Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Ed Kennedy is a loser. His life consists of driving a cab, sharing coffee with his powerfully smelly dog, playing cards with his equally deadbeat friends, and never getting laid. Especially never getting laid by his friend Audrey who he’s actually totally in love with and who only sleeps with guys she doesn’t really care about. Everything changes one day when he accidentally foils a bank robbery and a strange letter shows up in his mail box. It’s got a playing card inside. The Ace of Diamonds. And it has three addresses.
Visiting these three addresses shows Ed things that he must do. But who is sending the cards? Why are they sending them to him? And what if he can’t do the tasks that someone has appointed to him? He’s nothing but a loser. As he makes choices about the messages on the cards his live begins to change forever.
Markus Zusak has written an almost Twilight Zone-esque story. His characters are real and believable, even when Ed begins to move beyond what you’d normally expect. His setting is squalid and raw and captures the reader entirely. Alcohol and violence permeate the backdrop of this story. Throughout the dreary setting a feeling of real emotion is evoked as we watch Ed grow and change and make decisions about what his role in the world really is and whether he can be a force for chance or die trying. Ed Kennedy is a reluctant anti-hero whose sense of self-deprecating humor will make anyone chuckle.
Who knows what the next card will bring?
From School Library Journal
Nineteen-year-old cabbie Ed Kennedy has little in life to be proud of: his dad died of alcoholism, and he and his mom have few prospects for success. He has little to do except share a run-down apartment with his faithful yet smelly dog, drive his taxi, and play cards and drink with his amiable yet similarly washed-up friends. Then, after he stops a bank robbery, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages marked in code on playing cards in the mail, and almost immediately his life begins to swerve off its beaten-down path. Usually the messages instruct him to be at a certain address at a certain time. So with nothing to lose, Ed embarks on a series of missions as random as a toss of dice: sometimes daredevil, sometimes heartwarmingly safe. He rescues a woman from nightly rape by her husband. He brings a congregation to an abandoned parish. The ease with which he achieves results vacillates between facile and dangerous, and Ed’s search for meaning drives him to complete every task. But the true driving force behind the novel itself is readers’ knowledge that behind every turn looms the unknown presence – either good or evil – of the person or persons sending the messages. Zusak’s characters, styling, and conversations are believably unpretentious, well conceived, and appropriately raw. Together, these key elements fuse into an enigmatically dark, almost film-noir atmosphere where unknowingly lost Ed Kennedy stumbles onto a mystery – or series of mysteries – that could very well make or break his life. – Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
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– Source for choosing this book: Booklist
– Grades Grade 9 Up
– Related Book: Jacoby, M. Ann. Life after Genius. New York: Grand Central, 2008. Found in Booklist. Both stories follow the lives of young male character as they deal with life changing events in their late teens and early twenties. Psychological mystery thrillers with many twists and turns in their plots.