I am the Messenger

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4.7 (26)
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I am the Messenger
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
February 08, 2005
ISBN
0375830995
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Editor reviews

2 reviews

It's worth reading this book for Ed Kennedy
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
I have a hard time summing up my thoughts on this book. I've been thinking about it for months, trying to come up with a neat little 3-paragraph blurb that can adequately encompass I Am the Messenger, and I'm not sure it's possible. I can say I liked it. I can say that the audio narration is excellent. I can say that it was smart and funny and touching and wholly original. I can say I'm still not sure I liked the ending. But I'm not sure that really covers it. So I'll just do my best, and you'll have to take my word for it that this book is one that really must be experienced to be understood, and nothing I can say in a review will really do it justice.

From the opening moments, Zusak grounds the story with Ed Kennedy's authentic voice, and I immediately settled into the mind of this 19-year-old unmotivated cab driver, who in a moment of uncharacteristic fervor, foils a bank robbery. Ed's not quite sure why he does it, but his choice is the catalyst for all that comes next. He starts receiving playing cards in the mail, and on the cards is information about a list of strangers. Ed figures out that he has to intervene in the lives of these strangers to "complete" the card and move on to the next one, and his encounters with the people he is tasked with vary from sweet and quiet to violent and disturbing. He doesn't know who's sending the cards or why, just that he must complete each card...or else. Or else what? He's not quite sure. He only knows he doesn't want to find out.

I liked Ed a lot, which is good, because if you don't like Ed, you won't like this book. There are so many questions floating around -- Who's sending the cards? Why? How do they decide what Ed must do? What will they do if he fails? Why does Ed comply so easily? -- that the only way it works is to go along with Ed, accept his confusion and his actions as just part of who he is, and enjoy the ride. He is a remarkably well-developed character, one of the most well-rounded and personable narrators I've encountered. I don't know if it's a fault or a strength that next to the fully formed person that is Ed Kennedy, the other characters in the book -- with the possible exception of his malodorous, coffee-loving canine companion, the Doorman -- seem like simply that: characters. Even his best friends and the girl he's loved forever feel viewed through a fuzzy lens when compared to Ed. It doesn't really take away from the story; it just puts the whole thing so firmly inside Ed's head that it sometimes felt almost dreamlike, like he was the only real thing in the crazy world he inhabits. (Interestingly enough, I noticed this same almost hazy effect with Zusak's other critically acclaimed novel, The Book Thief, although the devices used to achieve the effect were quite different.)

I loved the intrigue of the story, although it's not what I'd call a mystery. In a mystery, there are clues along the way that allow an astute reader to piece together the truth of what's happening along with the characters. In I Am the Messenger, there aren't clues. Ed spends almost the entirety of the book mystified, moving blindly from one task to the next. It wasn't frustrating for me -- I felt that I was supposed to be lost along with Ed, and that when answers were finally forthcoming, they would be because someone outside of Ed decided to let him in on the secret, and not through any deductions of his -- or my -- own.

I also loved all the individual challenges Ed found himself up against. They were almost vignette-like, self-contained bubbles of story that occasionally intertwined, but most often remained separate. My favorite was Ed's relationship with an elderly woman suffering from dementia, who mistakes Ed for her late husband, Jimmy. His interactions with her were so tender and bittersweet that I could have read an entire book about just the two of them. Each of Ed's other encounters has a distinctly different flavor, oscillating between wholesome and uplifting to dark and sinister, and everything in between. The only constant linking them together as all part of the same narrative is Ed. And being such a wonderful character, Ed is enough.

The only problem I had with this book was the ending. And I've spoken to plenty of intelligent, well-read friends who love the ending, so take this with a grain of salt. It may just be me. But for me, after this book full of questions and genuine emotion and a fantastically authentic narrator, I wanted the ending to fit really organically into the grounded world Zusak created for Ed. And instead I got an existential crisis of an ending that seemed almost like a cheat. Like there really was no way to pull all the disparate threads of story together, so Zusak gave himself an out.

Now, don't get me wrong. If an author is going to use a device like this, I don't think there's really a better way to do it than the way Zusak did it. I think the man is a masterful storyteller and a stunning wordsmith, and I have no qualms with the mechanics and skill with which he crafted the ending. I just wish he hadn't used the device he did at all. I wish he didn't pull me out of the story the way he did. For me, it diminished what I find to be the main selling point of the entire story, which is the authenticity of Ed. I wanted to stay fully submersed in Ed's world, and have everything come together to make sense from that vantage point, right up until the very end. Instead, it forced me to pull back and re-frame my perception of everything that had happened, and I didn't appreciate that.

