Ed Kennedy's life is, well, rather bland. He works as a cabbie and hangs out with his fellow deadbeat friends. He's madly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and his mother despises him. Poor Ed. Then Ed thwarts a bank robbery and gains his fifteen minutes of fame. Shortly thereafter he begins receiving playing cards with times and addresses on them. Ed soon realizes that each time and address represent a task he must complete, sometimes of the good-hearted kindness to random stranger nature but also sometimes vigilante-type actions, and simply not cooperating is not an option, as Ed learns the hard way. Ed's missions, which he at first undertakes reluctantly, soon turn into an obsession and, ultimately, a life-changing experience.
After reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, I wanted to read more of his work and Penguins recommended I am the Messenger, originally published as The Messenger in Zusak's (and Penguins'!) native Australia. The Book Thief, which is one of my absolute favorite books ever, is a hard act to follow, but this novel, which was written before The Book Thief, was just as engaging and captivating. Thanks for another stellar recommendation, Penguins! Zusak has a knack for mining humor from situations that are not even remotely funny. The bank robbery that opens the book is hilarious, and gems of offbeat humor are scattered throughout the novel. Ed, the narrator, is a likable soul whose sarcastic narration adds much to the novel, but, even more importantly, he's believable. His reactions to being in his situation are logical and fit his personality. Most vigilante tales, which is sort of what I am the Messenger is though not exactly, feature an ordinary person who morphs into a larger than life superhero overnight. Not Ed. He's scared and confused and wants no part in what he's being asked to do. I have read quite a few books with the proverbial unwilling hero, but few are as realistic as Ed in their motivations and actions. Though the book is entertaining, it is also thought-provoking and much like The Book Thief, heartwarming without being sappy. This book didn't make me sob uncontrollably like The Book Thief--it's not quite as heartbreaking--though it does have its moments of brief sorrow.
I will admit the ending of the book did initially rattle me. It's not that I didn't buy it so much as I had to think about it before I eventually came to my own rationalization of it, which likely is not correct. Then again, the ending is not nearly what this book is about so much as the journey, so it's small issue.
I really like Markus Zusak's work. The two books I have read by him both feature complex sympathetic characters, offbeat stories, profound messages, humor, and a distinctive readable style. I am the Messenger is not as depressing as The Book Thief, but it possesses the same magical infusion of fantastical elements into reality. If you like inspirational reads that are free of sappy Hallmark crap, definitely read this book.
~~~~P.S. I would be remiss to not add, though, that if you're turned off by profanity, you should be aware that this book is chock-full of it. The language didn't offend me because I thought it was essential to the story. I mean, these kids are slum kids, after all--they're not going to sound like saints. But I feel it is my duty to warn my younger readers, lest their parents tar and feather me for a book recommendation.
Next Week: Stephen King's The Green Mile
Also, I need to apologize for not keeping up with comments (on both of my blogs). I am terribly sorry if I do not post a prompt response to your comment, but I will respond as soon as I can. I love reading your comments and I do read (and enjoy) every single one. It's just sometimes it's a couple of days before I have time to sit down and type up a response. Don't let that stop you from commenting! I will not ignore you! :)
Just one more announcement before I get to my trivia section: I am now settled in at my new college and am really enjoying myself. I love being a history and English major. Most of my homework is my two favorite things: reading and writing. Yeehaw! However, this also means I do a lot of reading and writing. Reading and writing that sometimes deprive me of pleasure reading. *sniffle* So . . . if you get a glut of reviews of classic novels from me in the next couple of months, it's because I am reduced to blogging my assigned reading. (And I think you guys would prefer classic lit. reviews over reviews about the academic books I am reading on the Russian Revolution. Unless you are a fellow history geek, then I would be more than happy to recommend Russian history books. ^^) But I will try my best to mix it up with more contemporary and genre fiction. :)
This Week in Literary History: 15 September 1890. British mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie is born in Devon, England. If you know me, you know I adore Agatha Christie! In fact, my very first blog post was a list of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. At the very least, read the first four on that list. They are all superb witty mysteries full of twists and turns and are not too scary. They're perfect brainteasers. :D