's death and his longing to change history so that his father could still be alive is touching and real, but his neurotic narration is also laugh-out-loud funny at times.

Just when the novel starts to feel too sentimental or neat, the characters' quirkiness brings it back down to reality. The question "What's in the box?" is fundamental to the story and the payoff feels right, but the events that lead to the final discovery give JEREMY FINK its unique charm.

With so many books out there to remind us of what's wrong with the world, it's refreshing to read a story that illustrates its small, everyday wonders.

Reviewed by Emily Shaffer on February 1, 2008

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
by Wendy Mass

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2008
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316058491
  • ISBN-13: 9780316058490