Review: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 3.0/5.0 stars

Main Takeaway: Interesting plot that keeps you guessing and makes you feel, but with a disappointing ending.


I decided to read this book because I loved The Book Thief, one of Zusak’s other novels, fully aware that the two novels would be immensely different. I had high expectations of this novel, as a fan of his other works, and ultimately I Am the Messenger left me disappointed.

19-year-old Ed Kennedy leads an uneventful life. As a taxi driver he watches the world go on around him and without him, until one day he stops an armed bank robbery and becomes a local hero. A couple days later, Ed receives a card in the mail – an Ace of Diamonds with three addresses on it. Suddenly, Ed is tossed into a new world, one in which he can be a part of and in which he must deliver messages to the people indicated by the mysterious cards. Who is sending the cards to Ed? Why is he receiving them? And what happens when they stop coming?

The premise and the plot of this book captured me; the concept of an unwilling hero is common enough, but Zusak accomplished it in a unique way. As Ed was drawn into new peoples’ lives, he became someone, he grew, and the relationships he created gave his life more value to him. The emotive quality of this novel was raw and real, and I
even found myself in tears at one point of the novel. I found myself flying through the book to find out who was sending these missions and why, but in the end the reveal was disappointing. Without revealing much, I felt that the confessions said in the reveal really devalued Ed’s actions, growth, and achievements, and as such undermined the message of the book: anyone can make a difference.

Many people sing praises of this novel, and say those who don’t like the ending don’t actually understand the novel. I disagree; I understand the message Zusak sends us, but I also think this ending was controversial for many reasons (which I will not delve into here so as not to spoil the novel), and as with all controversial things there will be those that love it and those that loathe it. While I Am the Messenger had a well-developed and enjoyable plot and many beautiful moments, those moments were devalued by the ending.

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