Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com
For Jeremy Fink, the meaning of life is pretty simple. Stay safe, stay focused, stay the course. This is Jeremy's life, until the day the postman delivers a package addressed to his mother. Unable to check his curiosity and the taunts of his best friend, Lizzy, Jeremy opens the package to find a surprise like no other. Inside the cardboard box is another box, one made of a beautiful wood, sanded to a breathtaking sheen, comprised of four intricate locks, and inscribed with the words "The Meaning of Life." Underneath those life-changing words are others, smaller, unmistakably carved by his father: "For Jeremy Fink To Open On His 13th Birthday."
For many kids, turning thirteen is a big deal. After all, you're about to become a legitimate teenager, a purveyor of mystic knowledge, an "almost-adult" in a world ruled by adults. For Jeremy, turning thirteen has always been a goal. Now, though, there's another, much more important goal--finding a way to open this magnificent box without breaking it, since no one seems to know where the four keys are that are needed to open the locks. Even more unimaginable is the fact that his father seems to have sent him his birthday gift from beyond the grave. You see, years ago, when Jeremy was eight, his father had died. Had died, actually, at the age of thirty-eight, two years before the fortune teller had told him on his own thirteenth birthday that he would die at age forty.
It's important to Jeremy to open that box. It's imperative. It's a necessity. Somehow, his father knew the true meaning of life, and he's managed to provide Jeremy with that tantalizing secret. But how will he get the box open without breaking it--something he refuses to do? How will he and Lizzy, the risk-taker best friend with the non-stop mouth, figure out where to get the keys that hold the answers to that all-important question? When one of their schemes to get the keys to the box goes awry, both Jeremy and Lizzy are forced into working for a mysterious man who may just end up having the answers they need.
JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE is a wonderful, emotional read. Yes, I cried at the ending, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. This is a book that is about so much more than growing up; a book that is about so much more, even, than finding a way to open a birthday present. For Jeremy, those weeks before his thirteenth birthday are about becoming closer to the father he lost too soon, about learning the value of friendship, and about learning that the meaning of life, quite possibly, is something that each and every one of us can find inside ourselves.
Thanks to Ms. Mass for such an emotional, heartfelt read. This is a book perfect for both middle-school readers and older teens, and you won't go wrong picking up a copy for your library.
I have to say that I did really enjoy the premise of this book. I loved the idea of a boy on the cusp of learning how to function in the real world, stepping out of his comfort zone on a quest. A quest book is always fun in my mind. A seemingly unattainable end that is both physical as well as existential in this book, although Jeremy Fink doesn't know this at the outset.
I found the main character's grappling with his father's death (when he was eight) to feel very realistic, ma...more I have to say that I did really enjoy the premise of this book. I loved the idea of a boy on the cusp of learning how to function in the real world, stepping out of his comfort zone on a quest. A quest book is always fun in my mind. A seemingly unattainable end that is both physical as well as existential in this book, although Jeremy Fink doesn't know this at the outset.
I found the main character's grappling with his father's death (when he was eight) to feel very realistic, manifesting in his discomfort for surprises as well as his aforementioned lack of spontaneity. I liked this character. On the other hand I had more trouble with Lizzie, his best friend as a fully fleshed character. I liked that she had quirks, and I liked that she was unpredictable. I did, however, have some trouble following her thought processes as seen from the outside. Maybe this was deliberate on the part of the author, as both Lizzie and Jeremy were heading for the time when being a boy versus being a girl meant more than when they were children. Either way I felt almost like I had both too much and not enough information to make her as believable.
I also had a few problems with the ending in terms of everything ending on such a perfect note, not to mention so quickly! The book tackles so many meaty ideas, and then bam, the book is over. I don't want to say more because I really don't want to spoil the ending, but wow, I was really into reading it and then it was over.
All in all I would recommend this book to a young adult reader (especially a boy as the protagonist is accessible and likeable not to mention a boy) but to adult fans of young adult books I think I would have to recommend it with reservations.