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on December 5, 2006
Markus Zusak might be my favorite author now, and I've read a lot of books by a lot of authors. I have not, however, read three books of such magnitude by the same author. Upon completing GETTING THE GIRL, THE BOOK THIEF, and now I AM THE MESSENGER, I sit back in awe at the mastery of the writing, the power of the message, the truth of such stories.

Winner of the 2003 Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year Award and nominated for best young adult book at the 2006 L.A. Times Festival of Books, I AM THE MESSENGER (or THE MESSENGER in Australia) tells the story of Ed Kennedy, nineteen-year-old taxi cab driver and all-around average guy. In fact, he's the epitome of average -- faithful friends, stinky dog, dead-end job, and girl who loves someone else.

That's why it's such a big deal for Ed, Marv, and Ritchie to get trapped in a bank during a stickup. One of the thieves gets spooked, drops his gun, and somehow Ed ends up with the weapon and the town's praise. That might be a winning hand for Ed if he doesn't receive the first mysterious playing card, the Ace of Diamonds in his mailbox. It's a card with a message for him to deliver. Or else.

Messages like Ed's will change a person, if he or she lets them. That's the beauty of Zusak's story. Ed discovers the changing power in simple, personalized messages of love, even if they're ones he's forced to deliver. While I could imagine a cynical reader calling Ed's 12 messages a tad forced, I would differ with them on every case. Ed's stories are simple proof that if a "guy like him can stand up and do what he did, then maybe everyone can. Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of."

-- Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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on July 12, 2006
I bought this book recently on a serendipitous bookstore trip during a family reunion in Colorado. It is most definately worthy of the multiple starred reviews it has received. Ed Kennedy, a 19-year-old with no forseeable future, is extremely likeable and readable. His life takes a sharp turn for the positive when he receives the first card in the mail-an ace with three addresses and times. It suddenly becomes clear that these people need his help, whether in large ways or small acts of kindness. Three more aces follow, and thus embarks Ed's adventure to help other people, and naturally in the end help himself. His friends are very realistic and their issues are almost as compelling as Ed's. There is a bit of romance, but it doesn't overpower the rest of the book-it's a very nice balance. Family challenges are a major theme here, as is learning your true potential. I would recommend it to teens over the age of 15 (some swearing and violence), but it is more than adult-friendly, and interesting enough to be a page turner for all ages, and the price is unbeatable as well. All I have to say thank heavens for spontaneous trips and books like this!
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on August 29, 2008
Markus is an immensely talented guy - I flipped over every page where he described something with such clever beauty that actually caught my breath while reading it. As result, my copy has so many bent pages it looks like it lost a fight with a rabid cat. This man is a unique author who can capture many fringe emotions (poignancy, heartburn, shame) that most authors ignore because they lack the talent to adequately describe them.

Is the story particularly gripping? No.

Is the pacing appropriate? No. There are many scenes that seemed irrelevant. In fact I once read that a "tight story" is one where no scene or character could be removed without the whole thing falling apart. This is not a tight story.

Is the ending satisfying? Sort of. Yes. No. Although I give him credit for balls. The ending is a ballsy cop out.

I also wonder why this is classified as a young adult novel. If "young" means that most of the main characters are "young" and they are struggling to find their way in the world, then yes it is properly classified. However the reality is that this is a fairly adult book and I wonder what criteria the editor ultimately used to put it in the YA category. The heavy emphasis on alcohol and sex (even rape) seems a bit ragged for the generally softer category of YA. Does this book fit in with the Twillight series? I don't think so....

However I don't want my review to sound as negative as I fear it does. This is a fascinating work by a talented individual. Keep an eye on him, I think he has great work in him.
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on April 7, 2007
Ok, this was a nice book. Interesting (albeit quite unbelievable) premises and a quite readable writing style keep it moving along nicely. I thought about the book every day after I had read parts of it, and looked forward to reading more. BUT then I got to the ending... It's not a BAD ending, just a puzzling and completely improbable ending--one that made me suddenly feel like I had just wasted a bunch of time reading the book. Did the author just get to the end of the book and realize he didn't have an ending, and quickly make something up? Or maybe he actually meant to end it that way. Whatever the case, I don't want to spoil the plot for people, but I'll just say that the identity of someone in question throughout the book turns out to be someone completely out of the blue, and it just doesn't fit the facts and plotline of the book very well.

Oh, well. Obviously many people have enjoyed the book, and I did as well, but the tacked-on ending just left me unsatisfied and disgruntled.
1515 comments109 of 132 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 23, 2008
I just finished the Australian book titled "I Am the Messenger" by Markus Zusak; the first book I've ever read by this author, though one of his other books (The Book Thief) has received wide acclaim. The story is meant for older teens only, I'd say (due to strong language and mature situations) and is a complete departure from the sort of YA books I usually read. It got off to an amusing and very promising start when Ed, a teen drifting through life without any clear direction, foils a bank robbery. Soon after he begins receiving anonymous messages directing him to locations where he has the opportunity to do some good in the world. The book is very well written, and the situations in which the protagonist finds himself are occasionally horrifying, sometimes amusing, and in a few instances very touching. (All the scenes with Milla rather got to me, for instance.)

