Alfred A. Knopf, Australia, Author, Book review, Children/YA, Fiction, Markus Zusak, Publisher, Setting

‘I Am The Messenger’ by Markus Zusak


Fiction – paperback; Alfred A. Knopf; 357 pages; 2005.

I Am The Messenger is a young adult novel written by Markus Zusak, the Australian author who went on to achieve commercial success and international acclaim with his next book, The Book Thief.

The story is told in first person by 19-year-old Ed Kennedy, who lives with a big smelly brute of a dog in a rundown Sydney suburb. He drives a taxi for a living and has a small circle of friends with whom he plays cards and drinks beer. He is in love with his best friend, Audrey, but doesn’t feel confident enough to tell her of his true feelings. Indeed, Ed’s a bit of a lost cause. His alcoholic father died a year ago, and now he’s being constantly harangued on the phone by his potty-mouthed mother, who favours his more successful siblings over him.

But in the book’s opening pages, Ed accidentally foils a bank robbery and his life takes a different tack. No sooner is he in all the papers, being hailed as a hero, than he receives a playing card in the post. There’s three addresses written on it. When he works up the courage to visit the first address, secretly observing the people who live there, he realises he has been given a mission: he is now a messenger sent to help people less fortunate than himself.

This sets up a bizarre chain of events in which Ed receives more cards, with more cryptic clues. This mission brings him in contact with a vast array of people, including a religious priest, a teenage athlete and a single-mother raising three kids on her own.

It’s quite a page-turning read, because ultimately you want to know who’s behind Ed’s mission. Sadly, the ending is rather manipulative, but I suspect young readers, far less cynical than me, would find it mind-boggingly clever!

If you can forgive the small forays into schmaltz, this is a fast and entertaining read. Zusak deftly lightens tragedy with dark humour and charts a young man’s personal growth without being too obvious. If you like young adult fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here.

Note that the book was published in Australia under the title The Messenger.

4 thoughts on “‘I Am The Messenger’ by Markus Zusak”

  1. Great succinct review Kim. I think my cynical side was what made the book go down a little bit from my original thoughts. When I initially finished it I thought ‘oooh I loved that’ which then became ‘oooh I did like that’ to ‘not bad really’. Thats why I am trying to let books settle with me I get too over excited initially. Very much looking forward to the next one… oooh yes. I need to add yours and Pol’s link to my post.


  2. I’m teaching this book at the moment as our text for Year 10 English in Melbourne Australia. I really like the themes it raises, such as whether we need to sacrifice in order to be happy. The students enjoy discussing whether or not there is any such thing as an ‘ordinary’ person, and if so, can any such person do ‘extraordinary’ things? We are confronted with some interesting loser characters in it, and I know some students feel rather challenged by their silent mediocrity. It prompts us each to ask ourselves “what is going on under my nose that I am not aware of?” I loved the writing and the gritty personification of feelings and moments which ‘fall onto our feet’ as we read them. A lovely read, and one we can certainly encourage our younger friends to reflect on as they make choices regarding the extraordinary in their own lives.


  3. Thanks for your comment, Jo. We had a long chat in our book group about what teenagers might get out of this novel, but because none of us know any teens it was all a bit guesswork. I wondered if the morals were a bit dubious in places – ie using violence to achieve your aim – but I can see it would open up teens eyes to problems larger than their own little universe and give them the feeling that they can make a difference to others lives.


I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a comment below

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.