In which I review Marcus Zusak’s YA novel I Am the Messenger
Hello everyone! I haven’t posted for a bit (and I forgot to finish that 3 quotes challenge. Oops. I’m the worst.)
I just finished reading Marcus Zusak’s I Am The Messenger. I should probably wait to review it until I have my thoughts together a bit more, but I don’t want to wait.
I’m going to do this as spoiler-free as possible, so don’t worry. It’s safe to proceed.
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.
That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?
This is a mysterious, hilarious, deeply beautiful YA novel. It’s nothing like The Book Thief, and yet that same raw beauty that made me fall in love with that book is present here. Zusak really knows how to use language to create astonishing impact. Just wow.
By the way, there’s a small story about me and this book, which you can read here.
The book starts out with a gripping first line: “The gunman is useless.” There’s never a dull moment from that moment forwards. Still, I wouldn’t say that it was impossible to put down. There were a few times where I had to put it down and walk away for a few minutes. It’s just so intense; personally, I couldn’t just read it straight through.
It took me a lot longer than a book of its size would normally take me to read.
My favourite things in the book:
- The relationship between Ed and his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman
- The sarcastic humour
- The beautiful, short, poignant descriptions (how Zusak is so well able to nail down the heart of an atmosphere, situation, or emotion in just a sentence or so, I cannot understand)
- The people Ed meets as he delivers his messages
The characters in this book are phenomenal. Of all the messages Ed delivers, my favourite by far was Milla. I think it’s because of my experiences as a caregiver, I just really was touched particularly by this one. Especially this:
It hits me that all along I thought I was doing this old lady a favor by spending Christmas Day with her.
Walking out again in my casual black suit, I realize it’s the opposite.
I’m the privileged one, and the old lady will always be marvelous.
This just really touched me because it’s so true. As a caregiver, I’d get a lot of thank yous for the smallest of things, when really, it was actually my privilege to share some time with remarkable people who had so many stories and such great perspectives.
Anyway, getting a little emotional and side-tracked. But it just really struck a chord with me.
But that’s the beauty of this book. I think everyone will come away with their favourite message. I think your own experiences will probably influence which of Ed’s messages sticks with you. And that’s the best kind of book.
There were only a few things I didn’t love. And one thing in particular. I won’t say it because I don’t want to do spoilers.
No, no. I’m sorry, but I have to say it. It’s not the biggest spoiler in the world, but skip the text in between the horizontal lines if you’re concerned.
Beginning of Spoiler
I hated the whole Audrey thing. I felt like Ed deserved a lot better than her, and I feel like if a male character treated a female character the way she treated Ed through most of the book, it would be a lot less acceptable. Which isn’t cool. I get the whole “she’s afraid to love someone” thing, but still. Not cool. And also, way overdone. When she referred to him as “Just Ed,” I nearly threw the book. I was so done at that point. Gah. Her selfish attitude.
She doesn’t want to love me, but she doesn’t want to lose me either.
That’s just so not okay. That’s called leading someone on, and it’s just my biggest not-okay thing. She just doesn’t deserve the kind of adoration Ed feels towards her.
I really, really was hoping they wouldn’t end up together. I wanted an ending where Ed realises that she’s not the greatest after all, and moves on. I can’t help feeling that if it was a female protagonist being treated this way by a male love interest, that would have been the way it ended.
I just hate double standards and I hate Audrey.
End of spoiler(/rant.)
Other than that, I don’t have a ton to complain about.
I will say that the summary on the back led me to believe that the “Who’s behind this?” question would be a bigger deal than it ended up being. To me, the mystery was more who are the messages for, what does Ed have to do for each one of them, etc. I’m not saying that the reveal of who was making him do this wasn’t great and surprising—it was. I was really happy with it and didn’t see it coming, though in retrospect, it made sense. I’m just saying that the focus wasn’t really there for most of the story. Ed did wonder who was behind it, but it just wasn’t the biggest question. So the description is slightly misleading in that regard. Minor issue, and really, that problem is more with the description than the book itself.
My other minor problem is that this is marketed as YA, but it didn’t feel like YA to me at all. I felt like it could have just been adult. Ed is 19, but he doesn’t seem like a 19 year old and I kept forgetting (and I think his friends are a bit older than that). He has his own house, he deals with a lot more adult problems than YA-type problems, and it just feels kind of weird. I just don’t see why he had to be 19, and why this had to be YA. Just didn’t make sense to me. I guess it’s not really a bad thing. I don’t know. I get distracted by weird things.
Anyway, I’m so very glad I finally found this book, and all because I happened to open it and read the first sentence.
I give it a 4.5/5. (I gave it a 5/5 on Goodreads, but no book is perfect, so I’m thinking 4.5 is more realistic.)
I would definitely recommend this book if you read The Book Thief and were mesmerised by Zuzak’s words, if you love mystery and suspense, if you love stories with lots of interesting side characters, if you love coffee-drinking dogs that smell horrifying… Really, almost whoever you are and whatever you love I recommend this book because it is just so good. I ended up, not only underlining and annotating, but also highlighting, and, for the first time ever, dog-earing a few pages.
Yeah. You heard me, book purists. I annotated, highlighted, and dog-eared the pages. What are you gonna do about it? I ain’t even sorry. It was just that kind of book. It demanded it.
So that’s it. Like I said, I recommend it and give it a 4.5/5. You should probably go read it now.
I changed my signature and I now dog-ear my pages. Who am I anymore? I don’t know. But I like it.