March 23, 2008

I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Young Adult Fiction
2006 Knopf
Originally published in Australia in 2002 as The Messenger
Finished on 3/21/08
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

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

Book Description:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

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?

Timing is everything. We've all had the experience of reading a book that has garnered rave reviews, only to discover it lacked that certain magic that would make it a personal favorite. It could be a matter of personal preference or simply the case of the wrong book at the wrong time. There is no rhyme or reason. With that said, I am so glad I read I Am the Messenger after reading The Book Thief (Zusak's phenomenal story that may well be the best book I've ever read) rather than before. Had I read it first, I may not have ever tried anything else by this author. It's not that I didn't like I Am the Messenger. I just didn't think it was anything special. I enjoyed seeing how Ed dealt with the challenges presented by the arrival of each new set of playing cards. Receiving no instructions other than a name or address, he was able to figure out what each person needed and his acts of kindness were both touching and inspiring. Yet in spite of this feel-good sentiment, the story failed to move me in the same manner as The Book Thief. I'm not sorry I read it, but it's not one I'll hang on to (or recommend to others). Of course now the dilemma will be whether I want to try something else by Zusak or allow The Book Thief to remain unsurpassable.

In spite of my lackluster reaction to the novel, I did mark a few passages. Most reveal too much of the story, so I'll leave you with just this one:

It kind of depressed me to think a human could be so lonely that she would comfort herself with the company of appliances that whistle, and sit alone to eat.

Not that I'm much better, mind you.

Let's face it--I eat my meals with a seventeen-year-old dog. We drink coffee together. You'd think we were husband and wife, the way we carry on. But still...

The old lady did something to my heart.

When her hands reached out and poured the tea, it was as if she also poured something into me while I sat there sweating in my cab. It was like she held a string and pulled on it just slightly to open me up. She got in, put a piece of herself inside me, and left again.

In there, somewhere, I still feel it.


  1. I'm so sorry you didn't like this book better. I really enjoyed it but I agree that it is not in the same class of The Book Thief. But then, few books are. I haven't read any others by Zusak but probably will.

  2. Anonymous8:46 PM

    I like you read The Book Thief first and now have this book sitting on my nightstand (haven't started yet). I'm curious to see if I'll enjoy it as much As the Book Thief.

  3. Haven't read The Book Thief's the June selection for my book group, so I've got it on the way. The passage you quoted from I Am the Messenger was beautifully written, though, so with that plus your glowing reviews of Book Thief I'm really looking forward to reading Zusak's work.

    Happy Easter!!

  4. I liked I Am the Messenger a lot. Not quite as much as Book Thief, but still 4.75/5. Candleman liked both books, too, but preferred I Am the Messenger. It's all a funny think as to what we like and don't, isn't it?

  5. Anonymous2:39 AM

    I have this on my wish list - on account that I too think The Book Thief ranks up there in the best book I've ever read category. I wonder if The Book Thief has tainted his other books for all of us... maybe I'll read it and pretend someone else wrote it so that I can consider it on its own merit! *lol*

  6. I've heard a mixed bag of reviews about this one. Some love it, some think it just OK after The Book Thief. I'm just gonna have to try and see what I think. Although, I fear I'll probably be in your camp.

  7. Sorry it wasn't a winner for you. I haven't read it yet, so we'll see where I fall. Although, I agree that it's often about timing. I hope the timing is perfect when I pick it up. :)

  8. The concept sounds fabulous. I think I'll have to try it out, and see what I think of it. Thank you for such a balanced review!

  9. I just finished this book last week too! I'm with you-- didn't particularly care for it. The concept was promising, but I just thought most of the things Ed did were tired and cliched. Not to mention the writing. (oof! low blow!)

  10. What a bummer that it didn't live up to your expectations. I hate it when that happens. You know I loved Book Thief so I think I'll give this one a go eventually but I'll lower my expectations.

