Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of: Wikireview of I am the Messeger

Markus Zusak. I am the Messenger. New York: Random House, 2002.

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"Then there’s Ed Kennedy, also nineteen... Just prior to the bank holdup, I’d been taking stock of my life. Cabdriver- and I’d funked my age at that. (You need to be twenty.) No real career. No respect in the community. Nothing.”

Ed Kennedy is a underaged cabbie, living alone with his smelly old dog. His older sisters are married with families of their own, his brother is off at University, and Ed is still in the same place he’s always been, accomplishing nothing. His mother makes sure he doesn’t forget that. He has no ambition, no goals... well, none other than his love for one of his best friends, Audrey, being reciprocated, but he’s well aware of how impossible that is. Ed seems to be going nowhere fast- until he stops that bank robber. Shortly after, he receives the first card, the Ace of Diamonds, with a list of addresses on it. At each of these places, Ed has something that he is expected to deliver. He becomes a messenger, helping strangers discover exactly what they need to better their lives. Sometimes the messages are simple, others are more forceful. Through these encounters, along with an appropriate mix of laughter and suspense, Ed discovers that the most important message is meant for himself.

Zusak throws in elements of mystery, suspense, and humor that bring the reader into Ed's world to watch as he improves the lives of those around him, while also he also grows as himself and finds confidence in his own identity. This is an important message for humanity in general, but is particularly relevant for adolescents who may struggle with confidence and feelings of inadequacy. Young adult readers can learn from this novel and its protagonist, Ed Kennedy. They can learn to confront seemingly impossible tasks and believe in themselves when the stakes are high. Once they believe in themselves, they can accomplish great things and help themselves and others along the way. While not particularly novel or profound, the ending is certainly a twist that will leave readers thinking about the book after they put it down. I am the Messenger will not be a life-changer for students, but it is certainly a good read, as well as inspirational.

Recommendations for Teachers
Because I Am The Messenger is a novel of its own standings, with no comparable components to other classical works, we would not recommend it as a text to be taught on its own in class. In our discussion, we talked about the comparability of the novel to other works, such as the stream of consciousness and personal narrative style of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, and the individual's stance on justice in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. But, because neither are completely parallel or have strong enough comparisons, we decided that these elements were not enough to justify teaching I Am The Messenger within the classroom.

The language is coarse, but not for a specific purpose; it builds character voicing, perhaps making Ed more relatable to kids in today's society, but it makes it jarring to read at times. The novel portrays a "feel-good" message, but one that we felt was somewhat generic and not as exciting as we would have hoped. Overall, we as a group generally liked Zusak's writing style, and perhaps excerpts of it could be used as class example when teaching stream-of-consciousness-style writing, but reading the entire book would not be necessarily beneficial.

Lastly, we thought that this book would be much more relatable to boy students than to girls. We talked about possibly using it as a tool for students in literature circles, especially if boys are struggling to find material to read. The character Ed is extremely frank and relatable, and may prove to be a good role model for male students in the classroom, although as stated before, the novel does not have enough merit to stand as a largely teachable material within the classroom.

About Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak is an Australian author who was born in Sydney of 1975 to a German mother and Austrian father where he was the youngest of four children.

Growing up Zusak was told countless stories about his family’s years in Germany during World War II, ultimately inspiring his award winning book about Nazi Germany called The Book Thief.

Zusak began writing at the age of 16 with inspirations such as The Old Man and the Sea, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish until his first novel The Underdog was published in 1999.

A collected list of his works include:
The Underdog - 1999
Fighting Ruben Wolfe - 2001
The Messenger - 2002
When Dogs Cry - 2002
The Book Thief - 2006

Zusak currently spends his time with his wife and daughter in Sydney where he “writes, occasionally works a real job, and "plays on a soccer team that never wins”.


Below is an interview given by Markus Zusak on how he writes and develops a story. He also shares a story about his good friend.

Additional Resources:
  • Markus Zusak Official - Visit the author's homepage (produced through Random House). Here you'll find updates on new books, discussion questions, and even a discussion board to talk about your favorite Zusak novels.
  • Markus Zusak's Goodreads Account - Get updates, as well as peruse his own personal library. Want to see what Markus Zusak thinks of your favorite book? This is the place to do so!
  • Markus Zusak's Facebook - Become a fan and get updates directly on your Newsfeed from the author himself.
  • Markus Zusak Forum - Talk about I Am the Messenger with fans of the book, as well as talk about Zusak's other novels, such as The Book Thief.
  • Tastekid's List of Similar Reads - Want to read other books like I Am the Messenger? Tastekid gives you the lowdown on books like it!
  • I Am the Messenger: ebook - Here's the link to add I Am the Messenger to your ebook library. Search 'Markus Zusak' to purchase other titles by the author.
  • Important Quotes - If you've got a favorite quote from the novel, but can't remember it, Goodreads complied a list of the most popular quotes from I Am the Messenger. It's easier than searching through the whole book!
  • Australian Slang Translator - If you get a little confused while reading I Am the Messenger, don't worry. This site will clear up any confusion when it comes to the Australian slang words Zusak uses.
  • How to Play Annoyance - Throughout the book, Ed and his friends get together and play Annoyance -- find out how to play it yourself here!
  • How to Become a Cab Driver - Want to become a taxicab driver like Ed? All the requirements can be found here!

Sarah Abent, Garrit DeVries, Danielle Iafrate, Brenna Johnson, Glenna Russell -- Will Grayson, Will Grayson Review, Hate List Review