Thursday, 8 April 2010

Review - I Am The Messenger / Markus Zusak

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?

Review - Zusak is a name that can be instantly recognised or bring a blank look to a person's face. I have to admit that until recently, I was in the second camp. Even upon the realisation that this author had been honoured with many awards, I found it near impossible to find one of his titles in my hometown bookstores. It took moving to another country to make it happen.

What immediately struck me about I Am the Messenger was how effortless it appeared. Zusak has a way with the simple sentence. I would find myself often stopping to think about the way he'd craft one but there was always a pervading sense of humour that really won me over. On first glance this book might be dismissed as slacker humour but it is much more than bong and body emission jokes. There is much more to our confidence bereft, aimless youth than all of that cliched nonsense and Zusak placed his fingers firmly on its pulse.

It's a difficult novel to discuss as it is a journey you will want to experience fresh and unspoiled. For such a wide expanse of subject matter the tone of the piece is remarkably well executed. From the brutality of one suburban marriage to the loneliness of one's twilight years to the secrets you keep close to you, they are all woven into a patchwork of redemption, empathy, understanding and self-worth. It is the humour that lifts it above being considered an "issues book" but I never for one second considered it such despite its fantastic social commentary.

The structure is creatively executed, as is the overarching intrigue. There is only one point that prevents me from gushing about this novel as Oprah does over Maya Angelou. There's a scene with the bank robber that didn't meld with the rest of the story and momentarily took me out of Ed's adventures. That being said, it is one page in a novel that manages to be stylistic, smart, socially aware and sardonic.

The power of one can influence many,. The ingenuity of this novel can entertain many more.

Published: 2002
Format: Paperback, 357 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: purchased
Origin: Australia


Ruby said...

Have you read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak?

If you haven't, do go and pick it up. It will soon become one of your favourite books. I'd love to hear a review about it, if you haven't already :)

Brenny said...

I was going to say the same thing. 'The Book Thief' is one of my favorites although it is more of a children's book in my mind. I really liked this book, too, but still need to pick up 'Getting the Girl'. I really like Zusak's writing.

Angiegirl said...

Oh, man. I love this book so hard. It was the first book I read by Zusak and from the hilarious start to the poignant ending, I was consumed. I loved each of the group and following their winding paths.

Emily Cross said...

OMG, Read the BOOK THIEF!! This is the book he got all the awards for, and is the best book i have ever read!!

I really liked IAM the messenger but i didn't particularly like the ending, i thought it would have been very good if it had been


the father rather than this randomer?

kate.o.d said...

sob! why do they make weird changes to the title when the publish books in other countries?? (and WHY does it bother me so much??) but i got so angry just now when i saw that you didn't give this (one of my most favourite books) it's proper title "The Messenger". stupid knopf.

i am so glad you loved this one! i love zusak, you must read fighting ruben wolf and when dogs cry. magnificent. and another lovely review, you have keen perception.

Michelle said...

Zusak truly does have a way with words doesn't he? The BOOK THIEF is one of my favorite re-reads for just that very reason.

April (BooksandWine) said...

You've really outdone yourself with this review, bravo! I'm now staring at my copy of I Am The Messenger with longing. Silly deadlines and TBR pile.

Also, let me echo everyone else and say read The Book Thief if you haven't yet. It's the one book I've pressed into so many hands, and one I think you will really enjoy!

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

completely agree with like everyone here, read The Book Thief! It blew my mind.
You're completely right about Zusak's writing style, and about his "simple sentences" that leave such a big impact. They're perfectly chosen and perfectly placed.
nice review!

E.G. said...

What a smart review; definitely going to seek out this book. Have just finished The Book Thief (which I highly recommend along with everyone else on the thread!). Also heard Zusak speak at the Adelaide Writers Week and was blown away by him - he is a straight-talking, honest and modest man. He read an excerpt from his WIP and had the entire audience in silent rapture. Um, can you tell I'm a fan? :-)

Adele said...

The plan was to read The Book Thief this weekend...all these commented are just ensuring this happens.

Will be attempting to get an interview with the man also...though I have to figure out how.

Karen - the one time I am not living in South Australia and someone as awesome as Zusak is speaking, I have the worst timing ever.

E.G. said...

You should have seen the queue to meet him / have book signed...but he seems very laid-back and approachable. I was just brave enough to speak to him but I was so nervous he must have thought I was a right banana.

Pens said...

LOL! I was just going to tell you that you must read The Book Thief, but I see many have beat me to it :)

Anonymous said...

I loved this book & The Book Thief.
I'm actually listening to TBT on CD in the car and finding it even more engaging than when I read it - and I didn't think it was possible!
Can't wait to read your thoughts on it, Adele.

It also pleases me to no end that the Markus Zusak books that I recommended for the library I work at circulate often.

Alyssa said...

I definitely agree with you... Zusak's delivery kept I Am The Messenger from being clichéd and trite. I think the overall good-humor of Ed as the main character had a lot to do with that!

Great review :)