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".