Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

I Am the Messenger

MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak


I find that the publishers’ assignments of “YA” to a novel now are fairly trivial.  The last few YA books I’ve read have been more adult in theme and character than some of the adult books I’ve read, and I wonder if there’s some central conspiracy within publishing houses regarding how a book is determined YA over adult.  Zusak’s last two books were published as adult fiction in Australia (the author’s home), but because of the ages of his protagonists in those books, they were reclassified as YA for American readers.  Given that Ed Kennedy, the protagonist in I Am the Messenger, is nineteen, though, I’m still confused.

Ed is a cabdriver who stops a bank robbery in a weird sort of way.  His courage is derived from an argument that he has with one of his best friends, and has more to do with being impetuous and stubborn than anything else.  For the most part, he’s riding through life on autopilot, playing cards with his three friends a few times a week, driving a cab, and going on about his day.  He’s called a hero after stopping the bank robber, and receives a write-up in the local paper over it, but shortly after that, he receives a playing card — the ace of diamonds — in the mail.  The card has three addresses written on it, and he tracks down the locations and finds three situations that need his help: a lonely old woman; a young competitive runner; and a woman and her daughter who are terrorized by a drunk rapist of a father.  Ed finds himself compelled to help these people, both by his own motivation, and others.  In one instance, Ed starts to lose focus on his three tasks, and some goons are sent to his house to, er, “encourage” him.  This, and his own involvement with these people, drive him to complete the tasks, just in time to receive another ace in the mail.

The book seems to be about ambition, and catalysts.  Ed and his friends are stuck in their ruts, as are the people that Ed encounters in his journeys.  The people he encouters sometimes lack focus, or direction, or meaning, and Ed’s interference in their lives drives them to make something of themselves.  Even when Ed’s interactions are brutal, heartless, or even violent, the end result is that the people involved grow, and Ed, in turn, learns more about those people he affects, himself included.  In that respect, it’s a fantastic book, and Zusak’s prose is as powerful and lyrical as it is in The Book Thief.

In another sense, the book is weirdly convoluted, but in an acceptable way.  Ed seems to fall into each situation through serendipity, and understands intuitively what needs to be done in each case.  What’s even stranger is how much the people guiding him know about him.  They direct him to a location that only he and his brother know about, and at one point, there is an otherworldly focus on Ed’s life that doesn’t make sense in respect to the rest of the story.  Strangely enough, it all fits together into a mystical, almost New Age sense of reality.  I didn’t find myself questioning the validity of Zusak’s story, even if I did question why it followed the direction it did.

While not as extraordinary and powerful as The Book Thief, I Am the Messenger is another example of Zusak’s power over the written word, and another example of a wonderful, meaningful book.  I would recommend this book to readers of any age.


August 30, 2006 - Posted by | Reviews, YA Fiction


  1. I’ve finished it,
    and naturally it was a good book because I even brought
    it to school with me, even read it while walking, and even stealing a few sentences while in class.

    There were a few questions that seemed to be left unanswered,
    but I suppose that the book better that way. =)
    The characters are easy to fall in love with, noh?

    Comment by Najee | September 15, 2006 | Reply

  2. hi i thought the messenger was a really riveting boook it really inspired me to become a writer i really enjoy reading and writing

    Comment by john | March 12, 2007 | Reply

  3. i really enjoyed this book and i wish there was a follow up one or a version written in Korean it was a really great book though

    Comment by dongsukim | March 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. Pesonaly i thought this book was awsome. A twist at the end that was definitly worth waiting for! ;)The book wasn’t too long so if you put in the time to finish it, hopefully you will like it as much as i did!

    Comment by Dr. x | March 12, 2007 | Reply

  5. i liked the book a lot. when i first picked it up and started to read it i thought man this is going to be so stupid..but i guess it’s true dont’ judge a book by the cover…as i would read it i would forget all about the time i would start reading it and i found that one night i was read till 4:00 am and didn’t even realize

    Comment by sam | August 15, 2007 | Reply

  6. I really loved this book – the writing style’s unique and simple. Zukas makes it clear that yes, this is Ed’s life and yes, he wants to make something of it.

    Comment by Mady | September 12, 2007 | Reply

  7. this book was amazing, certain parts touched me so much that i had to cry a little…i love the situation with the old lady milla….

    Comment by minerva | October 5, 2007 | Reply

  8. I really enjoyed IATM, Markus is def. one of my favorite authors now.

    Comment by Seth | October 5, 2007 | Reply

  9. i wonder if they would ever turn this book into a movie…

    Comment by Joe | October 30, 2007 | Reply

  10. I read this book for my english isu and i thought that it was amazing I espetially liked the ending… ya?

    Comment by danielle | January 17, 2008 | Reply

  11. Awesome

    Comment by Mitch | February 11, 2008 | Reply

  12. Dedly book man
    Read it !

    Comment by Mitch | February 11, 2008 | Reply

  13. This book is so good!!!!
    Ending is really suspenseful.

    Comment by Bookworm | May 26, 2008 | Reply

  14. I thought this book was dead boring.
    Very disappointing.

    Comment by milmenace | October 6, 2008 | Reply

  15. This was a pretty good book. It had a deep meaning but I still cant find any themes? Any Suggestions?

    Comment by Phil | December 9, 2008 | Reply

  16. Absolutely loved it. I read it cover to cover nonstop. It should totally become a movie.

    Comment by Hunt | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  17. I loved this book. and for milmenace, a good theme would be that is told us that we are supposed to live life to the fullest and not let our lives be wasted.

    Comment by emilia | September 24, 2009 | Reply

  18. After my third time reading this book, I again must say that the lessons that can be taken from the text and the beauty reflected on pages with no physical reflection goes beyond me or any individual. It is, very literally, a book about Ed Kennedy. More than that, it is a book that teaches us how to live.

    Comment by Kept | October 15, 2009 | Reply

  19. Of course, the Doorman is naturally my favorite character.
    He’s irresistable. And his coffee addiction is lovely.
    The ending was a bummer.

    Comment by Jackie | November 17, 2009 | Reply

  20. I reallly enoyed because it was a good book that I enjoyed, it was the first book that i read in english,

    Comment by Pingu972 | October 24, 2010 | Reply

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