“You never know, I tell myself. One day there might be a few select people who’ll say, ‘Yes, Dylan was on the brink of stardom when he was nineteen. Dali was well on his way to being a genius, and Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for being the most important woman in history. And at nineteen, Ed Kennedy found that first card in the mail.”
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver, sharing a shack with his ancient, reeking dog, The Doorman. His life isn’t going much of anywhere at the moment: he drives around business men and tries not to drive around people who look like they might throw up in his cab, suffers from unrequited love for his best friend, and meets his similarly unmotivated buddies to play cards every week. He’s pretty pitiful, by his own admission. He doesn’t really do much with his life: that is, until the messages start coming to him.
After accidentally stumbling into a bank robbery, Ed starts receiving playing cards. They’re messages, and following the clues in them leads him to people who need help: a lonely old woman. A wife whose husband hurts her at night. A priest who lives among those who need him most. It’s up to Ed to figure out what he needs to do to reach out and solve their problems. He’s no hero, but someone out there has chosen him to be the messenger.
Friends, this is my new favorite book. I love it even more than The Book of Lost Things, and here’s why: Ed is a self-professed loser, a nobody. The best part of his day is sharing coffee with his enormous dog, or daydreaming about his best friend, who is dating someone else, and probably never going to fall for him. His mother hates him because he reminds her of his dad. He’s got no money, has terrible taste in jackets, he’s bad in bed, and his life really isn’t going anywhere. But do you know what is the best about Ed? He is a kind, sincere guy. He could have ignored the messages, or decided the people out there weren’t worth helping (especially after he gets beaten to a pulp by the brothers he was trying to help), but instead, he doesn’t. So he goes quietly about, doing things like reading Wuthering Heights to an old lady and using all his money to throw a block party for a priest, all with no clue who is behind the mysterious messages.
I Am the Messenger champions the humble and honest among us, and without preaching, reminds us of the importance of reaching out to each other, even if our gestures may be small. Now, that may sound saccharine, but with Ed’s voice, it’s hilarious, and you won’t feel talked-down-to in the least. This is book whose message is that we are all in this together, so it’s best if we were gentle with one another. And that, friends, is why it is my new favorite.
Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. 357 pp. Ages 15 and up.
If you liked this book, you should check out my other SUPER FAVORITE, Sorta Like a Rock Star. It’s lighter than I Am the Messenger, but has the same belief in sincerity and hope, and I bet you’ll like it, too. Other books with the same tone are Gone, Gone, Gone and Everybody Sees the Ants. I’d love to hear what you think!