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You have chosen to ask this question about one of my favorite books, a little known gem. Marcus Zusak is brilliant, and for me his writing is intended to make people look at the world differently. Zusak uses subjects we all take for granted, tried and true topics we think we know, and turns them on their head.
I Am the Messenger has a plot that is definitely contrived. The unambitous slacker Ed gets drawn into a complicated game of helping people when he inadvertently prevents a bank robbery and then begins getting playing cards in the mail. Each person that Ed helps makes us look at something we thought we knew in a slightly different way.
Ed is no hero, but he is drawn to the addresses the playing card gives him. The man who rapes his wife every night haunts Ed, who does not get the courage to act until he finds a gun in his mailbox. Even then, he is not sure what to do with it.
God, the gun is so stiff in my hand. It’s cold and warm and slippery and rigid, all at once. I tremble uncontrollably, knowing that if I do this, I will have to press the gun into the man’s flesh or I will miss. I’ll have to bury it in him and watch as human blood blankets him. (p. 89)
These vivid descriptions ensure that we will not only experience the rush of the new experience with Ed, but we will imagine what it would be like if we were in that situation. When Ed thinks that he will “watch him die in a stream of unconscious violence” (p. 89), the reader feels it too.
We are drawn into this story, raw and real. We want to solve the clues as Ed does, and we want to see where it is all going. With each new card, we wonder what we would do. Ed is the messenger for us to. He is sending us messages about our own lives, and the choices we make.
The ending also bizarre, as Ed communicates directly with Zusak. Like Zuasak’s other well-known book The Book Thief, this turns convention on its head. The reader has to decide whether or not to buy the gimmick, but even that process is eye-opening, and even soul-searching, for the reader. As Ed notes, “I’m not the messenger at all. I’m the message.” (p. 357). Yet it is ultimately the reader who is forming the message through the experiences Ed shares.
Here is the citation:
Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.
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