6th November 2023
If the name Markus Zusak were to come up in conversations about books for young adults, many would know him through the novel ‘The Book Thief’, which blasted off the shelves in 2006. It took the literary world by storm. However, if you were to mention the precursor to this book, his 2002 novel ‘I Am the Messenger’, you might be hit with vague stares and awkward glances. While he struck fame with ‘The Book Thief’, ‘I Am the Messenger’ went (relatively speaking) under the radar.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why.
‘I am the messenger’ contains all the punch, power and purpose that its younger sibling does. The book is largely character-driven, focusing on the protagonist Ed Kennedy, who is a nothing-much sort of 19-year-old. Ed spends his time driving his cab, playing cards with his friends and hanging out with his bizarrely yet affectionately named dog ‘The Doorman’. His humdrum life, however, gets flipped when one day he somehow manages to stop a bank robbery while the act is being committed. Following this unusual act, he receives playing cards in the mail, each giving vague details of a place and time he must attend to. These assignments see him dish out both punishment and assistance, where it is needed. Ed becomes ‘The Messenger’; a man of morality, he discovers a selfless nature that wasn’t instantly clear in the novel’s beginning.
The book intertwines character traits of humour, fear, sadness, overwhelming joy, relief and simply being content, making the characters seem instantly relatable. Zusak possesses a talent that many well-known authors simply cannot come close to; his characters feel desperately real, so much so that it seems like they might jump out of the page at any given moment and speak directly to you. Their talents and their flaws seem so close to our own, that it feels like you’ve known them your whole life.
For those that struggle with reading, or simply see it as not worth the time of day. I implore you to spare some time for this masterpiece! The 357 pages may seem intimidating for those who aren’t in the groove of reading. However, once hooked this book won’t be able to let you go. The phrase ‘You won’t be able to put it down’ has become an overused cliché, one you’ve probably heard from an aunt or uncle as they give you a book that you clearly won’t be interested in. In this case, it seems to be an entirely appropriate one.
Even from the first page, the portrayal of the characters is evident; amid an intense and seemingly dangerous bank robbery. Ed’s best friend Marv is not worried about their current situation, but about the fine he will get on his car. His uncaring nature and the argument that results between the pair of them about the worth of Marv’s car somehow becomes the focus for these two characters, showing a prime example of how silly and relatable these characters are.
If you’re looking for something easy to read this winter, or looking for a gift for a friend who’s in a reading slump, I couldn’t suggest a better place to look than this fantastic novel by Zusak. It’s the gift you wished you received from those aunts and uncles all those years.
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