Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Am the Messenger

First published in 2002 in Australia as The Messenger, winner of the 2003 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award (and numerous other awards), this young adult book by Markus Zusak was later released in the U.S. as I Am the Messenger. In 2008, I Am the Messenger was adapted for the stage by Ross Mueller, and was performed that year by The Canberra Youth Theatre.

If you read a brief synopsis of I Am the Messenger, you may be underwhelmed. I was. Before I read this book, which my 12-year-old daughter insisted that I read, the basic premise of the book didn't immediately lure me in: a young man stops a bank robbery, and his life is changed when he receives mysterious cards in the mail. The story is so much better than it sounds.

I Am the Messenger is the story of 19-year-old Ed Kennedy, an underage cabdriver who is hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey (who apparently cares about him too much to date him). Ed leads a pretty humdrum existence--driving folks around, playing cards with his mates, Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey--until the day when his luck suddenly changes. Standing in a queue when a bank robbery takes place, Ed accidentally foils the gunman's escape, and is called a hero. Soon after this event, he receives an ace in the mail from an unknown source, and the mystery begins. On the ace is a handwritten list of three addresses and times.

"Who would send me something like this? I ask myself. What have I done to get an old playing card in my letter box with strange addresses scrawled on it?"
~ I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak

He doesn't know what awaits him at each address, and receives no guidance along the way. But this reluctant hero cares enough to find out what he needs to do, and completes his task at each address. This is a new beginning for Ed. Throughout the book, he receives different playing cards in the mail, which direct him toward new places, people, and tasks.

This book is incredible. I didn't expect to like it even half as much as I did. I loved the character of Ed Kennedy; his self-effacing and genuine manner won me over almost from the start. Ed has a dog named the Doorman, who enjoys drinking coffee. Humor abounds in this book, and the characters seem like real people. I hated Ed's mean mother, although I did understand her better after a while. The book is full of mystery, suspense, action, and also thought. It's the kind of book you don't want to put down, the kind of book you need to experience firsthand. The message of the book is about caring for others--but it's never corny nor clichéd. Does it sound like I loved this book? Because I did. Markus Zusak is an exceptional writer, and I was charmed by this book.

I Am the Messenger has some profane language (the author uses the word 'arse' an awful lot, must be Aussie slang), and references to sex, neither of which I knew about until after my daughter read it (how much should we censor the books our children read?), so although it's a book for young adults, it's probably best for older young adults--and adults, too, definitely.

Markus Zusak is an Australian writer, and the story takes place in suburban Australia. This is my first book for the Aussie Author reading challenge.


  1. This sounds like a very interesting read! I have a copy of Zusak's other book, The Book Thief, and have heard amazing things about it as well. I must make some time to read these books, I am sure that I would have a great time with them. Great review, Suko! I am so glad that you fell in love with this book!

  2. I love that your daughter is recommending books to you. It sounds like a book that might spark a good discussion between the two of you.

  3. I loved the audio version of this book. How great that your daughter can recommend a book for you and it works.

  4. After reading The Book Thief, I got a copy of I Am the Messenger but set it aside because I had so many other books to read, so my daughter read it before me. Now she wants to read The Art of Racing in the Rain, but I wonder if she's too young for that book.

    Thanks for your comments. More welcomed.

  5. I read and posted on this book right after I started my blog-I loved the Book Thief so much I wanted to read all his works-I Am Messenger is a really good well worth reading book and I agree it is much better than a plot description makes it sound-I am glad you read it-I also read and posted on his earlier book Getting the Girl which is in fact a young adult book

  6. This is one of my favorites. I thought it had such a beautiful message. It was one of those books where I had to just sit for a while after I read it.

  7. I didn't realise he was Australian. I thought he was English. I wish they wouldn't change the names of books, it really bugs me and I have ended up buying the same book twice because of it. This one looks fabulous though.

  8. Mel, I revisited your short review to learn more. I may need to also read Getting the Girl.

    Charley, it is a new favorite of mine as well.

    Vivienne, I'm pretty sure he's Australian. He lives there, anyway.

    My next book for the Aussie Author challenge will be Cardboard by Fiona Place. The author has very generously given me a couple of extra copies of the book to give away--please stay tuned! I may even make the giveaway worldwide. :)

  9. This sounds very good Suko, what a nice surprise that it turned out to be a great book. I like that quote about beauty. Very cool that your daughter recommended it :)
    Great review!

  10. Good to hear how much you loved Zusak's works. I recently bought The Book Thief, mainly because of your review of it! I hope to read it soon.

  11. Naida, it really is a very engaging book, from the very start.

    Mee, I hope you'll read I Am the Messenger as well. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Great review! The Book Thief is one of my all-time faves, so I've been wanting to read this book, too.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  13. I read this a few months ago and enjoyed it, but The Book Thief is definitely better :)

  14. I loved Markus Zusak's other book, The Book Thief and would love to read this book too! The story sounds great. :) It's something I think I will like.

  15. i locve ittttttttttttttttttttttttt


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