However, ending aside, I did truly love this book. And I know plenty of people whose opinions I deeply respect that love this book, including the ending. So whether or not you like those last few pages, I still highly recommend I Am the Messenger. It's smart, engaging, original, and will keep the wheels in your head spinning madly long after you turn the final page.
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It's in the cards...
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
I was really, really quite enjoying this book. It had an easygoing but tense vibe going like in Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Mysterious missions, an anti-hero good guy...you never really knew what was going to happen next.

In fact, you could just about say that I loved this book right up until the end. And I really, really wanted to like the end as much as I did the rest of the book. Some of you who've read it (or will read it -- don't let me dissuade you at all) will absolutely LOVE the ending. I'm glad at least to see that Booklist more or less agrees with me ("As for the ending, however, Zusak is too clever by half. He offers too few nuts-and-bolts details before wrapping things up with an unexpected, somewhat unsatisfying recasting of the narrative.")

But don't let me dwell on the end. The rest of the book is great. The characterization is great. The plot is great. Everything (except the end) is great. I love the main character, Ed Kennedy. Down on his luck -- actually, can you say that about someone who's never been up on his luck? -- and with nothing to be proud of or for, Ed takes a stand during a bank robbery. Soon after, mysterious playing cards with cryptic messages begin arriving at his house. It's up to Ed to solve the mysteries and figure out what he has to do.

Some of the "missions" are hard (helping a woman with an abusive husband), some are easy (keeping an older lady company), and some aren't at all what they seem. Through it all, Ed is "helped" along by the Doorman, his splendidly odiferous dog, and his friends (in particular, Audrey, Ed's not-so-secret passion).

I recommend this book primarily for older teens and adults. Technically billed as a "12 and up" book, I'm more comfortable attaching a "14 and up" figure to it for a few of the situations/missions. And seriously, don't let me talk you out of this one, because I really did enjoy everything up to the end...and you might be one of those people that absolutely loves how Markus Zusak wraps things up. In fact, I'd love to see your reviews.
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User reviews

26 reviews

 
(19)
 
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(3)
2 stars
 
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Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.5  (26)
Characters 
 
4.8  (4)
Writing Style 
 
4.7  (3)
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I Am the Messenger
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
I read this and remember thinking it wasn’t that good. But then, after I’d finished it, I Am the Messenger started to grow on me. In retrospect, it was fantastic, a five-star read. So naturally, I had to re-read, because the memory I had of Zusak’s writing didn’t match up with my current opinion.

In short, I like this book A LOT. I like it better than Zusak’s more popular novel, The Book Thief, and I like it a lot more after a second reading.

Beyond Zusak’s brilliant style itself, which I absolutely love to death, there’s the plot itself. Now, I do admit that it’s a bit incredible, that Ed is a bit unbelievable, but if you’re willing to go past that, the end result is amazing. The plot, the story, the characters, the humor—all perfect. I could gush for days.

Like The Book Thief, this book starts off a bit slow and is harder to get into. And like The Book Thief, there is a moment towards the end when you just fall into the book and lose yourself. But with I Am the Messenger, that lost feeling is stronger, you’re more into it, and when you get to the completely brilliant end scene, you don’t want the book to be over. I honestly got a funny feeling in my stomach for the last fifty pages or so, and I know that sounds corny, but I did.

Also, as I mentioned, there’s Zusak’s writing. Gorgeous imagery and personification out the wazoo. Great use of fragments and paragraph breaks. Yeah, I’m sold.

