REVIEW: I Am the Messenger

BOOK: I Am the Messenger9781909531369
AUTHOR: Markus Zusak
PAGES: 360
PUBLISHER: Knopf
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (3.5/5)

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?

MY REVIEW:

I know I’m among many who had their first experience with Zusak when reading The Book Thief, and I know I’m not alone in wanting to pick up I Am the Messenger based solely on the fact that The Book Thief completely blew me away. So it’s safe to say that the first few chapters of this book caught me by surprise.

If you’re expecting The Book Thief, turn back now. This book is completely new, and it doesn’t need to continue being compared because it is completely wonderful for it’s own reasons.

“‘Are you some kind of saint or something?’
Inside, I laugh. Me? A saint? I list what I am. Taxi driver. Local deadbeat. Cornerstone of mediocrity. Sexual midget. Pathetic cardplayer.
I say my final words to her.
‘No, I’m not a saint, Sophie. I’m just another stupid human.’”

I Am the Messenger is the kind of book you take the time to sit down and absorb in one sitting. It’s opening chapter is one of the most memorable I have ever read and reels you right into the story of Ed Kennedy – a pretty unremarkable underage cab driver.One afternoon, on another particularly mediocre day, Ed inadvertently foils a bank robbery and finds some attention from local news reporters, neighbors, and a mysterious stranger who seems to believe it’s time for Ed to take a stand and become something more than ordinary. He begins receiving playing cards in the mail.

Each card holds a clue. A name, an address, a poem – something to get the wheels turning and push Ed in the right direction and into the lives of ordinary people who seem to need his help. Ed pours himself into each stranger, each life, and we watch as he faces each struggle, as he grows through each encounter, and as he realizes that someone has done him a favor.

“’Why me?’ I ask God.
God says nothing.
I laugh and the stars watch.
It’s good to be alive.”

The greatest tool that Zusak has used here is the fact that Ed is so completely ordinary. He could be you or I. There is nothing here that sets Ed out from the masses. There is no advantage. Ironically, it is Ed’s completely lack of remarkableness that makes him so extraordinary. It completely drives home the message that we are all capable of being something so much more in the lives of others. We can touch the lives of one another, and that is our greatness. It gives the characters so much humanity.

Zusak packs a punch with the power behind his words. While I can understand that not everyone is as fond of his use of short fray sentences as I am, I find them to make the story feel a lot more poetic. Each sentence break is a short mental pause that gives you a second to let the meaning sink in and allow yourself to reflect.

“’There’s only one thing I want.’
‘What’s that, Ritchie?’
His answer is simple.
‘To want.’”

This book is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It will leave you questioning everything. It has an ending that will deal you a blow to the chest. Your heart will break. Your heart will swell. You’ll read the last pages, put down the book, and feel like something has changed.

Read this book because it is not The Book Thief.

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