Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (2006)


Two kids set out to solve a puzzle to answer a big question.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 289 (for ISBN 9780316058292)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, mystery

Tone/Style: curious, rebellious

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: searches, important objects, puzzles

Themes: death of a loved one, grief and loss, reconciling with the past, finding meaning

Summary: Twelve-year-old Jeremy receives a wooden box in the mail with the words, “The Meaning of Life—for Jeremy Fink to open on his 13th birthday.” He recognizes the box as his dad’s handiwork, although his dad passed away five years earlier. The box has four locks, requiring four keys. But the keys are missing. He and his best friend Lizzy set off on a quest through the streets of Manhattan to find the keys before time runs out. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This book is full of emotion and lessons learned. Give it to those who like stories that are a little sad but ultimately hopeful.

Who won’t like this book?: The mystery unfolds rather slowly, and the stakes may seem low to those with less of an interest in emotion-based conflict.

Other comments: There is a movie of this. I haven’t seen it but it doesn’t look very good. (Yes, I am judging a DVD by its cover.)


Readalikes: Wendy Mass has written many popular books for upper elementary and middle schoolers, including The Candymakers, 11 Birthdays, Every Soul a Star, and A Mango-Shaped SpaceThe Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is historical fiction book that also involves finding treasures in trash. When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin is about another middle school boy’s search for meaning.


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