I read Markus Zusak's I Am the Messenger for a class project last semester that involved writing reviews of at least 15 YA novels in about 3 weeks. Obviously I cheated and mainly wrote reviews of books I had already read, but this book was a new one for me. I was proud for working in time to read it (I was taking 3 classes, one which stole my soul and another which forced me to devote a huge chunk of time to learning the secret MARC language). The book is great (aside from the terrible ending), but I don't understand why it's on The List. If anything, another of Zusak's novels, The Book Thief, should be The List, because it's far more meaningful, original, powerful, yada, yada, ya. If you know me, I've probably tried to force you to read it and if I was successful, you loved it. But as for I Am the Messenger:
Basically, the story follows Ed Kennedy: a 19 year old nobody who has a dead-end job he obtained illegally, lives alone with a coffee addicted dog, and passively watches his life go by. When Ed accidentally assists in the capture of a bank robber, his life suddenly changes. Following vague instructions on anonymous cards he starts receiving, Ed delivers "messages" to people he doesn’t know, bettering their lives and eventually bettering his own. Sappy? Yep.
In this tale of personal growth, humor effectively undercuts the emotional drama constantly present throughout the novel. Ed is witness to many traumatic events: the bank robbery, rape, physical abuse, poverty, Alzheimer’s and more. These tragedies could easily become the focus of the novel, however, Ed’s wry, humor-filled narration keeps the focus on his own personal growth and how his new-found responsibilities change his outlook on life. Sappy? Yep. His humor allows him to combat the tragedies he must face and creates ease for the reader who witnesses the trauma through his narration.
However, I Am the Messenger doesn't have an effective conclusion. The reveal, or rather lack thereof, of who is behind Ed’s mysterious mission, doesn’t reach the climactic point that the narrative builds toward. The ending felt too rushed and introduced a completely new character as the mastermind of the entire mission. In reading I Am the Messenger, I felt that it was the lessons Ed learned from delivering the messages and his consequential personal growth (sappiness) that drives the novel, not his dire need to know who is sending him the cards. An ambiguous ending, without the reveal of the mastermind, would have been appropriate and perhaps more effective.
This novel is definitely for fans of Batman. I mean, come on, Ed Kennedy is Batman, just an everyday version without the fancy gadgets, millionaire bankroll, and immense physical strength. Once he begins delivering messages, his innate need to do good for his city is revealed. I would highly recommend this to any fan of Batman, whether through comic books, graphic novels, television or film, as the themes that drive the franchise are incredibly prevalent in this novel.