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I Am the Messenger
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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.
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on May 24, 2013
If you are a parent and you find your child reading this book, find out if an adult has given it to them or recommended it to them to read and report that adult to the police. I work in law enforcement, and this book seems written specifically as a handy tool for child predators to manipulate and prey on teenagers and young boys and girls who feel isolated and alienated from their peers. It teaches children that it isn't creepy or weird for an adult to stalk them, hang around their house at night or after their track practices, or buy them ice cream or "special" gifts that have significance to only the two of them. This book is extremely disturbing and creepy.

Rarely has there been a narrator so self-absorbed and so lacking in self-awareness. He treats everyone with absolute disdain, even after he has supposedly learned how precious people are. He is smugly and casually insulting to waiters, friends, librarians, parents, in short, everyone who isn't in the special group singled out for his special saving favors, exposing them to his sense of smug superiority, even while professing how humble, ugly, out of shape, and what a poor lover he is.

In the words of Holden Caulfield, he is a phony. He is a classic narcissist, so utterly self-centered that he has the amazing ability to completely disregard the thoughts and feelings of other characters because HE knows what is best for them, despite what they say. HE knows what children need better than their parents do. HE knows what women need better than they do. Like every abusive stalker I've ever dealt with, HE knows that when the girl says she isn't interested in him, she doesn't really mean it because he can "tell" that she really loves him or that she is just trying to prevent herself from feeling love just to prevent herself from getting hurt. He disingenuously professes his faults just so the reader can praise him for his humility and bravery. He casually rationalizes any type of despicable behavior he wants to engage in just because he thinks the rules don't apply to him or that he has some special insight into situations that enable him and only him to know the right thing to do. It's OK to beat up a child, steal, commit kidnapping, trespassing, and stalking because you are special, because you are wrapped in a special enveloping purpose that makes it OK to step outside of society's rules.

On top of it all, this writing is atrocious. "My heart is pouring out of me through my eyes" and all that kind of horrible purple prose you'd expect from Taylor Swift's diary. Many of the "heartwarming" scenes seem lifted directly from Hallmark Channel made-for-tv movies or the kind of glurge emails you get where "tears are streaming" down everyone's faces. The author uses a technique of short choppy sentences.

And he uses it repeatedly.

It is extremely annoying.

And he does it throughout the book.

Ad nauseum.

I remember thinking "The Book Thief" was pretty decent, but this book makes me think the author has absolutely zero grasp of human emotions, thoughts, or reactions, least of all his own.
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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 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 June 6, 2009
There's very little positive that one can say about Ed Kennedy's achievements in life and, what's even worse, he knows it. At the tender age of nineteen, he's already suffering a full blown mid-life crisis. His best friend is a dog so smelly it could gag a sewer rat at twenty paces. The only job he's had which amounts to the tiniest hill of beans is driving a cab. He's madly in love with Audrey, a girl who refuses to love anyone and treats him only as her best friend. His male friends, Richie and Marvin, are equally washed up. Their only entertainments are rugby, boozing and playing cards. His father was an alcoholic and his mother treats him with utter disdain and a complete lack of respect.

Whether it was the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time is a matter of debate but, one day in the middle of his otherwise humdrum life, Ed Kennedy is caught in the middle of a bank robbery. When he manages to nab the robber, he is hailed as a local hero and destiny pushes his life down a new path. He begins to receive anonymous coded messages on playing cards instructing him to be at a certain address at a certain time. Clearly, on the basis of his ability to halt a bank robbery, somebody is assigning him to a series of tasks which are intended to change other people's lives. The missions are widely varied - rescuing a woman from a nightly rape by her alcohol-soaked husband; giving the gift of happiness to a confused elderly lady by assuming the role of her long dead husband; providing an enthusiastic congregation to an unfulfilled parish priest; forcing spiteful brothers to recognize their love for one another; and so on. And whoever is behind these cryptic messages is not allowing Ed the option of declining the invitation. A serious beating at the hands of two mysterious night visitors convinces Ed that he has no choice but to assume the role of "the messenger".

"I am the Messenger" is, of course, a message. It is intended to convey the idea that worldly achievements - wealth, good looks or fame, for example - are not the basis of a fulfilled life. Love, charity, friendship, happiness and other more lasting virtues not only come from somewhere else entirely but require considerable investment of effort to achieve them.

Adults reading "I am the Messenger" may think that Zusak has succumbed to sermonizing. They might also suggest that the emotional impact of his novel is so sweet as to be cloying. However, if we remember that Zusak's intended audience is the young adults in grades 9 to 12, then we might forgive him for being a little obvious and leaving a little less to the intuitive leaps of a more mature reader.

