I Am the Messenger
- Lexile Level: 640L
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 8, 2005)
- ISBN-10: 0375830995
- ISBN-13: 978-0375830990
Ed Kennedy and his friends are going nowhere fast until he unintentionally thwarts a bank robbery. Along with his newfound notoriety, Ed also receives a mysterious playing card. Despite trepidation, Ed’s curiosity takes him to the first address written on the ace of diamonds. There he witnesses a violent family altercation that haunts him for days. Troubled by what he has seen and unsure how to proceed, Ed turns to the other addresses where he finds more pleasant tasks to complete. After much soul-searching, he is able to complete the first card and he looks forward to the next to arrive. He is not disappointed, as a second card arrives soon after being attacked in his home by a pair of henchmen checking up on his progress. Each card presents a new riddle to be solved, and new challenges to be met. As the cards and tasks progress, Ed finds a sense of purpose and pride. While some tasks lead to lasting friendships, others challenge him to face his own history. When the final ace arrives, Ed confronts the people closest to his heart—his friends—as he delivers the message of the ace of hearts. As the novel closes, Ed and his quirky group of friends have a better understanding of themselves and each other, and their bonds are strengthened and the mastermind behind the cards is revealed.
Though set in Australia, readers will relate easily to the characters and the location. The author does an excellent job of using dialect to spice up and authenticate his characters without bogging them down with nomenclature. Viewed through the eyes of Ed, all of the characters seem relatively one dimensional at first look, but as Ed grows, so too does his understanding of those around him. Each undergoes a transformation of some sort that results in well-developed, likable, and realistic characters.
Male and female readers should be able to relate to Ed, but males in particularly will find him amusing and interesting. Zusak utilizes humor to great effect and his big reveal is a nice touch that many readers will relish. Gritty and realistic, the story takes many dark turns that add to the power of the story. Ed and his friends are tough and make adult decisions regarding sexuality and substance abuse. Some of the tasks Ed confronts may be troubling for sensitive readers and his rough relationship with his family can be disturbing. Parents are encouraged to preview and discuss the book with their children. Throughout every ordeal, however, Ed retains his sense of humor and rises to the occasion. Though he does not always know what direction his message will take, Ed is careful to live up to the spirit of the message.
Ultimately, the messages Ed delivers are of hope, forgiveness, and redemption. Readers of all ages will be inspired by the “pay it forward” tone and the idea that simple everyday actions can have a tremendous positive impact. This would be a good book club read as it is sure to spark conversation.