Even though the character's actions---and the plot in general---continued to become increasingly far-fetched and unbelievable as the book went on, the story still held my attention. Well, right up until the big twist ending and reveal, that is! Literally within the last five pages, the author introduced an incredibly stupid and annoying deux ex machina plot device to solve the mystery of who exactly is sending the notes. This shoddy, lazy finish to the story had me ready to throw the book right across the room. I certainly had a lot of choice words to say about the conclusion (some of which I had learned from this very book!) which I cannot print out in this review. Ha!

So, a mixed-to-negative review on this one from me. The good points of the book, and the writing skill of the author, were overshadowed by an increasingly convoluted and illogical plot progression in the second half of the manuscript, and a crappy, crappy ending. I'm still so ticked off by it, in fact, that I don't know that I'll bother to seek out anything else the author has written...
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on September 7, 2006
I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak is the story of a young man who is struggling with his impossibly uneventful life. Ed Kennedy has never been special, he has never been the best. His job is to be a cab driver, an occupation for which he had to lie about his age. In his family, he is the only one of his siblings who ever visits his mother, and she treats him the worst. He is hopelessly in love with his friend, Audrey, who, along with his two other card playing mates, is just as lost as he is. His life simply is how it is, and although he wishes he would, he won't change it. Fortunately, someone else changes it for him when he receives the first card in the mail. On the card are three addresses, and only his wish of a better life brings him to go to these houses. With fear, excitement, and hope, Ed embarks on a unique journey of self discovery. This book cannot be lumped into the category of "young adult finding themselves" books. Some would say this book isn't about Ed, as much as it is about the people who's lives he changes. Read this book if you're ready for something that is brutally honest yet delicate and thought-provoking while being comedic at the same time.
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on June 24, 2013
Australian author Markus Zusak, best well known for his New York Times Best seller, The Book Thief, wrote I Am The Messenger beforeThe Book Thief came out. This book is full of quirky, sweet, loveable, terrible pasionate and just plain funny characters. although this book was written for the young adult reader, I found it to be enjoyable did all of my other 30 something friends and my 60 year old father! this book takes you on a life changing journey with character Ed Kennedy. Ed is just a regular 19 year old nobodywho discovers, with a little help from mysterious sources, that life can be full of beauty, hope, violence, simple joys and caring. you will find out how it's done in I Am The Messenger. I love this book so much I have listened to it on audible and bought three copies from Amazon. 2 copies were for friends who are a little bit like Ed. Enjoy the book!
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on November 15, 2009
This was a book that was hard to put down... yet at the same time I'm hesitant to say that I liked it. Obviously the writing drew me in, but the ending seemed a bit bizarre and contrived. Also, some of the actions the main character took along the way I found horrifying. I was also a bit surprised that this was a young adult book. There is no way I would ever let my teenager read this book - much too violence in a couple sections. I am not really a fan of someone beating the heck out of someone else "for their own good." So while I sped through the book fairly quickly, I have a hard time recommending it to anyone else.
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on September 28, 2006
Unlike a lot of other reviewers I haven't read "the thief." In fact, this isn't my type of book generally speaking. That said, it's a very good inspirational book, dealing with the one great question we all have at some time or another--Why was I born? What am I to do with my entire life???

Kusak handles the topic with humor and with characters that are so real--they are either your neighbor or the guy in your high school class. Yes, the first challenges of the main character are more daring, dangerous and interesting than some of the later examples. But the character is learning and growing as he goes. If the second and third sets of tasks were as dangerous as the first, the character would probably have been killed halfway through the book.

I agree with some of the other reviewers that the ending tried a little too hard. Generally speaking there is nothing really wrong with the ending, but I think as readers we got the point of what was happening halfway through the book--I didn't feel I needed to be hit over the head with it, nor did I need answers about who set the main character up to do the tasks. And if there had to be an answer, it needed to something that made more sense.

:>) All said, the book is worth a read. The message is a good one. The pages contain some delightful humor, wonderful human spirit and an interesting plot.
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on January 21, 2008
A young unambitious cab driver gets cryptic messages on playing cards which force him to interact more with his fellow man. Ed must resolve the problems by doing deeds which range from dangerous to mundane. His actions change lives for the better and widen his own horizons. Zusak writes his characters well, Ed and his friends are likable and quirky. The Doorman, Ed's smelly, coffee swilling dog has a distinct personality and the interaction with his furry friend was as funny as it was touching. The challenges become more personal to Ed as the story proceeds and that helps build the intrigue to the somewhat disappointing climax. The ending is a bit laid out, as though the reader cannot be trusted to discern the meaning on their own. The story is still inspiring well written and interesting and when it was done I thought about what I could do to make this a better world. I'm sure that feeling will pass.:)

This is a young adult offering and has won a youth award but I will add this caveat. There is some adult content throughout including distressing rape scenes that make this a book that should be read by parents first to decide if their younger teen is ready for it. My public library shelves this book in the adult fiction section.
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