Book Review : I Am The Messenger
By Markus Zusak
protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.
That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?
Adult Point of View:
This is YA? It seems rather mature for the recommended ninth grade and up. The nineteen year old character, Ed, who describes himself as average says he’s “crap at sex”, he fantasizes about sex and all the characters use profanity and crude language and drink copious amounts of cheap alcohol. There is also a rape scene that Ed observes which is intense. I’m not sure the guidelines on determining what is YA and what is Adult, but I would have placed this book in the adult section of the library. If you read my book reviews you already know this really isn’t my kind of book. So, the question is why have I continued reading it…. The premise was interesting and I kept hoping that Ed will become a better person through these experiences. I want him to make something of himself instead of wallowing in self-pity.
The first card is straight forward with addresses and times for Ed to follow. The second card seems senseless, stating “say a prayer at the stones of home”, but Ed doesn’t give up. He continues to get Ace’s with directions for him to solve problems.
The attitude of hopelessness is pervasive:
“In a way, I wish I could be like that. You’d never worry or care about anything that really mattered. You’d be happy, in the same pitiful way someone like our friend Ritchie is. Nothing affects you, and you affect nothing.” (p. 126)
As Ed continues to work through the cards, heartache and growth both fill his life. By the end he has made some changes, thankfully! The ending is a little flakey as he works through who was the sender of the Aces. I keep considering if I would have liked a supernatural ending, a mundane solution, a practical solution or what compared to the actual solution.
Overall the message is actually “live a life, don’t settle for mediocrity”, but this is achieved through the contrast of the utter stupidity of their lives.
“‘It’s the person, Ma, not the place. If you left here, you’d have been the same anywhere else.’ It’s truth enough, but I can’t stop now. ‘If I ever leave this place’ – I swallow – ‘I’ll make sure I’m better here first.'” (p.283)
“‘Tell me you just wanted me to help people and…’
‘And what, Ed?’
I close my eyes. ‘Make myself better-make me worth something.'” (p.344)
The final analysis; the language is atrocious, the situations are awful and there are redeeming qualities to the book. As always, I despair over the choppy sentence structure in modern literature. I think this message is better for an older audience. The whole thing is a little twisted.
SPOILER ALERT! One final gripe, which is a spoiler, I didn’t like how the orchestrator of the messages says he arranged or created these situations for Ed to solve – it would be better that he found the situations that he sent Ed to solve. There are enough awful things in the world that we don’t have to go about creating more to help someone out. It just didn’t even make sense.
3 out of 5 stars
If you liked this try Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, it’s much more innocent but also shows how people can change.