Customer Reviews: I Am the Messenger
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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.
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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 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 June 24, 2014
It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to read a book from an author who wrote one of your all-time favorite books. Will it measure up? Will my thoughts of that all-time favorite book be tainted if it doesn’t? Since The Book Thief is one of my favorite books, I was hesitant to pick up Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger, written and published before The Book Thief hit it big. And while I will say I don’t think it ever really compares in scope or in style to The Book Thief, I am the Messenger stands as a pretty good book in it’s own right.

I am the Messenger features Ed Kennedy, the underage cab driver going nowhere fast. He has a dog he loves, a girl he’s in love with, and not a whole lot of plans. He didn’t go off to the city after graduation like all his sibling did, and in many ways, he’s stuck in the rough part of town. I am the Messenger opens with a bank robbery, and then, Ed does something–he catches the robber. He’s labelled a hero, and that’s where the story starts. He starts getting assignments on playing cards in the mail, assignments that take him all over town to meet all sorts of people. At times, Ed becomes a hero. At others, Ed does “bad” deeds for a seemingly good reason. The bulk of I am the Messenger is Ed following the cards, doing what he thinks he has to do, and wondering who is sending him on these errands.

I can totally see where, for some readers, I am the Messenger might get a little overtly sentimental at times. Since most of what Ed is sent to do is to help others, some of it reads as unrealistic and overly idealistic. That being said, it didn’t bother me–and I’m known for having a low tolerance for sappiness and sentimentality–and actually made me smile. It sounds so simple, but seeing a character act of all these random deeds of kindness made me feel happy. I loved watching characters get excited at running barefoot or a pastor in a poverty-stricken area finding a saint in a underage cab driver that gets people to go to church by offering free beer.

Zusak’s prose is as beautiful and as lush as it is in The Book Thief, which is saying something. Two very different books that totally separated themselves in my mind, but the same gorgeous writing in both. At this point, I have to say that Zusak cemented his place as one of my favorite writers. And while the plot of I am the Messenger was good, it’s really Ed’s character development that makes this book succeed. He’s just an ordinary person who does ONE extraordinary thing. . . and that act sets off a chain reaction that changes his life.

I find it interesting that I am the Messenger is marketed as YA, actually, since Ed is a nineteen-year-old pretending to be a twenty-year-old to drive his cab. I know that nineteen is technically still a teenager, but considering Ed lives on his own and basically has an adult life, I still find the YA designation strange. Not that it actually affected my enjoyment in any way, but something I did want to point out–that in many ways, I am the Messenger reads more like an adult novel than a YA one, especially towards the end.
The mystery in this book–who’s sending Ed the messages?–was resolved in a way I thought was particularly brave and wonderful. Upon closing I am the Messenger, I remember thinking “Well, that felt post-modern”. It tied everything up together, yes, but not in a way that you would typically expect from this type of story. I love books like that, so the end of I am the Messenger really worked for me.
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on June 29, 2016
I loved The Book Thief, but I loved I this one MORE. Ed Kennedy is your average, twenty year old kid driving a taxi, with no particular ambition or goals. His friends are just like him. They all live in the poor section of the same small town where they grew up.

During a failed bank robbery, with the friends as hostages, something miraculous happens. Ed chases the robber and apprehends him, becoming a local hero. That's when he starts receiving playing cards in the mail, with cryptic messages.

Is Ed Kennedy forced into being the patron saint of his hometown, or is something else going on?

You will have to read the book to find out - but what a joy that is.

An effortless way to learn the best truths in life. Give it to your teens and twenty something's. Hell, give it to everyone.
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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 June 30, 2016
Whether the author intended this book to be a realistic novel where the plot actually could occur, a pure fantasy of events, an allegory of the growth towards adulthood or the mere wanderings of a nineteen year old teenager’s mind matters very little. For the message remains the same; we receive back from life that which we put into it, if we give little, we receive little and what we give to others we actually give to ourselves . No, this is not a book that have flowery descriptions nor is it one that explores our spirituality nor professionalism. It simply examines life for what it is; a scary and demanding place in which we either define who we are or waste our lives slovenly living it through with a mundane future bleakly lying ahead of us.

While “The Book Thief” received the accolades that it richly deserved, so, too, should this novel be recognized for what it is; a book with deep and profound meaning. The author, while hoping to have a young adult learn from its contents, the novel is, likewise, meant for all of us. When we are faced with a challenge do we have a tendency to do the ‘easy thing’? Or do we, like our protagonist, attempt the hardest and most onerous action? For only then can we expect ourselves to grow and to understand those who are around us. Only then can we retire each night and say, quite honestly, I gave today all I had to give.

In our data-filled and confusing world have we become overwhelmed with mere survival and/or the constant repetition of daily tasks or have we spent the time to come to deeply know ourselves? We can never know our limitations until we have attempted to exceed them. We can never truly define who we are unless all options are acted upon. Let us not only become the messenger that is carried to others, but let us become the message and the role model for others to follow.................
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