Book: Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia Pty. Limited, 2002.
Genre: Suspense (Fiction)
Audience: Ages 16 and up
Read-Aloud: coming soon!
Summary: 19 year old Ed Kennedy, is a cabbie that lives in the shabby part of town. He is miserable and pretty hard on himself all the time and his friends don’t seem to make it any better. When Ed accidentally stops a bank robbery, his entire life changes for the better. Ed begins receiving playing cards with tidbits of information on them which eventually led him to particular people and places. Once he got there, he was to do something about the situations the people or families were facing. While Ed learned a lot about what he could do beyond his own beliefs, the messages led up to conquering the most difficult task of all: invading the private lives of his best friends and helping them.
Themes: One of the themes found in this novel is secrecy. When Ed begins receiving the cards, he does not let anyone into his “other life” except Audrey; she was most likely informed because of his infatuation with her. Ed went around lying to everyone, no matter what type of danger he faced. Marv also kept a huge secret about why he was saving money despite his friends’ constant interrogation about it. Overall, Ed Kennedy and his friends all with-held information from one another about some pretty important things.
Another theme that is prevalent in this novel is doubt. Ed continuously doubts himself and his abilities, which is probably how he ended up becoming “the message”. He does not think very highly of himself and seems to doubt his ability to function in the world as a normal person. Doubt comes into play while Ed is in the midst of receiving the cards as well. He is unsure if he could decipher the clues at times, and even when he believes he can, he is still found in the novel over thinking the clues.
Connections: This novel would be very helpful when teaching older students (mainly seniors) about believing in themselves after high school. Ed and his friends are all about 19 and they are also out of school. They experience events that seniors might have over the summer leading up to their senior year and because the characters are so well developed, students are more likely to find themselves in one of the characters. While the plot is a bit quirky and unrealistic, I believe it is a great imaginative story for them to reference when they are experiencing conflicts within themselves.
Reactions: I found the book interesting, but shockingly, I was a bit indifferent about it. I don’t necessarily love the book although I found some areas to be hilarious or heart warming, at the same time, I don’t hate it although it was way too unrealistic for my taste. I agree that there are friends that do not tell each other everything, however I find it hard to believe that people can face extreme situations like Ed and Marv without telling anyone at all anything. The characters were great and the language was awesome, still I could not get into the book in the way that I normally do.
Reception: Terry Miller Shannon believes Markus Zusak’s novel may “shift your perspective of your own life” because the writing is so great. The reader compliments Zusak’s use of language in the book, and seems to appreciate the language. Shannon goes on to provide an extraordinary summary of the piece and even includes the awards that he has won for the novel. The full review can be read at a site called Teen reads.
Another brilliant review (in addition to many others) can be found on common sense media. Matt Berman states the book is “well-written” but it uses an overload of swearing and sexual fantasies. Berman seems to like the text for an older reader, but thinks Zusak is a bit graphic. He finishes by admitting that the novel has a great message for teen readers.