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Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life Hardcover – November 1, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7–An elaborately locked wooden box requiring four separate but missing keys holds the treasure in this modern-day quest. Jeremy's father lived his life preparing for an early death, as foretold by a fortune-teller. He did, in fact, die when Jeremy was eight, but a package from him containing the locked box arrives one month before Jeremy's 13th birthday, the day on which the box is to be opened. With his friend Lizzy, Jeremy searches for the keys while contemplating the words engraved on the box, The Meaning of Life: For Jeremy Fink. 13th Birthday. The search for the keys takes the friends around and about New York City, where they meet a large and increasingly convenient range of supporting characters, from members of a spiritualist congregation to a prominent astronomer, all of whom point them toward their own takes on the meaning of life. Mystery and adventure fans will be pulled in by the locked box, and, as a bonus, will get to know quirky, scientific Jeremy and impulsive Lizzy. Some readers might become impatient as the metaphysical quest lengthens, but those who stick with the story will find a warm picture of parental love and wisdom and of a boy growing into his own understanding and acceptance of life.–Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The summer he turns 13, Jeremy receives a mysterious box with the engraved words "the meaning of life: for Jeremy Fink on his thirteenth birthday." The box was left by his father, who has been dead for five years. It has four locks, but Jeremy finds no keys to open them. As Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy, embark on a quest to find the keys, they travel across Manhattan from flea markets to fancy office buildings and museums, searching, as it turns out, not only for keys but also insights into science, religion, art, friendship, and family. The overlong plot lurches from one contrivance to another, and the end is a total setup, but readers will be hooked by the kids' fast, funny urban adventure, as well as by the quest and the "existential crisis." The many open-ended questions make this fun for group discussion: "Why are we here? Is that even the correct question?" Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316058297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316058292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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?
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Format: Hardcover
The book I read was Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. The book was about Jeremy Fink and his friend Lizzy trying to find the keys to this box. The box was given to Jeremy for his thirteenth birthday from his dead father. His father had saved it for him and had told his mother to give it to him on his thirteenth birthday, whether his father was alive or not. They looked everywhere for the keys and eventually found them and opened the box. The box contained what Jeremy's dad thought the meaning of life was.

I liked the book very much. I liked it because it was always exciting and I was always on the edge of my seat. It was always a mystery, where would the keys be, who had them, how would Jeremy find them? There were so many questions that were always unanswered until the climax and the end. It was a mysterious story that was very exciting. I also liked the book, because the book's ending was satisfying. They explained the whole trick behind it all, how everything was planned, and they answered all the questions that popped up in my head while I was reading. Another reason why I liked the book was that the main conflict interested me. I wanted to know what was in that box as much as they did. I wanted to know what the meaning of life is, even though everyone has a different view of what the meaning of life is; it changes for everyone.

The author's writing style had unique characteristics. The writing was very creative and realistic. All the ideas she came up with to make the story flow were very creative. The characters were also very realistic. Any kid I know would jump at the chance to find out the meaning of life, just like they did. The dialogue was also very realistic and was also very well written.
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Format: Hardcover
When Jeremy was just eight years old, his father passed away in an automobile accident. His family had been dreading this day almost all of his life, ever since a fortune-teller told him he would die at age forty. She was wrong: He died at age thirty-nine.

Five years later, one month before his thirteenth birthday, Jeremy gets a package in the mail that contains a locked, carved box and a note from his father. Fascinated by this gift, Jeremy and his lifelong best friend Lizzy are initially saddened to hear that the keys to the box were lost. Almost immediately, they become determined to find these keys and discover the meaning to life, something which the carving and the note both promise.

The search that follows is filled with ups and downs, tears and smiles, as Jeremy and Lizzie meet many strange and wonderful adults who attempt to help them unlock the box. Though Jeremy ultimately learns that some things are set up to happen in a certain way to aid him in his search, he embraces spontaneity a little bit as well. Throughout the story, he honors the memory of his father, as does his mother. She is still mourning the loss of her husband but is nevertheless a strong character who is a great means of support for her son. He is surprised when he realizes how much she needs him, too.

Think of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass as I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak for the younger set. As with her previous novels A Mango-Shaped Space and Leap Day, Mass has created a book that will make readers think about life on a grand scale as well as a more personal one. This Meaning of Life is a sweet, touching tale, and readers need only to turn the pages to discover it.
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