Select one of the keywords
I Am the Messenger    by Markus Zusak order for
I Am the Messenger
by Markus Zusak
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2005 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Ed Kennedy lives at 26 Shipping Street. His best friends are Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey (with whom he is in love). Ed's life is mediocre, he lives in a shack and drives a taxi. His dog's name is Doorman (it likes to lay by the front door and loves to drink coffee, too), his mother can swear with the best of them, and his father died a while ago from alcohol complications. Ed Kennedy narrates - , with hilarity, caring, and sincerity - his journey as he climbs to fame.

It begins in a bank where Ed and his three friends are lying on the floor, per orders of a robber. Ed becomes a temporary media hero when he rescues the robber's dropped gun - the robber by now is attempting his get-away in Marv's car. But Marv's car is old, and it takes many tries before the engine will turn over. At one point the robber asks Marv, 'You want to die, don't you?' and Marv explains, 'Well, actually, I just want you to pay the parking fine for my car. It's in a fifteen-minute zone outside. You're holding me up here.'

Ed's saga starts with the arrival of a card in the mail - the 'Ace of Diamonds', with three street names and specific clock times written on it. Taking his cue, he comes to the aid of an abused wife, befriends a lonely elderly woman whose husband died in the war, and a helps competition runner who has little confidence in herself. After receiving a phone call to check his post box, Ed finds a gun and one bullet. The arrival of the 'Ace of Clubs' reads: 'Say a prayer at the stones of home.' He finds the location and three names carved into the rock. This segment takes Ed to the aid of a priest whose church is low in attendance (Ed's idea for getting more people into St. Michael's is ingenious), a teenage mother with three children, and two brothers who are constantly beating and threatening each other.

When the 'Ace of Spades' arrives, Ed recognizes the three authors' names inscribed. The Spades is a mental challenge, in which Ed has to dig through books to get the exact clues. It entails a trip to the library where he takes out eighteen books. The clues lead him to street names - a family with five children, an 'old, jaded cinema' with an elderly man in charge, and a restaurant where he discovers something about his mother. The arrival of the 'Ace of Hearts' contains the names of three movie films. Ed knows that this card is meant for his three friends, and his effect on their lives. Thinking he is done, Ed receives one last card - written on the 'Joker' is his own address.

Markus Zusak was awarded the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year Award for I Am the Messenger, first published in Australia as The Messenger. In lyrical prose, Zusak gives readers a story of beauty and hope. He entwines Ed Kennedy's assigned chores with time spent with his friends and mother, a visit to his father's gravesite, his yearning love for Audrey (who is dating others), a few beatings, and of course, conversations with his dog Doorman. When Ed wonders why he was picked, his answer is: 'I was chosen to care.' But the hardest question to answer is who is sending him the cards?

This book tells the story of a young man transcending his belief in himself, valuing what he has achieved, and gaining a new outlook on his life. It captures the reader from the first pages, and its incredible ending will astound you.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews