Markus Zusak wrote one of my all-time favorite books—The Book Thief—so I must admit that I had ridiculously high expectations for I Am the Messenger. But once I started, all expectations went out the window. Not because I Am the Messenger isn’t good, but because it is so completely different from The Book Thief. I had to let the other book go and jump into this new, unexpected story.
I Am the Messenger is unconventional. It’s a YA book, but it reads differently from a lot of YAs. It focuses on teenagers who are out of high school and trying to forge their adult lives; I’d definitely recommend it primarily for older readers. But once I got over my surprise, I rather enjoyed my time hanging out with Ed Kennedy and his group of friends. I Am the Messenger is populated by a band of unusual yet endearing characters, including Ed’s friends Marv and Richie, the object of Ed’s unrequited love Audrey, and my personal favorite: the Doorman. The Doorman is a seventeen-year-old cross between a Rottweiler and a German shepherd. The Doorman has a stink that’s impossible to get rid of (and Ed has tried—sprays, deodorants—he really has tried), and the Doorman is a happy dog, one that Ed loves despite the stench.
Here’s how Ed introduces himself to the reader:
My full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cabdriver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city—not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read more books than I should, and I’m decidedly crap at sex and doing my taxes. Nice to meet you.
This introduction sets the tone for the whole book, a book that’s outwardly about a mystery involving playing cards and random strangers who need Ed’s help and, of course, Ed Kennedy himself. But really, it’s all about Ed Kennedy: where he’s been, where he’s going, and whether or not he’s going to remain where he is—without “a whole lot of prospects or possibility”—or seize his life and start living it.
I’d recommend I Am the Messenger to anyone interested in a funny, edgy, unconventional YA book. Oh, and anyone who’s ever loved a stinky dog.
[Zusak, Marcus. I Am the Messenger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.]