I Am the Messenger is written by Marcus Zusak, the author of the New York Times Best Seller The Book Thief. Many people who have read his more well know novel will have high expectations for this newer book to be as well constructed and meaningful as its predecessor. Though I can’t speak for all, I believe that it very much lives up to the hopes of potential readers.
Meet Ed Kennedy: an underage cab driver with little hope for a future in anything. He grew up with people not expecting much and lives up to their expectations. Other than his driving he’s a lousy card player; in love with his best friend, Audrey, who has stuck Ed in the friend zone; and has a loveable, coffee drinking dog. His life is a peaceful flow of irresponsibility until the day he stops a bank robbery and from there his life is turned upside down.
When an Ace of diamonds ends up in his mailbox with three addresses on it, Ed finds himself pulled across the city to help those who are in need. That help will take many forms and occasionally requires him to cause pain for the sake of others. At first drawn by curiosity soon a presence begins to reveal itself behind the mysterious tasks and Ed begins to search for his own answers as to who is behind it all.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the realistic nature of the characters. For the four friends life has been hard; it has placed heavy burdens upon them and they are all trying to deal with it the best they can. Ed is not your traditional hero, but he is a hero. He is a savior type for the people he comes in contact with though he himself does not resemble the savior figure that is most commonly imagined. Each person he helps he helps with something different. For some he is the comforting stranger, for some he is the protector, and for others he is a guide toward a brighter place. Yet Ed is a flawed Christ figure in that he has just as many problems as the people he is trying to help. This leads to my second favorite characteristic of the book: the moral message.
Moral messages are hard to write into a book. When done consciously they can easily come off as didactic and will as quickly ruin a book as fast as poor characters or bad plot. Zusak creates a moral element to this story through a variety of means, but the best way to explain how he succeeded in not sounding preachy is that he captured the reality of life. He didn’t paint an idealistic picture of what the world and a family should be like. Instead, he portrayed the world as it is and then lit a candle of hope for the readers to follow.
If I could take the privilege to backtrack momentarily to when I was discussing characters I would like to make another point in regards to this aspect. If you are the person who needs a physically strong and smart character who is able to be master of the situation then Ed won’t be your guy. As I mentioned above he is weak in many of the iconic ways but strong in others. This made him relatable to me. I’m not the strongest person out there, neither am I the smartest, but I do have other strengths that are not always acknowledged by the rest of the world. It was nice to read about a character that I could relate to on this deep of a level.
After my positive rave for the book I know there are some out there who want to know what’s wrong with it. Is it a perfect book? No, but I think it’s a great one. One that I will most likely re-read at some point in my life. That being said I can’t think of anything I would change. The foul language used was realistic and purposeful, the sexual references were implied and not graphic, and violence was not glorified in any way. Though some of the content may appear questionable I think the author does a very difficult thing in painting a realistic portrayal of the world while removing the graphic aspects from the forefront; thus writing a book that allows the profound conflict to take the spotlight.
If you’ve never read any of Marcus Zusak’s novels than this is a good place to start.