I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger

4.4 394
by Markus Zusak
     
 

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By the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Book Thief, this is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the

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Overview

  
By the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Book Thief, this is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
 
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. That's when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?
 
This book is a 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and recipient of five starred reviews.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Book Thief is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic. Its grimness and tragedy run through the reader’s mind like a black-and-white movie, bereft of the colors of life. Zusak may not have lived under Nazi domination, but The Book Thief deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel’s Night. It seems poised to become a classic.” -USA Today
"Zusak doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but he makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five: with grim, darkly consoling humor.”
- Time Magazine
"Elegant, philosophical and moving...Beautiful and important."
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"An extraordinary narrative."
- School Library Journal, Starred
"Exquisitely written and memorably populated, Zusak's poignant tribute to words, survival, and their curiously inevitable entwinement is a tour de force to be not just read but inhabited."
- The Horn Book Magazine, Starred
"One of the most highly anticipated young-adult books in years."
- The Wall Street Journal

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
In our Best Books citation, PW called this tale of a teenage Australian cabdriver who thwarts a bank robbery and sets off an intricate chain of events "compulsively readable." Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ed Kennedy drives a taxi and is in love with his best friend, whom he is afraid to approach. He mourns his father's death and realizes he is a fairly useless human being with no ambition. That is before he unintentionally proves himself a hero at a bank robbery. After that, strange mysterious playing cards arrive periodically, urging and guiding him to help strangers and, later, those closest to him. Suddenly Ed is willing to be hurt and to risk everything to help people find what is important in their lives. He is not really sure why. This book is a mystery in itself. The organization is curious, the writing suspenseful, and the idea intriguing. These make it a close-to-perfect book--if it weren't for the flawed ending. Still, it is an engrossing read. 2005, Knopf, Ages 12 up.
—Susie Wilde
VOYA
It is no wonder that Zusak's wild ride of a novel won the Children's Book Council of Australia 2003 Book of the Year for Older Readers and the Ethel Turner Prize in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards for 2003. This dense literary novel is heavy on plotting, secondary characters (including a great dog named The Doorman), and belated coming-of-age anguish, all pulled together with the dazzling first person, sometimes sentence-fragmented voice of Ed Kennedy. Nineteen-year-old Ed is a cabbie who seems more a passenger in life than a participant. After foiling a robbery, Ed gets his fifteen minutes of fame, and then the first card arrives. Ed receives playing cards, four aces and a joker, that contain an address or a clue to an address at which Ed will find a person in need. These situations vary, from a harried mother who merely needs an ice cream to a priest who needs his church filled to a brutal husband who needs to be killed, but in each case, Ed must figure out the message that he is called upon to deliver or the need he must fill. It is a book of small riddles and minor triumphs but also of crushing disappointment as the messages get closer to Ed's broken past and his loveable yet lacking friends. Although the curtain pulling at the book's finale is more of a whimper than a bang, Ed's journey into secret lives is so emotional and intellectually challenging that older readers will enjoy the trip. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Knopf, 368p., and PLB Ages 15 to 18.
—Patrick Jones
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2005: Ed Kennedy, a hapless 19-year-old Australian cab driver, has a life that's going nowhere until he manages to foil a bank robbery. After this incident he starts to receive mysterious messages, written on playing cards, that send him to addresses where people need help: to a house where a husband comes home drunk every night and rapes his wife; to a home where a sweet if senile old woman is lonely and missing her dead husband; to the aid of a teenage runner who lacks confidence; to a church that needs a congregation. In the end, Ed is even sent to fix his friends' lives, and in the process of helping others discovers that he has now become "full of purpose rather than incompetence." But who is sending these messages to him, and why? The answer is surprising (though not entirely credible, I thought), but it's the journey, and Ed's narration, that will delight the reader, and perhaps provoke some thought, too, about the value of helping others. Originally published in Australia as The Messenger, this novel by the gifted young author of Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl received the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year Award. Told in the present tense by Ed, it's funny, engrossing, and suspenseful, and it will appeal to a wide audience. (Winner of the ALA Printz Award for Excellence.) KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Random House, Knopf, 357p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-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 Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this winner of the Australian Children's Book Award for Older Readers, 19-year-old Ed Kennedy slouches through life driving a taxi, playing poker with his buddies, and hanging out with his personable dog, Doorman. The girl he loves just wants to be friends, and his mother constantly insults him, both of which make Ed, an engaging, warm-hearted narrator, feel like a loser. But he starts to overcome his low self-esteem when he foils a bank robbery and then receives a series of messages that lead him to do good deeds. He buys Christmas lights for a poor family, helps a local priest, and forces a rapist out of town. With each act, he feels better about himself and builds a community of friends. The openly sentimental elements are balanced by swearing, some drinking and violence, and edgy friendships. Suspense builds about who is sending the messages, but readers hoping for a satisfying solution to that mystery will be disappointed. Those, however, who like to speculate about the nature of fiction, might enjoy the unlikely, even gimmicky, conclusion. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375836671
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
05/09/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
20,645
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile:
640L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

the holdup

The gunman is useless.

I know it.

He knows it.

The whole bank knows it.

