Saturday, January 6, 2007

I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak

Title: I Am the Messenger
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (2005)

19 year old Australian cabbie Ed Kennedy leads no charmed life. His father died of alcohol poisoning, his mother continually criticizes him in the harshest way, he lives alone with his aging and malodorous dog, Doorman, and to top it all off, the woman he loves (his best friend, coincidentally) does not share his romantic feelings. When he accidentally foils a botched bank robbery and gains a moment of minor celebrity, a mysterious person begins sending him playing card Aces with unusual clues written on them. With a bit of ingenuity and some luck he deciphers the clues to discover that they lead to people in need of help. The first three cards send him to such disparate situations as a wife who is raped nightly by her abusive husband, a young woman who runs barefoot every pre-dawn morning, and a lonely old woman who desperately misses her dead spouse. Later clues lead him to even more diverse circumstances such as a destitute family in need of Christmas cheer, and a languishing church suffering from a lack of attendance. Some clues lead him into serious danger; others lead to tea in comfortable sitting rooms. The final Ace leads him to his three closest friends where he faces the personal pain of those he loves. The ending is purposefully ambiguous and ultimately leaves the reader in the position to decide the significance, or lack thereof, in the messages that Ed delivers throughout the story. The voice of the narrator was realistic, strongly written, and filled with personality. The rest of the characters were written with similar skill and help to create a living world in which the story unfolds. Zusak is able to mix humor and tension to create an engaging atmosphere of mystery that doesn’t suffer from the heaviness that could have arisen from many of the themes expressed in the novel. The result is a compelling look at the power of the individual to act as a force for change in the world; an important and powerful message for modern youth. Some coarse language and the delicate nature of some of the themes make the book most appropriate for older teens.

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