Chicken Soup for the YA Lover’s Soul

This is my review of I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.

The last (and only) Markus Zusak novel I read was The Book Thief. That was quite a while ago, but it is a book that leaves a lasting impression, enough that I scoured many of Bangalore’s bookstores (not to mention a couple in Chennai, plus some e-commerce sites) for a copy of I Am The Messenger.

Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old headed nowhere. He works as an underage cab driver, plays cards with his friends, fights with his mum, and pines after his best friend Audrey. He gets his fifteen minutes of fame when he manages to foil a bank robbery. A couple of days later, he receives a playing card in the mail, with three names on it. Looking up the addresses leads him to find three people who need his help. How he can help them isn’t obvious, though. He spends time with a lonely old lady, threatens a wife-beater, and inspires a teenaged girl. With the next clue comes a random attack by some local goons, and Ed begins to wonder what the point of the mission really is.

Ed later helps out a local priest and some newcomers to the neighbourhood. Here’s where the plot strays into Chicken Soup territory for a while. The good deeds are heartfelt, but there are too many- feels like the author just wanted to cover all four suits. And of course, he gets the girl in the end.

It was certainly not what I expected from Zusak, for a few reasons:

1. It seems to be targeted at a younger crowd; it isn’t exactly YA, but definitely isn’t relate-able for someone older.

2. It is set in Australia. This took embarrassingly long for me to figure out- I’d concluded that they were all English until the protagonist mentions feeling hot in December.

3. The modern-ish setting sets it apart from The Book Thief, in which the well researched historical setting was an integral part of the plot.

Nit-picking aside, I read this book in 2 days straight- I barely put it down. Ed is smart but not arrogant, ans makes for an endearing narrator. The first couple of chapters with the bank robbery and the introduction of the main characters is witty and got me hooked from page 1.

Read this book if you want a mature YA novel that’s touching and not overly focused on romance. 3.5/5.

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