Even my best mate, Marvin, knows it, and he's more useless than the gunman.

The worst part about the whole thing is that Marv's car is standing outside in a fifteen-minute parking zone. We're all facedown on the floor, and the car's only got a few minutes left on it.

"I wish this bloke'd hurry up," I mention.

"I know," Marv whispers back. "This is outrageous." His voice rises from the depths of the floor. "I'll be getting a fine because of this useless bastard. I can't afford another fine, Ed."

"The car's not even worth it."

"What?"

Marv looks over at me now. I can sense he's getting uptight. Offended. If there's one thing Marv doesn't tolerate, it's someone putting shit on his car. He repeats the question.

"What did you say, Ed?"

"I said," I whisper, "it isn't even worth the fine, Marv."

"Look," he says, "I'll take a lot of things, Ed, but . . ."

I tune out of what he's saying because, quite frankly, once Marv gets going about his car, it's downright pain-in-the-arse material. He goes on and on, like a kid, and he's just turned twenty, for Jesus' sake.

He goes on for another minute or so, until I have to cut him off.

"Marv," I point out, "the car's an embarrassment, okay? It doesn't even have a hand brake--it's sitting out there with two bricks behind the back wheels." I'm trying to keep my voice as quiet as possible. "Half the time you don't even bother locking it. You're probably hoping someone'll flog it so you can collect the insurance."

"It isn't insured."

"Exactly."

"NRMA said it wasn't worth it."

"It's understandable."

That's when the gunman turns around and shouts, "Who's talkin' back there?"

Marv doesn't care. He's worked up about the car.

"You don't complain when I give you a lift to work, Ed, you miserable upstart."

"Upstart? What the hell's an upstart?"

"I said shut up back there!" the gunman shouts again.

"Hurry up then!" Marv roars back at him. He's in no mood now. No mood at all.

He's facedown on the floor of the bank.

The bank's being robbed.

It's abnormally hot for spring.

The air-conditioning's broken down.

His car's just been insulted.

Old Marv's at the end of his tether, or his wit's end. Whatever you want to call it--he's got the shits something terrible.

We remain flattened on the worn-out, dusty blue carpet of the bank, and Marv and I are looking at each other with eyes that argue. Our mate Ritchie's over at the Lego table, half under it, lying among all the pieces that scattered when the gunman came in yelling, screaming, and shaking. Audrey's just behind me. Her foot's on my leg, making it go numb.

The gunman's gun is pointed at the nose of some poor girl behind the counter. Her name tag says Misha. Poor Misha. She's shivering nearly as bad as the gunman as she waits for some zitty twenty-nine-year-old fella with a tie and sweat patches under his arms to fill the bag with money.

"I wish this bloke'd hurry up," Marv speaks.

"I said that already," I tell him.

"So what? I can't make a comment of my own?"

"Get your foot off me," I tell Audrey.

"What?" she responds.

"I said get your foot off me--my leg's going numb."

She moves it. Reluctantly.

"Thanks."

The gunman turns around and shouts his question for the last time. "Who's the bastard talking?"

The thing to note with Marv is that he's problematic at the best of times. Argumentative. Less than amiable. He's the type of friend you find yourself constantly arguing with--especially when it comes to his shitbox Falcon. He's also a completely immature arsehole when he's in the mood.

He calls out in a jocular manner, "It's Ed Kennedy, sir. It's Ed who's talking!"

"Thanks a lot!" I say.

(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.)

"Well, shut up, Ed!" the gunman screams. Marv smirks. "Or I'll come over there and shoot the arse off you!"

It's like being in school again and your sadistic math teacher's barking orders at you from the front of the room, even though he couldn't care less and he's waiting for the bell so he can go home and drink beer and get fat in front of the telly.
I look at Marv. I want to kill him. "You're twenty years old, for Christ's sake. Are you trying to get us killed?"

"Shut up, Ed!" The gunman's voice is louder this time.

I whisper even quieter. "If I get shot, I'm blaming you. You know that, don't you?"

"I said shut up, Ed!"

"Everything's just a big joke, isn't it, Marv?"

"Right, that's it." The gunman forgets about the woman behind the counter and marches over to us, fed up as all buggery. When he arrives we all look up at him.
Marv.

Audrey.

Me.

And all the other hopeless articles like us sprawled out on the floor.

The end of the gun touches the bridge of my nose. It makes it itchy. I don't scratch it.

The gunman looks back and forth between Marv and me. Through the stocking on his face I can see his ginger whiskers and acne scars. His eyes are small and he has big ears. He's most likely robbing the bank as a payback on the world for winning the ugliness prize at his local fete three years running.

"So which one of you's Ed?"

"Him," I answer, pointing to Marv.

"Oh no you don't," Marv counters, and I can tell by the look on his face that he isn't as afraid as he should be. He knows we'd both be dead by now if this gunman was the real thing. He looks up at the stocking-faced man and says, "Hang on a sec. . . ." He scratches his jawline. "You look familiar."

"Okay," I admit, "I'm Ed." But the gunman's too busy listening to what Marv has to say for himself.

"Marv," I whisper loudly, "shut up."

From the Hardcover edition.

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