Book: Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger. New York, NY. Random House, 2002.
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Fiction
Audience: Ages 16 and up
Read Aloud: OMGCLICKHERE!
Summary: Ed Kennedy is a 19 year-old cabbie who lives on the crappy side of town. His mom treats him poorly, his best friend his a jerk, and the girl he’s in love with doesn’t love him back. Everything changes for Ed when he receives the Ace of Diamonds in the mail, with three addresses and times written on it. Finally he figures out that at each place he’s supposed to deliver a “message” and it could be anything. After delivering messages to Milla, Sophie and a man who comes home drunk every night and rapes his wife, he receives the Ace of Clubs with “say a prayer at the stones of home” written on it. He ends up at the river where he and his younger brother, Tommy, used to go as kids and finds three names written on a stone: Thomas O’Reilly, Angie Carusso and Gavin Rose. He delivers messages to all of those people and then receives the Ace of Spades. On it is written three authors: Graham Steele, Morris West, and Sylvia Plath. He goes to the library and checks out all of the titles of all three authors. He discovers the addresses in the titles of the books and visits the Tatupu family, sees his mother out on a date and has a deep conversation with her, and goes to see a movie at an old theater. Then he receives the final Ace: the Ace of Hearts. On the Ace of Hearts is written three films: The Suitcase, Cat Ballou, and Roman Holiday. The three films represent Ritchie, Marv and Audrey; his three best friends. He delivers messages to those three and then he receives the Joker, which has his own address written on it. Then he finds out who’s been sending the cards.
Themes: One of the main themes is coming of age. Ed grows up through delivering his messages. He starts out as an insecure, underage cab driver who has no faith in himself. By the end of the novel, he has confidence in himself and says “I’m not the messenger. I am the message.” You can see his growth throughout the novel because each Ace provides harder and harder challenges, but he takes them on and accomplishes each.
Another main theme is childhood/innocence. When Ed delivers his message to Angie Carusso, he buys her an ice cream cone. That small symbol of childhood is important to her because she’s lost so much of her childhood from having children so young. The way he describes her eating the ice cream cone is very childlike. He also delivers a message to the Tatupu family, who has five children, where he gives them new Christmas lights. The lights represent childhood and the innocence that comes along with it.
Connections: This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I really enjoyed it. I’ve never read anything so suspenseful, but at the beginning it reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye. Ed was very down on himself in the beginning like Holden Caulfield is throughout Catcher.
Reaction: I loved the book. I thought it was really suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down. I have read mystery novels before, but most of them are geared toward the adult crowd and not the young adult crowd.
Reception: Terry Miller Shannon from teenreads.com says that the book shifts your life view.
“Good books entertain; great books tip your world ever so slightly. Don’t be surprised if reading I AM THE MESSENGER shifts your perspective on your own life. The story is so good that it breaks your heart (I suspect I’ve just finished my favorite book of 2005). But don’t take just my word for it — I AM THE MESSENGER won the 2003 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Award.”
Matt Berman from Common Sense Media says that this is what parents need to know about the book.
“Parents need to know that this book is loaded with swearing and sexual references and fantasies. There are several bloody beatings, a husband rapes his wife, and characters smoke and drink to excess. But this well-written book, the winner of the 2003 Australian Children’s Book Award for Older Readers, has a sweet message: When the slacker protagonist begins helping others, he finds new meaning in life — and his relationships with his friends and relatives change. Teens may have fun discussing the book’s themes (Is it possible to change other people’s lives for the better with simple acts? Is it possible to change your own?)”