While it doesn't have quite the gripping power of his previous novel, "The Book Thief", "I am the Messenger" is still quite capable of putting a lump in your throat and a smile on your face. Engaging characters, raw but realistic dialogue, endearing life-affirming messages and a satisfying ending make "I am the Messenger" a novel well worth the time invested to read it. Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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on August 16, 2009
As a great lover of The Book Thief this was a great dissapointment.

It started off hallarious. The description of Ed and his friend Marvin in the bank were great, and really gave you a sense for their character. I love how everyone kept poking fun at Marv's car. That was the best part of the whole book by far.

Then, suddenly, he's getting playing cards in the mail with adresses and cryptic clues on them. He is supposed to "help" the people on the cards. So he goes and keeps an old woman company, buys a woman an ice cream cone, and shoots a rapist.

Um, right.

It seemed like Zusak had a few ideas, then made up the rest off the top of his head.

Buying a woman an ice cream cone? Seriously? It got to the point where I was just thinking 'complete the card so we can move on already'.

Then we learn about how his mom hates him because he looks like his dad and how his best friend Audrey is basically a whore.

You know, I could care less about what Audrey chooses to do with her sex life. He doesn't give us any reason to care about Audrey. She's just there to make Ed seem even more pathetic.

And then it has a completly unrealistic, random, improbable ending that makes no sense. None. Nada. Zilch.

My god. I don't know how this got published. It's dripping with morals- be nice to people, don't give up, things that adults have tried to drill into us from a very young age. And he should at least disguise them more carefully.

Oh, and some creeper mastermind is watching- and videotaping!- his every move, making sure he does the cards. Well, if the creeper is going to all that effort, why doesn't he just do it himself?

And then the mastermind behind everything says something to Ed that made me want to scream "then what was the point of this book!", but, on the off chance you want to READ it, I won't reveal what that was.

Don't let the amazingly great beginning fool you.
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on March 11, 2013
I read The Book Thief and fell in love with the writing style, imagery and story so I thought I'd try this one. What a HUGE, SAD, and DISAPPOINTING book. I felt like I was reading a 4th grade novel. I can't believe it's even written by the same author. I guess in that year between this book and The Book Thief Zusack took some writing classes. No offense to the author, but I'm just trying to make a point. If you're wanting to read something by him, get his other book; The Book Thief.
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on February 11, 2017
I recently read John Grisham's The Racketeer. It was a very fun book; and if you're looking for some brain bubblegum, then I recommend it. And when I was done, I went looking for another fun book. The recommendation that I found was I Am The Messenger. It turned out to be the fun that I was looking for. I wasn't prepared, though, for just how much more than fun this book would be.

> "Why me?" I ask God. God says nothing. I laugh, and the stars watch. It's good to be alive.

The author was obviously influenced by Catcher in the Rye. The protagonist of the story is an anti-hero with seemingly mediocre mental resources and ambition. He has a similar lack of responsibility towards money, and also seeks love from an apparently average sort of woman.

> It makes me look deeper into the street, trying to find the future events in store. I'm happy.

The author uses the lyrical technique of having the story progress with a mysterious list. Much like And Then There Were None or Atlas Shrugged, a list appears without an obvious purpose, and the protagonist's adventure is to proceed through this list. And like Catcher in the Rye, we watch the protagonist's character grow as he proceeds through the adventure.

> I didn't know that words could be so heavy.

All of the above is extremely fun, and would have satisfied exactly what I was looking for. But then there's the "more." The author is able to interweave lyrical prose into his colloquial speech. Like a droplet of watercolor crashing into a glass of clean water, these moments of poetry bring extreme beauty to an otherwise simple appearance.

> This isn't about words. It's about glowing lights and small things that are big.

And then there's more beyond that. We find that through the character's growth, his mental faculties become stronger than we had thought. In the most believable and common way, he demonstrates cleverness. And then, like The Things They Carried, the reader can begin to wonder whether this is a story at all. Is this a book, or a letter, or something else?

> I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.

I'm being purposefully vague. I worry that I've already revealed too much. In my life, I've come to realize that competence is unusual. Most people seem to stumble through life with the goal of minimal effort. Competence is so unusual that I celebrate it. In those rarest of occasions, I get to interact with something more than competence: excellence. I Am Messenger is one of those experiences. I hope that I get to meet Markus Zusak (the author) someday; I'd like to give him a hug.

