Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak

After reading The Book Thief, I wanted to read the book Zusak had written immediately before, I am the Messenger. Someone donated a copy to the library and so I thought it would be a good time to read it.

I am the Messenger is about a group of people in their late teens, early 20's who live in Australia. There are four friends, all of them sort of struggling to find their way through life. The main character, Ed Kennedy, is a taxi driver whose most notable characteristic is that he is in love with his best friend, Audrey. Audrey appreciates Ed's friendship but never wants to let their relationship evolve into more. In the meantime, she sleeps around, driving Ed nuts.

The story begins with Ed standing in line at the bank with his friend Marv, whose defining feature is hoarding all his money while driving what is arguably the worst functioning automobile on the planet. While the pair are in line, the bank is robbed. The robbery does not go smoothly and the robber's getaway vehicle takes off without the robber. The robber grabs Marv's keys, drops his gun and tries to escape. The car, naturally, doesn't start, and Ed retrieves the gun and holds it on the robber until the police come to apprehend him.

Ed becomes a minor hero in the papers. He is surprised one day to find a playing card of the Ace of Diamonds with three addresses on it. Ed comes to the realization that he is to provide a message to the people living at these addresses. What the messages are and how he is to deliver them is uncertain.

Ed eventually figures out a way to accomplish his task which then leads to another card with another cryptic assignment. All four aces arrive in Ed's hands, the last one relating to his three friends.

Upon completion of the tasks, the reason behind Ed being chosen for these messages is made clear but the ending takes on a bit of a meta-fiction feel which I didn't much care for.

All in all, I did like the book, even with an ending that was a little empty. The characters are different. There's a level of shallowness in them but enough depth to keep them interesting. The book is intended for a young adult audience and so there is nothing special about Zusak's language and the writing. He's just a good storyteller. If anything, it made me appreciate The Book Thief all the more.I feel like the shortcomings in I am the Messenger were eliminated in The Book Thief. It definitely feels like Zusak grew as a writer between the two stories.

Can't go wrong with either but The Book Thief is considerably better.

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