I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak

I read The Book Thief about a year ago and really enjoyed it, so when Simon picked another Markus Zusak book – I am the Messenger – for Riverside Readers, I was delighted.

I am the Messenger couldn’t be more different in context than The Book Thief although stylistically it is not too far removed in the way that it uses dark humour and vivid characters to convey themes of humanity and personal development. The story begins when protagonist Ed Kennedy becomes an accidental hero at the scene of a bank robbery. Afterwards he begins receiving cryptic messages delivered on playing cards. He undertakes a series of missions which bring him into contact with a range of different characters. Sometimes dangerous, sometimes beautiful – his experiences turn his life up-side down.

Forthright and down-to-earth, Ed is a likeable character although definitely an unlikely hero. A 19 year old Aussie cab driver, Ed’s life doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere special and he is acutely aware of his failings (“bad at sex”) and generally believing himself to be a hopeless case. He is constantly harangued by his rather hard-nosed mother and lives in the shadow of his dead father’s alcoholism. I found that the first person narrative in the story was really well executed and I really enjoyed Ed’s affable, self aware voice as well as his detailed descriptions of the character flaws and strengths of his close friends.

I am the Messenger has been categorised as a crossover book and I can see it sits across young adult / adult fiction genres. There is a strong message of personal growth and it is also structured and written in a clear way which makes it very readable. I did think that it was clever (if a little contrived) that the chapters corresponded to the suits and numbers of cards in a deck. These manageable chapters along with the conversational tone made for a pacy read. I do think that it managed to avoid being over emotional, however at times the underlying messages of the book were unsubtle and the developing love story hard to miss. Content-wise for the young adult category, I would say that it is probably suited at mid-teen age range. Constantly navel gazing when it comes to his problems in the love department Ed’s thoughts are often sex-oriented, although they tend to be insightful and funny rather than gratuitous. I definitely had the sense that I was stuck inside the head of a young man!

The best thing about the book was definitely some of the touching scenes and encounters with the people that Ed delivers messages to. There were also some pretty dark moments particularly at the beginning of the book which seemed designed to make the reader thing about what they might personally do in the situation. I wouldn’t say that this book changed my life but it was a really enjoyable and original read, and for me confirms that Zusak is a master of tugging at the heart strings without a saccharine-sweet approach.

My rating:

7 out of 10

What young adult or crossover fiction have you read an enjoyed?

11 responses to “I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak

  1. Susi (The Book Affair)

    I’ve seen this book floating around the blogosphere and thought about reading it, seeing as I loved ‘The Book Thief’. Now, after your review, I might just have to go and finally pick it up. 🙂

  2. I loved The Book Thief, and though wary of this because of the YA category, I want to read it sometime. Zusak’s style is like nothing I’ve come across.

  3. Great review Polly. Glad that you enjoyed it so much only sorry that you couldnt have been there to join in the discussion.

    I enjoyed this but wasn’t as charmed or bowled over as I was by The Book Theif, will definitely read more of his work though.

    • novelinsights

      I know, how annoying! I know what you mean, it didn’t move me as much as The Book Thief but it was a really enjoyable read. I’ll be there next time, promise!

  4. I enjoyed this book, too, Polly, although I did think some of the moral messages were a bit dubious — ie, the only way to get people to go to church is to offer them free beer!! And some of it was a tad on the schmaltzy side, but overall I found it to be a page-turning read.

    • novelinsights

      Hahaha, that’s true – and the beginning bit is a bit dodgy too, I was thinking, how long is that poor woman going to suffer?!

  5. I really liked this one, it´s one of the best YA books I´ve ever read. I think it was the structure and the narrative twist that I enjoyed most.

    • novelinsights

      The structure was great for keeping the flow of the story and quite unusual. Glad you enjoyed this!

  6. Pingback: Novel Insights’ May Review « Novel Insights

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