Monday, October 27, 2008
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
"Before I even mention me, I should tell you some other facts: 1. At nineteen, Bob Dylan was a seasoned performer in Greenwich Village, New York. 2. Salvador Dali had already produced several outstanding artworks of paint and rebellion by the time he was nineteen. 3. Joan of Arc was the most wanted woman in the world at nineteen, having created a revolution. Then there's Ed Kennedy, also nineteen... No real career. No respect in the community. Nothing."
I enjoyed the actual process of reading this book but once it was over and I discussed it with some people in my Young Adult Lit class, I realized how sloppy the novel actually was. Despite some problems that I had with a few major plot points, the novel was still redeemable up until the final chapter where everything came together in a way that was far too neatly packaged and a bit too didactic for my likings. I will give Zusak this, though-- the novel plays out in a way that made me see each event unfold as it happened, and it was a lot more like I was watching a movie than it was like I was reading a book. Maybe that's common for other people and my imagination is lacking, but that doesn't happen for me very often.
The main character, Ed, is in a bank depositing his paycheck from the cab company he works for when a bank robbery goes down. Although he is an unlikely hero, Ed still manages to save the day. After his short fifteen minutes of fame end, he goes back to his normal life sharing his shack with his dog the Doorman, chasing his best friend Audrey who is too busy being a tart to acknowledge his affinity for her, and playing cards with his underachiever friends when he's not carting people around town in his cab. Everything is fine until the cards start coming in the mail, where he must "protect the diamonds, survive the clubs, dig deep through the spades, and feel the hearts." He becomes The Messenger, delivering people what they need and not knowing who is sending him or why. Without giving the plot away, I'll just say this-- I Am the Messenger reminded me a lot of a toned down version of The Boondock Saints without any of the murder. Sometimes he's helping lonely old women and priests, but other times he's beating the snot out of young punks and pistol whipping abusive men. You never really know what he is or isn't capable of or what he's going to have to do next. Since the instructions on the cards sent to him are vague, he has to assess situations himself and find out how to make life better for the people he has to protect. If he doesn't take care of a situation in an appropriate or timely matter, he knows his life is at stake.
Zusak has a YA bestseller set during the Holocaust called The Book Thief that I want to read, but I think I'll wait a while before picking one of his books up again.