Zack is desperately trying to get a passing grade in his high school history class. Despite his bad test scores, his teacher has given him another chance. If he writes a research paper on some subject of local history, she will grade it and count it toward his final mark in her class. Zack is at a loss about what to research until he finds a leather box and a neck iron buried in his garden. As Zack's mother is black, the artifacts, obviously belonging to a former slave, have some meaning for him. Zack is able to research and write the entire story of the artifacts and their owner, who was a slave who migrated to Canada in order to live as a free man.
After writing his paper and passing his class, Zack starts thinking about his own family. He knows his father's white Jewish parents and their background, but he has never even met his mother's father or other family members, who all live in Mississippi. When Zack's parents take a trip without him, Zack takes the opportunity to drive to Mississippi to meet his grandfather and find out what happened to cause such a rift in their family. What he finds, though, ends up surprising him and helping him to understand his family better.
I liked the idea of a high school student taking this journey in order to find out something about himself and his family's identity. I also liked the ending of this book; it seemed realistic and not as easy as it could have been.
The relationship between Zack and Jen was far too easy, though. There seemed to be no basis for the two of them to start going out, especially after how Jen's cousin had treated Zack.