It took me a little longer than I expected to finish Markus Zusak’s I am The Messenger. I thought I would be able to breeze through it during the weekend, but the copy I have has around 350 pages, and it took me exactly a week to finish it.
Because of the seemingly mature content of the book at times, I find myself constantly turning back to the copyright page to make sure that it really is a "children's book." The protagonist, Ed, a 19-year-old waste of space – a term, I’m sure, he would readily use to describe himself, often indulges in sexual thoughts about Audrey, his so-called best friend; and his choice of vocabulary isn’t what I would call appropriate for “children's book" readers. Likewise, some of the topics presented in the book are also somewhat on the mature side.
The book, essentially, is a “mystery” novel. After unintentionally stopping a bank robbery, Ed finds himself the recipient of mysterious messages written on playing cards, telling him to complete certain tasks, which, more often than not, includes him getting hurt physically. Ed, trying hopelessly to find meaning in his existence, does what he is told, and meets some very interesting, albeit not always friendly, people along the way.
I am the Messenger is an engaging read. The book is divided into four parts which correspond to the four aces in a deck of cards. In each ace, sent mysteriously to Ed, is written the task he has to complete. The messages are usually cryptic and the clues get harder and harder as Ed goes through the four aces. The tasks Ed performs throughout the book are more for himself than it is for the people he helps. By changing other peoples' lives, he is, ultimately, changing his own.
Ed talks directly to the readers as he narrates the events of the book, and his life, in a very casual, laidback, uninhibited way. Obviously, readers will want to know who is sending Ed the cryptic messages, manipulating him to perform certain tasks. It's is, for me, the main pull of the book.
My greatest fear about this book was that, in the end, the mysterious manipulators in his life will turn out to be some supernatural being like god.
Were my fears realized?
I am the Messenger, like its protagonist, Ed Kennedy, is not really about the "whos" and the "whys" and the "hows," it's more about the "what."
And what exactly is I am the Messenger? It is a book about how ordinary people can accomplish things, and maybe, even make a difference. It's about how seemingly ordinary gestures can mean the world to other people. It's about how ordinary people can rise above their means and capabilities, not only to help others, but to help themselves.
Ultimately, I think it's about hope. Hope that people have the power within themselves to change their lives, if they choose to do so. It doesn't depend on the circumstances surrounding one's life - it just depends on the person's will.
To realize that you are nothing; that your are ordinary, and to want to change that, to want to be a better version of yourself, to want to want...that is the message.