Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Am the Messenger

I just finished Markus Zusak's *I am the Messenger*, which was a 2006 Printz Award Honor Book (The Printz Award is given annually to outstanding YA titles). It's also been chosen as an 2009 Abraham Lincoln Award contender. So... I wanted to like it. I really wanted to like it because I loved *The Book Thief*, and I was anticipating another beautifully-written novel full of the figurative language I had grown to expect from Zusak (see previous post). I will say that *I Am the Messenger* has an imaginative plot that is always surprising and sometimes fulfilling: Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old underachiever who drives a cab for a living and lives in a shack with an odiferous dog named "The Doorman". Ed suddenly begins receiving playing cards in the mail, each marked with an address in the beginning or, as the novel continues, increasingly mysterious words or phrases which Ed must interpret. He must go to the home of the message's recipient and then figure out what message he must deliver. Like I said: clever, right?
I think that what I objected to in this novel was the voice of the characters, particularly of Ed himself. I loved that, as an Australian author, Zusak set his novel in Sydney and uses delightfully colorful Australian slang. My problem is that I felt like Ed is too whiny and navel-gazing, as are his friends. I felt like reaching into the pages and slapping him, saying "Get a life and quit your whining!" I also felt like some of the things the characters say (especially his rough-around-the-edges friends) are too romance-novel to be realistic. I don't think I'm a heartless reader, but it made me wonder if Markus Zusak himself is still going through some sort of "she loves me, she loves me not" teenage angst. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
My final issue with *I Am the Messenger* is the ending. I was gearing up for at least a satisfying answer to the question of who is sending Ed these messages for him to deliver, when... what? It was sort of a weird and all-too-quick wrap up for me.
Has anybody else read this? If you have, or if you do, let me know!
I hate to say it but I'm giving this one
2 out of 4 Bananas.

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