  11. I agree that it wasn't as good as The Book Thief, but I still really liked it! At first, I was wondering if I would though, but by the end, I decided I'm definately a Markus Zusak fan.

  12. I, too, am sorry you didn't like this book better. I really enjoyed it. It definitely isn't in the same class as The Book Thief. Since I Am the Messenger was before The Book Thief, I sort of look at it as a seeing the growth of Zusak and forgive him for the weaker novel. Of course The Book Thief is better, if he's growing as an artist. Of course, I have yet to put this theory to test as I haven't read any of his other books. I have one other book by Zusak, Fighting Ruben White (I think?), but who knows when I'll get around to read it.

  13. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Thanks for your review on, "The Messenger." Sounds rather intriguing, but who knows if I will ever get it read.


  14. Framed - Me, too. But I went into it with lower expectations since I had a gut feeling nothing could come close to The Book Thief. Maybe I should've read it first!

    Maw Books - I just read your wonderful review for The Book Thief. Glad to see you loved it as much as I did. I'll be curious to read your review for I Am the Messenger once you get to it. Thanks for stopping by. I need to bookmark your blog!

    Janet - Oh, you are in for such a treat! It's a great book for a group discussion. Lots of beautiful passages.

    Booklogged - I remember reading your review for this and that you liked it. Interesting that Candleman liked it better than The Book Thief. My husband's planning to read it as soon as he finished his current read (Ghandi & Churchill).

    Mrs. S - Hey, that might work! It's really not a poorly written book. It has an interesting premise and memorable characters. Just not the same caliber as TBT.

    Andi - I don't know. I think you might like it. The characters are a bit quirky, including the dog!

    Joy - Hope you enjoy it at least as much as I did!

    Heather - Have you seen the movie Pay It Forward? This reminded me a just a little bit of that movie.

  15. Renee - I agree. The concept did have a lot of promise. I'm not quite sure what was lacking, but the book just missed its mark.

    Thanks for stopping by. I had fun visiting your blog again. It's been a while!

    Iliana - Glad to hear you won't skip this one altogether. It is worthwhile. Just not a "great" read.

    Suey - I'm still a Zusak fan! I hope he publishes something new soon!

    Heather - I agree. It's quite apparent he's grown as a writer. Makes me all the more anxious to see what he has in store for us next!

    Gayla - I think this may be one you'd enjoy. Just add it to your TBR list! :)

  16. Darn, I was hoping you'd like it better than a 2.5 worth! I'll still get to I Am the Messenger, some day, but I'm a little afraid of it because I can't see anything holding up to The Book Thief.

  17. Nancy - Go for it! I think you'll enjoy it. Probably more than I did.

  18. I read them the reverse way, and I liked Messenger better. I liked the Book Thief, but I really liked I Am the Messenger. Timing is everything in reading.
    Mostly, I love Zusak.

  19. raidergirl3 - In spite of my lack of enthusiasm for I Am the Messenger, I'll probably be one of the first to read whatever Zusak publishes next! I hope it's soon.

  20. I think, like Heather said, his next ones will get better and better.
    The Ruben Wolfe book is good, but nothing spectacular, a good YA book. It's more of a typical YA book, not at the level of the other 2.

  21. Thanks for the review--I've been wondering about this book. I read The Book Thief earlier this year and found it deeply moving. Sometimes that makes it tough for others to follow.

  22. Trish - You're welcome. Let me know if you read/review it.

    BTW, my daughter lives in Dallas, too!

  23. Hey, Les. I just responded to you on my blog, but wanted to come back reread what you wrote. I agree that I don't think it was anything special, but I did enjoy it. As for reading another Zusak, I would like to pick up another and I hope you do, too. The Book Thief may be his best work, but he may surprise you and you wouldn't want to miss that, would you? :)

  24. Joy - Thanks for popping in with a belated comment here. :) You're right. He might surprise me. You'll have to let me know if you read anything else by him, ok?


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