Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
Markus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger follows nineteen-year-old Ed Kennedy, a seemingly complacent, ambitionless cabdriver, who, one day, receives his destiny in the mail on an Ace of Diamonds. He is catapulted into a mysterious journey, in which he must decipher and deliver messages to a variety of characters in his Australian suburb.
Ed considers himself a “taxi driver. Local loser. Cornerstone of mediocrity. Sexual midget. Pathetic cardplayer” (74). However, when he begins receiving messages in the mail, he evolves into a man with confidence and integrity. His faults, crude language, and love for his friends and dog make him human and appeal to the reader, who is quickly entertained by him. As Ed develops relationships with the recipients of his messages, the reader becomes even more attached to him. His bond with an elderly woman, Milla, is especially touching. The reader begins to worry when Ed worries, hurt when he hurts, and love when he loves.
Zusak’s storyline is intriguing and thought-provoking. The reader constantly wonders who is sending the cards to Ed, why he/she chose Ed, and what Ed is going to have to do. Zusak quickly captures the reader from the beginning with Ed and Marv’s humorous dialogue during the bank robbery. Then, upon the arrival of Ed’s first set of addresses on the Ace of Diamonds, the reader is engulfed in the mystery of the card’s intent, especially after Ed visits the first address and finds a victim of rape. However, the seriousness of Ed’s missions is always lightened by the wit of Ed’s interior thoughts, words, and actions. Ed, with difficulty, is able to overcome the series of obstacles he has been given, and, in the end, he and the reader are better for it.
In I Am the Messenger, Ed’s messages evoke the frailty and beauty of human life and relationships. The various recipients receive unique messages, based on their lives, all of which the reader can learn from as well. However, with a twist in the plot, at the end, the reader realizes that the novel, itself, is the ultimate message. Zusak’s clear and consistent point of view encourages the reader to believe the novel’s plot as well as its messages. It is a style that blends hilarity, absurdity, and gravity, forcing the reader to think while also causing them to laugh – it is a perfect combination.
Winner 2006 - Michael L. Printz Honor
Winner 2006 - Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
Winner 2005 - Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year - Children
Winner 2003 - Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia
Students could create their own messages that they would like relayed to people within their communities.
Students could read other Zusak novels.
Students could compare this novel to other mysteries they've read.