One of my favorite books, better after a second read, and definitely better than ever-popular The Book Thief.
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Fascinating
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
N/A
The plot of this book is quite strange, but I really enjoyed reading the story. Ed Kennedy drives a cab to earn money, a job he got by lying about his age, and plays cards with his three best friends, Ritchie, Marv and Audrey. He loves Audrey, but she does not want to love anyone; she prefers meaningless physical relationships to the pain of loving someone and the fear of loss. At the beginning of the book, the three friends are all stuck in monotonous, accomplishment-free lives without any motivation to change. After Ed helps stop a bank robbery mostly by accident, his life begins to change with the arrival of a playing card in his mailbox. The ace of diamonds has a list of addresses and times written on it. He discovers that each one is a mission to fulfill. For his journey in the book to be complete, he has to complete the challenges on all the aces and the joker. Ed grows as an individual because of this experience and so do his friends; this strange incident gives them back some momentum and desire for improvement. The ending of the book was a bit weak; I might have preferred not to have a resolution than to have the joker section go the way it did. The book points to the power of the human spirit and suggests that even the most mundane of us have the power to change the world and help people in both small and large ways.
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Wow.
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
For some reason, every book I read by an Australian author is awesome. And this, my friends, was no exception.
It's weird. I love Ed, and most of the time while I was reading, I wished I was Audrey.
I definitely won’t forget this one. Brilliant.
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All We Might Need Is A Simple Paradigm Shift
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
The extraordinary is concieved and delivered, through a little bit of courage and faith, in the otherwise dull and mundane. This is the message in Mr. Zusak's sweet and enormously pleasurable tale of Ed Kennedy, a painfully average nice guy who is suddenly snatched from a life of lazy, self-centered repetition and thrust into an existance outside of himself. As Ed stumbles along in his journey, Mr. Zusak effortlessy invites the reader along as we, with Ed, experience new levels of understanding, tenderness, sacrifice and companionship. In I Am The Messenger, the author creates a fun enviornment that oozes with comfort and kindness, all welcomed feelings in this fully engaging and satisying novel.
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EPIC thats all I can say
(Updated: April 28, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
N/A
Writing Style 
 
N/A
Reader reviewed by Kare

I have NEVER loved nor hated a book so much in my life!

Description:
Ed Kennedy is a good-for-nothing, waste-of-space type of person. He spend his time driving for a taxis company and play cards with his friends. He isn't much until he single handledly stops a bank robber. He is painted a hero in the local newspapers. After the fifteen minuets of fame wears away he receives a playing card with addresses scrawled on them. All he knows is that he feels he must visit the addresses. The people who live at these addresses need some help. So Ed helps them. As he works his way through the people he becomes tied too a job, not one with a monetary pay, he is the messenger.

My Review:
This book has hit me unlike any other book I have ever read. Its gripping and raw, impossible to put down. Ed is a rustic and real character, one that could really exist. He is an everyday hero. NO he's not supernatural or filled with paranormal powers but the boys go POWER!! The author really nails the setting, its believable creates the world that Ed exists in beautifully.

Ed faces each new card with unbelievable bravery, I know I couldn't summon that kind of power to do what he does. With every card Ed learns more than one ever thought possible. Ed has days when he fears his new-found calling and days when it brings him inexplicable joy, but with every card he helps somebody. He is learning to be, not just breath but live. He finds some direction in his lost world.
One thing that bothers Ed is that he can't figure out if the person sending the cards is good or bad...
Somebody is playing a cruel game with Ed and as he travels through the cards he struggles to figure out just who is sending him on this wild goose chase.

Explanation of why I love/hate this book:

love-
*Ed is hero
*The message is strong and powerful about the inner power of what man (and women) can really do and what limits they can break through.
*You question who is messing with Ed till the end

Hate-
* Now don't get me wrong but I don't like the language in this book. Far too much cursing for my likes but it goes with the setting and the characters so I guess the author felt that it was necessary.

Seriously this book is so powerful it should be read.
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Narrative Discourse
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by Simon West

I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Am The Messenger.  Markus Zusak demonstrates himself as a master of character development and creating a heavily layered plot.  Zusak makes many interesting choices in his crafting of this novel and there are often times where the reader finds themselves making inferences about twists and foreshadowing that has been skillfully wrapped into the plot.

The use of cards and missions set forth for Zusak's protagonist, Ed Kennedy, keeps the reader gripped with the constant action in the novel.  Each mission has its own mystery, climax, and resolution, making it nearly impossible to find a dull situation in the plot.

One of the greater appeals of this novel is the ability for the reader to identify with the protagonist.  Ed Kennedy is presented as an everyday normal guy who under extraordinary circumstances rises above himself and accomplishes feats that other characters within the novel would not believe him to be capable of (excluding Audery).

SPOILER: Stop here if you have not read the novel, the rest of this review is a criticle take on Zusak's ending, it is revileing and only meant for those who have already read this book.

There has been some controversy surrounding the ending of the novel.  The confusion lies within the narrative discourse, or focalization that Zusak chooses.  Through all of the novel, except the ending Zusak uses a fixed interal focalization, focused on Ed Kennedy, the protagonist.  As we meet the final character to be introduced something very strange happens.  The true narrator is revieled to us.  We see that though a fixed internal focalization was used, this character changes narrative discourse and jumbles the reader's mind because we see that this fixed internal focalization has been masking the true focalization, external focalization.  The final character reviels himself as the author/narrative voice and upon doing so the novel abrubtly removes the mask of fixed internalization and bares the external focalization.  The reader no longer gets to feel the thoughts of Ed Kennedy, we can only make an inference of his feelings or ideas based on the dialoge exchanged between him and this new character.  Simply put the final character reviels himself as the author of the novel, leaving Ed Kennedy baffled and wondering if he is real.  Like in all novels though, the characters are real, not real people, but real ideas.  This is the point Zusak is trying to show his audience.  The unraveling of this ending creates a dynamic in literature that is not often seen.  We all know that a narrator can be a character within the novel, but Zusak tests the limits of conventions as he shows that the author of the novel can also, at times, be a character.


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I am the messenger
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by Maya

This was a beautiful idea for a book. As most of Zusak's book, it was written unquiqely (sp?). The only problem i had was the end, It seemed patched up, and roughly put together, as if to finish quickly. The end was a dissapointment in comparison to the rest of the book/

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Disappointing
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by Vicki

I read this book based on rave reviews from Amazon.com. I liked it, but I did not LOVE it the way other readers did. Not really my cup of tea; surprising because I tend to enjoy young adult titles
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Fate, London, and Playing Cards
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by Kristen

I must say, this book captured me right from the start. I listened to
it on audiobook, which definitely made me blush in the car when the
sexual thoughts and scenes came through, windows rolled down and me
avoiding other drivers' eyes. I loved the actor's voice and managed,
for once, to listen to the whole thing on audio (part of it being I
didn't have a book copy). I don't know about you, but listening to
books is a great motivator for hand-washing dishes and cleaning around
the house.

The book starts out with a bank robbery. Two friends,
both male, are at the bank and the robber manages to get away with the
money, but finds himself without a ride (his ride was getting talked to
by the cops and then drove away) and so he points to one of the friends
and tells him to give him his keys. The attitude of the character just
makes it very hard not to laugh. He's got a cheap old car that rarely
starts. Alas, he gives the keys over. The robber drops the gun on the
way out, but decides to just take off. Our main character, Ed, grabs
the gun and runs after the guy. Saves the day basically.

Well,
if that doesn't draw you into a story - the banter taking place
definitely will. Ed continues on and one day gets a playing card with
an address on it. He's been asked to give a message and this continues
on. He's not sure where the cards are coming from, but when two
gentleman come and rough him up (thanks to him being slow to figure out
one or two of the messages) he gets the picture that someone is behind
it. I don't think I'm explaining this book real well so far.

Here's
basically what happens - Ed has to find these people, figure out what
they need, and give it to them. A range of things happen - he gets
beaten the crap out of, he almost kills a man, and he has to pretend to
be an old woman's dead husband. And much, much more. The mystery behind
who is sending these addresses takes a side line while you cruise
through the life of Ed Kennedy - 20 something year old taxi-driver,
girlfriend deficient and with quite an attitude about life that is
carefree.

I just ate this book right up. I wanted to scrub for
days or drive around just so I could listen to the accented voice that
matched up perfectly what I drew up in my head about the main
character. The plot was fantastic, the characters interesting and well,
the ending was bloody well perfect. But you'll have to read it yourself
to figure that last part out.

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What a great message!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by mearley

Wow! This book was amazing! I listened to it on CD, and every day I wished I had a longer commute so I could hear a little more! Markus Zusak is a master of metaphor and personification; his words never seemed cliche or ordinary even when describing the most mundane circumstances.

One warning: Despite being marketed as a YA book, there is very little about this book (other than the protagonist being 19) that is YA. The language, violence, and frank talk about sex is definitely not to be recommended for immature readers.

However, if you can see the big picture, you'll be rewarded with a redemptive ending unlike any other. I'm excited to read the rest of Zusak's books!
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