Zipped is the second in a series of three young adult books set in a small town near Syracuse, New York. (The books are connected only in the sense of having the same mise-en-scène.)
Mick Nichols, 15, is close to his dad and his pretty stepmom Nora, has a crush on a girl in school named Lisa, and is generally pretty happy. But as the story opens, Mick discovers, through the e-mail trash in the family computer, that Nora is having an affair. He is devastated: hurt, angry, maybe even jealous. And he doesn’t know what he is going to do with the information.
Meanwhile, he manages to befriend Lisa, but she is not exactly available. She is Mormon, and she is interested in the older but handsome and flirtatious Mormon missionary in town, Joe Keesler.
Lisa thinks Joe is also interested in her, but isn’t sure. And Mick, getting nowhere with Lisa, is surprised to find himself having a relationship of sorts with the beautiful Myra Vidal, five years older and the winner of the Miss Jemison Beauty Contest when she was high school senior.
Lisa and Mick’s two best friends also embark upon new relationships. Lisa has been best friends with Janice forever, but lately they have grown apart. Still, they hang around together because they always have, but it has gotten awkward. And Janice has started a very inappropriate relationship with a very sleazy guy, Maurice. Mick’s best friend Reece made a sort of “Cyrano” play for an attractive girl he liked, and to his surprise she saw through him and liked him for himself.
The winding, unwinding, and rewinding of these relationships take place in a backdrop of family troubles, issues of gender preference, ethnic prejudice, and sexual harassment. The stories, like the characters, are complex and nuanced, and while reading, I felt as if I were immersed in a real place, discovering both the flaws and redeeming qualities of real people.
Evaluation: These are engaging characters who seem human in every way: they make mistakes; they hope, dream, hurt, recover, grow, and love. The McNeals don’t make perfect characters, but they construct even the less likable characters with compassion and understanding. And the nice characters? They are sometimes cowardly, sometimes brave, sometimes funny, and generally charming: in short, just like people you love to know in real life.
Note: Zipped won the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2003