May 18, 2012

Review: I Am the Messenger

By: Markus Zusak
Published: February 2005 by Random House
Format: Paperback, 357 pages
First Reviewed: July 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Protect the diamonds, survive the clubs, dig deep through the spades, feel the hearts.

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.

Rating: 5/5 god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, this book, this book, this book, this book! ... This book! I don't even--how do I--where do I start? Okay, look who's name on this book. See it? Zusak. Markus Zusak. Author of one of my all-time favorites, The Book Thief. Ahem, so you know I expected to love this. I just...knew I would. But, how on earth is it possible to still be so blown away? Be prepared for a very, very praise-filled review.

Can I just say I'm in love with the writing and have it be done with? No? Fine. Zusak is amazing. That's just a simple fact. I think he's my number one favorite author. I love many, but he just has to top the list. This style is different from The Book Thief, but in a good way. With The Book Thief, his narration fit with Death, with this, it fit perfectly with Ed. Perfect.

I goodness. This is the type of writing that makes everyone jealous, even if you're not a writer. The prose is utterly beautiful, his stylistic choices are absolutely "marvelous," as Milla would say, and his dialogue is so downright flawless and realistic even curse words that would normally drive me crazy didn't bother me at all. They only depicted the characters to a "T."

I loved the fragmented sentencing--some people may not care for that, but I felt it fit with the narration and character. Zusak had me invested in this story from the get-go. And I swear this book had one of the best opening chapters I've ever read. It was just awesome. We met these characters, were thrown into their lives, and immediately felt the elements that we'd have throughout--the humor, the intensity, and the personalities. Speaking of humor, it was spot on with this, as was the inner dialogue and thoughts, and the believability with the language. Even though we don't get a solid location, I knew this was set in Australia. That was mainly due to the writing, and of course...Zusak's from there. (Jealous, jealous, jealous...*cough*I hate America.*end cough*) And lastly, I think Zusak's the only author in the world--okay, this can't be proven, but just saying--who can successfully pull off talking to the reader. Sure, there are other favorite books who have done this, but not like Zusak!

This is way reviewing can suck, because I honestly just want to say: Freaking, man! These characters were bloody brillant! Because they were. All of them. Every. Single. Last. One. I don't even know what else to say.

Let's start with Ed. A underage cabdriver without a life, pretty much. Broken, lonely, heading down the wrong path, yet full of good nature and love, just like his father. From the beginning, he had this incredibly strong voice and personality, one that some would either love or hate (until later, that is). Personally, I loved it, because he felt real and it was almost like a cultural difference with him not being American. Anyway, the transition he grows through and the realizations he understands throughout this was phenomenal to read. I enjoyed watching this still-teenager grow into a mature young man. And I respect the fact that Zusak made him a true nineteen-year-old guy. His thoughts felt real, as did his actions and responses to things. One of my favorite leads.

As for the Ed's three friends: I loved them! Absolutely loved them! They're different from many other characters, and I have a feeling that if it weren't for this being Zusak's work, I would have hated them. Characters who cuss all the time and do nothing but drink and play cards and have sex (this is never really shown, mind you, but I'll tell you more later) would have just been annoying for me. But these three--Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey--didn't annoy me at all. I fell in love with their sarcasm and saw through them to their cores. There's a lot of why they act the way that they do, and I appreciate that Zusak showed that.

And the other characters? Yes, I'm going to say it again: Amazing! All different, all with a purpose, all with secrets and messages of their own. I don't want to give anything away about them, so I'll have to leave it at that. However, one more character that I know everyone will love: the Doorman. He's the best!

I know you all are getting tired of this word, but here it is again anyway: Amazing! This story, this idea, this premise, this whatever, was so original. I literally am so interested to how Zusak came up with this, and not only that, how he executed it so well.

To state the obvious: This book sends several, several messages. We'd be here all day if I wrote them all out. But I will say that all of them hit me in some way, all were relatable in some way, especially the overall big message that we're able to do more than we're capable of, even if we don't think we can. The way Zusak was able to deliver these messages, to not only the characters in the book, but to the readers as well, was just something you don't read everyday. Something you hardly read ever, frankly.

Of course the overall premise was incredible, but so was the plot itself. Like I said, from the beginning I was taken and immediately fell in love with the writing, the characters, and the plot. I was intrigued by the mystery and the "missions" Ed had to do. This is told in four main parts, save for the end, one for each of the aces, and with each came new messages, new understandings, and new levels of self-esteem and development and change for Ed. And the end brought a few twists that I never saw coming and that I absolutely loved. The man sitting on his couch--never saw it coming, y'all! This was just...amazing.

Warning: Like I mentioned earlier, there is quite a bit of cursing and sexual thoughts and talk. As someone who absolutely hates that stuff in books, I was okay with it. It actually didn't bother me. There is no real sex scene, though, and the cursing, for me, fit perfectly with the characters speaking. I almost can't imagine that they would have been as strong without that. Also, there was one aspect of this that kind of made me just a little upset. Spoiler, so don't read this part unless you've read this, otherwise, I'll be very angry with you. Read the book first! I didn't like that he killed his father and set up the rape and some of those things. That really hurt. :( Not sure if it would have been as strong if he didn't, but I think it would have...maybe, but still. That bothered me just a bit.

I was absolutely blown away by this book. I loved every minute of it. Zusak has an incredible way of grabbing the reader with one single line and instead of just keeping us, he just continues to grab with more stunning writing, plot points, and characters. This is one of my all-time favorites. Ed wasn't just a messenger to others, and he was just the message. His entire story, this book, was a message to us all. Incredible.

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