by Laura and Tom McNeal

Knopf, March, 2003.
Hardcover, 288 pages.
ISBN: 0375814914
Ages 12 and up

Zipped by Laura and Tom McNeal The theme of deception finds many variations in the world of fifteen year-old Mick Nichols. First, he finds an email on the family computer that alerts him to the fact that his vivacious stepmother is having an affair. He quickly copies the incriminating emails between his stepmother and her mysterious paramour and zips the disk into his coat pocket. Mick is angry and hurt. He had thought that he had a really good relationship with his stepmother and now he has discovered that she is not what she had seemed to be. What to do with the disk becomes a problem that hovers over Mick as he tries to find a solution to this threatening problem. The disk zipped inside his pocket now influences how he relates to people and events.

Lisa Doyle, who is also fifteen, is a young girl struggling with first crushes combined with that other problem from the adult world: how to survive and come out ahead on that all important first real summer job.

Told from the alternate viewpoints of Mick and Lisa, the mysteries one encounters in an adult world unfold as the two young people try to evaluate and deal with the complicated world in which they live. The McNeals show a great deal of understanding of the differing viewpoints and problems of young adults as they try to deal with unpredictable feelings and "the face behind the face" in their closest companions. While the big mystery of just who Mick's stepmother is having an affair with and what he can do about it is the most intriguing theme of Zipped, the sinister Maurice is also fascinating. Maurice vacillates between cruelty to a Hispanic girl working at the retirement center and caring for the cats that an ill and former resident of the center has had to abandon; he is a puzzling and complex personality.

Zipped is not only a thrilling mystery, it is a wise and enlightening commentary on why people act the way they do. Rather than condemning the characters whose behavior is less than perfect, the story teaches the importance of motives that cause hard to understand actions. Like all good mystery stories, Zipped will keep the reader on edge until the last page.

--Sarah Reaves White

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This review was published in the June-July, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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