Published by Alfred A. Knopf Borzoi Books on May 9th 2006
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery & Thriller, Friendship, Social Issues
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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?
I am the Messenger is, in many ways, a beautiful book. The story is moving, the message beautiful and the characters interesting and complex. It is also often very humorous and it ended up making me smile (and even laugh) many times. Do not go into this expecting it to be like The Book Thief, the two books are nothing alike and you will be disappointed. For those with an open mind however, I believe this book has quite a lot to say.
The premise of the book intrigued me. We have Ed Kennedy, an ordinary 19-year-old guy who finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery along with his three best friends. After the incident his life changes dramatically when Ed finds a mysterious playing card in his letter box with three addresses on it. From here on out, Ed acts as a messenger, delivering to each and every person on the playing card what they need.
The novel starts off with one of the best first chapters I have ever read: the bank robbery. That scene was hilarious, full of intrigue and made me curious as to what the rest of the novel would bring. Unfortunately, the book never again reached that high mark of suspense but it was entertaining nonetheless.
One of the best things about the story for me was Ed. I loved him as a main character. Some might find him a little too self-deprecating to be likable but I personally could empathize with him so much. I felt his pain and understood what he was going through. He is ordinary, average, has no special talents, no great ambitions, no grand accomplishments. At 19, he believes that he has already come as far as he can go. While people around him do great things and have awesome jobs, his life has come to a stop. He is just living, never really changing.
Fortunately, the story isn’t about Ed feeling sorry for himself, instead, it’s about his growth. Seeing the confidence he gained with every delivered message was beautiful and I loved following his development throughout the story.
I also liked the other character and their relationships with one another. The scenes that featured Marv, Ritchie, Audrey and Ed together were my favorites. Some well-established, realistic friendships there that made me laugh out loud more than once. Both Marv and Ritchie were complex and fleshed out, Audrey less so. In fact, she may have been my least character in the story. And then there was the Doorman (Ed’s dog); he was awesome. The way Zusak made him a real character within the novel was fantastic.
The one relationship I wasn’t a big fan of was the romance. It was very tame, almost bland and just did nothing for me (this may very well be due to the fact that I didn’t like the love interest). I don’t think it was superfluous, but it didn’t really add anything to the story either.
Ultimately, I think the reason you should read this book, the reason I recommend it, is its message. Sometimes we all need a reminder that anyone, no matter how ordinary you think you are, can do something extraordinary. Every one of us can do something to help another person as long as we believe we can.
Additionally, there are also some beautiful quotes in here that I want everyone to read.
It’s not a big thing, but I guess it’s true–big things are often just small things that are noticed.
Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.
I mean wow, I want to frame that last one and hang it on my wall.
I did have a few issues with the story. I felt that the middle part of the novel, the actual message delivering, didn’t captivate as much as I would have liked. I’m not sure why that was but I think the idea could have been executed better.
Then there was the writing, which I had some conflicting feelings about. Zusak does this thing where he sometimes spaces out sentences and makes them into an entire paragraph. This can be an effective literary device, however, I felt that it was overused and the fact that it was always employed when something meaningful was said felt very in-my-face “this is important”. I prefer books to be more subtle.
Then there was the ending which frankly I didn’t enjoy a whole lot. It wasn’t predictable, but it felt a little like a cop-out. It didn’t ruin the book for me or anything but I wish that the mystery aspect would have been more elaborate, better developed.
One last remark that I want to mention is the question of righteousness. In the story, Ed does various things to deliver the messages that will end up bettering peoples’ lives, bettering humanity. My issue does not concern the “positive” acts but the ones in which he employs violence. Whenever something like this happens in a story, I just find myself questioning what is right and wrong. Because who are we to decide what message needs delivering? Who are we to decide how someone else should live? Who are we to pass judgment? Of course the results in the novel are purely positive, but I couldn’t help but wonder if what Ed was doing really was the best course of action.
Despite my complaints I still recommend this book. It’s not the most engaging story in the world but the characters kept me hooked nonetheless and the message is truly worth it.