Kayla’s- I Am the Messenger

Markus Zusak. I Am the Messenger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (2005). markuszusak

Genre: Fiction

Age-16-19

Summary:
Markus Zusak, author of I Am Messenger, tells a riveting story about a young cab driver named Ed Kennedy. Ed lives in a mediocre house, with hum drum friends, and a provincial life. His life takes an unsuspecting turn when he is part of stopping a bank robbery. This short lived fame begins the greatest journey or his life. Ed must conquer tasks that allows him to find a greater meaning to life. Ed is “the chosen one” and is led on adventures by an unknown person. Little does he know he has just taken the first steps to living his new life.

Themes:
Self-identity is a very large theme of this novel. Ed Kennedy is on a journey to help others fulfill their lives, while succeeding in this he also finds his own meaning. Ed has been living a life that is not worth living. He has been driving is cab and not looking for or acknowledging the opportunities that have presented themselves to him. He is asked to find what others need in their lives, yet he never stopped to see what he was missing. The search for others happiness allows Ed to see clearly what brings him joy. This epiphany comes at the end of the novel. Ed Kennedy finds that in order to enjoy his life he must first be honest with himself and others. Once he is able to say how he feels and let go of all of his held in frustrations he can identify with his own self. Ed Kennedy discovers what it is that completes his life purpose.

Another prominent theme in this book is friendship. Ed begins the novel by describing his awkward set of friends and the dynamics of all of their relationships. He feels very alone even though he is often spending time with his three close friends. These characters are not active participants in their relationships. They see each other regularly but do not share stories or opinions to make each other feel needed or appreciated. This journey exposes that sometimes the best friends are the ones that are simply there. Ed realizes that it is necessary to dig a little to see what those closest to him are desperately in need of. This exploration into his friends lives allows him to make connections with each that will last a life time and change their friendships forever.

Connections:
Markus Zusak’s novel is falsely simple. If not careful the reader can easily look right past the greater meaning and purpose of the novel. This novel may not be appropriate for all high school classrooms. The story discussed the greater meaning of life and how everyone can live beyond what they think that are capable of. It is a call to action that younger, immature audiences may not clearly understand. This novel is unlike any that I have ever read and it forced me to question if it is truly a Young Adult Novel. It has all of the basic elements that young adult novels require yet it’s message is greater than most high schoolers would comprehend. I think this book could be a great tool if used correctly in the classroom. As a teacher, I would have to be careful in guiding discussions and help my students understand the importance of Ed’s actions. This novel also does a great job in asking the reader what makes a character? Is Ed Kennedy real? Does Zusak have that power as an author to decide? The format and elements used to create this story are fascinating and could be extremely beneficial to young students if explained appropriately.

Reactions:
I loved this book! I found the honestly of the narration to be very fulfilling. It takes a different approach to telling a story. Ed Kennedy is easily likable and forces the reader to analyze his actions in order to truly understand his intentions. At first, I did not see the connections with Ed Kennedy and the author himself. That was something that was not clear to me until after completing the novel. This connection is what makes the book so special. Markus Zusak brings his character to life and asks the readers to respond as well. The message is what made me like the book so well. “If a guy like you can stand up and do what you did, then maybe everyone can. Maybe everyone can live beyond what they are capable of” (Zusak 357). Zusak asks the reader to reflect upon their own lives and see what can change or be done differently. There are opportunities everywhere to make a difference and people often let them fly by.

Reception:
I Am the Messenger has received much praise. Zusak has created characters that are unlike any other. These special elements of his novel have not gone unnoticed. “Zuska’s characters, styling, and conversations are believably unpretentious, well conceived, and appropriately raw,” stated School Library Journal.  http://www.libraryjournal.com/slj/articlesteens/
Dozens of others raved about the complexities of this novel and the brilliant way in which the characters were displayed. CommonSense loves the novel and recommends it older teens calling it both educational and positive. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/i-am-messenger.

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About kjnorman

English Education Major Psychology Minor I would love to teach high school English. I am 22 years old and commute to WIU from Galesburg, IL.
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3 Responses to Kayla’s- I Am the Messenger

  1. Kayla, could you talk a bit more about what you mean by self-identity? What do you mean that at the end of the novel Ed can “identify with his own self”? I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this. What does it mean to identify with yourself? Was he identifying with someone else during the majority of the novel?

  2. kjnorman says:

    I mean that in Ed’s journey to help others he was able to identify characteristics that he himself has. He did not know who he was before starting the challenge to help others. He did not know who he was as a person, he could not define who he was. After being able to help others, the qualities that he used came to the surface and he could now identify his strongest positive qualities. When he was trying to help others, he in turn helped himself.

  3. You stated you do not feel entirely convinced that this is a young adult novel yet you would still like using it in the classroom. If you were to use it in the classroom what topics would you feel appropriate and how would you stay away from the themes in the novel that are too mature? Also, what techniques would you use to teach it? And what type of precautions would you take when teaching it?

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