> When the job's done, he smacks me on the shoulder and we run off like handsome thieves. We both laugh and run, and the moment is so thick around me that I feel like dropping into it to let it carry me. I love the laughter of this night. Our footsteps run, and I don't want them to end. I want to run and laugh and feel like this forever. I want to avoid any awkward moment when the realness of reality sticks its fork into our flesh, leaving us standing there, together. I want to stay here, in this moment, and never go to other places, where we don't know what to say or what to do. For now, just let us run. We run straight through the laughter of the night.
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on February 9, 2016
I was inspired by the main character Ed’s very normal life. Maybe normal is too nice a word. His life is more mediocre. He doesn’t have any ambitions or achievements or direction really. The story is about him receiving anonymous cards in the mail that challenge him to help people. He changes their lives in small and big ways just by being observant. It made me want to observe and serve others more. If an ordinary guy can help in small ways, then so can I.

After reading I Am The Messenger, I got that chance.

I saw a guy shopping for baby formula at the grocery store. He would look at a can of baby formula for a minute and put it back. Then he’d look at another can. Then he’d put it back. I found this strange and fascinating. Most people quickly dump 8 cans of the exact same formula in their shopping cart and hurry off. I have never seen someone compare types of baby formula so carefully.

This guy was taking his time for some reason. I continued to watch him (he didn’t notice because he was now scrutinizing a fifth can of formula) and tried to figure out what situtation would make someone shop for formula like that. He must never have bought it before. Maybe he has a wife at home with a screaming newborn baby and was instructed to “get formula” only to find the grocery store has 473829 kinds. And now he doesn’t know what kind to get. So I went up to him and helped explain the difference between the 439280 kinds of formula and gave him a coupon. He seemed grateful. I imagined him going home to his wife victorious because he’d gotten the right formula AND used a coupon.

It’s not life changing or anything. That being said, Ed didn’t feel like he was doing anything life changing either.

It’s not a big thing, but I guess it’s true— big things are often just small things that are noticed.

-Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger (p. 221).

But it reminded me that kindness, true kindness, comes from listening and observing others to see what they really need. Small acts of kindness are big in their own way.

The reason this story works is because it’s crude, crass, biting, sarcastic, and full of swearing. Let me explain. The writing hides the preachiness of the story so well that I really enjoyed reading it and it wasn’t until the end that I realized I learned something. I’m not saying something has to be crude for you to learn something. But hiding a story about serving others in a crude story might accidentally teach someone something when all they had really intended was to pick up an entertaining book. Making it a little crude can also make the story relatable so you close the book feeling like the character did things that you are more than capable of doing, too.

There were some parts of the writing that I found so beautiful. Here’s one of my favorite quotes. I just love how Markus Zusak takes a cliche saying and switches the words around to paint a lovely picture:

Quietly, Marv cries.

His hands appear to be dripping on the wheel. The tears grip his face. They hold on and slide reluctantly for his throat.

-Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger (p. 316).

I like that the tears grip his face instead of his hands gripping the wheel. But I can still imagine the image of tears gripping his face like he’s trying so hard not to cry but he can’t help it. I find it so beautiful for some reason.
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on November 6, 2017
Before I start, just to note that the Amazon blurb makes it sound like a romance novel. Nothing wrong with that, except it isn't. I mean, there is romance in it, but anyone expecting a romance novel specifically would be disappointed and probably a bit weirded out.

I absolutely loved this book. I devoured it in great satisfying glomps. I lived it. I dreamed it.

It won't be for everyone.

This is one of those stand-out, very unique books, that defy neat genre labels and reader expectations. Like Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, there is a plot and character, and these things are well-written and very enjoyable, but they aren't the whole of the point here. This is reading for both entertainment and food for thought. There are deeper ideas being explored about how we live our lives and relate to those around us.

That was what I personally loved most about the novel. That feeling of interconnectedness with the people around us. That we can have a positive effect, and make a difference, even in the lives of total strangers, just by opening our eyes and minds to their needs.

I didn't expect a lot from this novel because I loved The Book Thief by the same author, as another of those stand-out unusual books, so thought that this would either be too similar (it wasn't) or not as good (wrong again...I actually liked it better!).

Again personally, lists and order appeal greatly to my personality-type, so the lists of names/addresses on the aces really appealed to me and worked to move the plot along and hold it all together. In this way I found it quite similar to The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, with its progression through set events and the learning curve of the main character.

The ending sets a different tone from the preceding book and I am aware that it has gathered criticism from some who otherwise enjoyed the book, but I both 'got it', and liked it. In fact I can't really see another satisfying way that the book could have ended, as any other character reveal would have necessarily been anticlimactic after the build-up to that point.

I can definitely recommend this one for something a bit different and thoughtful, but still entertaining. And I think it is a great pick for a book group read because there is plenty to talk about, whether it is to your personal taste or not!
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