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?"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.
~ I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak
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.