Book Recommendation: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

18 Apr

Markus Zusak rose to prominence with the success of his lyrical and intensely emotional novel The Book Thief, and obviously, when Zusak shot to fame I was thrilled that a writer I had loved since I was twelve was getting some much deserved attention – but sometimes I feel like his other novels get ignored, when they’re also absolutely stellar.

In particular, I Am the Messenger is amazing, and spoke to my heart. I went back and read this book again, recently, and like The Book Thief, I Am the Messenger has prose that stuns with its vibrancy, humour and emotional depth. In a pitch-perfect voice, Zusak expertly twists together phrases that sit so well in the mouth of his average, slightly lower class suburban protagonist, giving them a zinging beauty. Every single scene is memorable, and there’s a profundity behind the words despite how casual and effortless it all seems.

Here’s a summary of The Messenger, snatched from goodreads:

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. 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?

Winner of the 2003 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

The plot of  I Am the Messenger is creatively structured, around a set of heroic missions, in which Ed has to deliver certain messages. The book plunges to the depths of human suffering and the heights of redemption, never sugar-coating and never sliding and never sliding into melodrama. Without spoiling too much, we see families cracked wide open by abuse, and the way random acts of kindness can be everything to those experiencing poverty. It’s dark, this book, but funny, too, and at times it slips into an almost surreal quirkiness and self-reflectivity.

I Am the Messenger has one of the best endings I’ve read in YA. It fits perfectly, pushing through the page with resonance, inspiring the reader on to greater heights in their everyday life. You’d never notice it while reading, because the story is so entrancing, so expertly crafted, but this book is social commentary at its finest. Witty, and refreshingly bittersweet, rather than unrelentingly dark and nihilistic.

And now that I’ve raved for a while, I’ll leave you with the first few lines:

The gunman is useless.
I know it.
He knows it.
The whole bank knows it.

How can you resist an opener like that?


Vahini Naidoo is  a YA author and University student from Sydney Australia. Her currently untitled debut novel, a YA psychological thriller, is scheduled for release from Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can visit Vahini over on her blog or twitter.

21 Responses to “Book Recommendation: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak”

  1. Julie Eshbaugh April 18, 2011 at 10:49 AM #

    Hey Vee! I really enjoyed this book! Very mysterious. I raced through it to learn all of it’s secrets! 🙂 GREAT recommendation!

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:20 AM #

      Yay! I’m glad you liked it too, Julie. I’ve noticed that us LTWF girls seem to like a lot of the same books 😀

  2. Caitlin April 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM #

    I Am the Messenger was great! I didn’t like it quite as much as The Book Thief, but you’re right – Zusak is just a brilliant writer. 🙂

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:21 AM #

      Hmm. I’m not sure which one I liked more — I think it depends on my reading mood, haha. But Zusak is, indeed, amazing.

  3. Lis April 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

    I never managed to finish ‘The Book Thief’, it just didn’t sit right with me (it may be partly because as an Austrian I can’t abide German phrases in English fiction), but ‘I am the Messenger’ is one of my favourite books and I always wonder about the lack of recognition it gets. So thanks for getting it known a bit more widely 🙂

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:23 AM #

      It’s so underrated! (even though it’s award winning) And I’ve always wondered why, considering it’s absolute brilliance.

      And that’s really interesting that you can’t stand German phrases in English fiction.

  4. Sam at Read Sam, Read April 18, 2011 at 11:52 AM #

    I love this book so much. Awesome recommendation! I actually read it before I read The Book Thief and I put off reading TBF because I was scared it wouldn’t measure up to this one. It did, but I think that I Am the Messenger is still my fave book by him.

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:27 AM #

      I read The Messenger first, was also worried that TBT wouldn’t live up to my expectations! It did, and now I’m not sure which one’s my favourite, haha 🙂

  5. Gabriela Da Silva April 18, 2011 at 1:01 PM #

    I remember reading The Book Thief some years ago and… not liking it very much, heheheh. Caan’t remember why, which means I’ll fish it up this afternoon and re-read it to see if I change my mind.

    The Messenger sounds *very* interesting though! Definitely different. I’ll try to take a look at it if I ever find it down here.

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:30 AM #

      The Book Thief is one of those books that some people just never get into. Personally, I love it madly, but I have friends who couldn’t get through it, and disliked the imagery and the characters and the setting and all the rest of it.

      I feel like, in a way, The Messenger’s something that would be more universally liked? There’s just something about the voice that’s looser, easier — a bit less self-aware, maybe, than TBT.

      So yeah, definitely try and track down a copy of it! 😀

  6. M. Howalt April 18, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

    Thank you mentioning this! I’ve been meaning to read some Zusak at some point – maybe now I will. 🙂

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:31 AM #

      Oh, you absolutely must read some Zusak! He’s kind of brilliant 😀

  7. Nicole April 18, 2011 at 2:36 PM #

    Read this book for AP Lit. It was a wonderful read.

    Did you happen to notice that in Zusak’s author picture he is carrying a folder?

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:32 AM #

      Oh, wow, he’s not carrying a folder in the author pic in my copy (but maybe that’s because it’s the Aussie version? I don’t have the version with the image I posted from goodreads, haha…)

      But that’s a pretty awesome observation 🙂

      • Nicole April 19, 2011 at 3:07 AM #

        I think I read the paperback American version.

  8. Joan April 18, 2011 at 2:43 PM #

    YAY! I am the Messenger is AMAZING.
    It’s funny because this is exactly how I recommend this book to others x) And I never forget to include the amazing opening lines!
    Markus Zusak is a truly wonderful writer. I can’t wait for BRIDGE OF CLAY 😀

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:35 AM #

      Oh, I know, the opening lines are SO good. They pretty much sell the book — I don’t even have to praise it very much, when I’m recommending it in person. I’ll just grab someone and be like, “Look, read this!” haha.

      And omg, I’m so excited about Bridge of Clay! 😀

  9. Juni Case April 18, 2011 at 11:18 PM #

    I loved The Book Thief! And I loved this book as well. It’s definitely on my To Re-Read List for this summer.

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 12:36 AM #

      Ooh, have fun with your potential re-reading. I love re-reading books like this and just kind of savouring the sentences 😀

  10. Summer April 19, 2011 at 6:54 PM #

    Recommendation is spelled wrong.

    • Vee April 19, 2011 at 8:02 PM #

      So it is! This is what happens when I don’t bother to read over my post titles, haha. Bloody typos.

      I’ll fix it in a sec 🙂

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