I was really torn with which book I should choose for the latest meeting of The Riverside Readers which took place last night. We have already covered non-fiction, classics, science fiction, modern literature, translations. As I wanted to choose something different I had three options to my mind which were crime, short stories or young adult. As a genre I have the issues with and like to test myself I opted for the latter and chose ‘I Am The Messenger’, or simply ‘The Messenger’ as it’s known in Australia, by Markus Zusak a book he wrote before the cross-over smash ‘The Book Thief’ (which I loved when I read in my pre-blogging days).
I don’t know if I would have bought ‘I Am The Messenger’ of my own volition if I am honest, though I would definitely read the next book by Markus Zusak, in part because it is deemed as ‘young-adult’ fiction a tag that simply puts me off, but I won’t open that can of worms. However a friend picked it up for me in Australia as they knew I had raved to anyone and everyone about ‘The Book Thief’.
Stuck in a city as an underage cab driver who happens to be hopeless at love and rubbish at sex you might not think that nineteen year old Ed Kennedy, the protagonist of ‘I Am The Messenger’, would be someone who could changes the lives of people but neither would he. In fact if you told him that he could he would probably laugh in your face or possibly tell you to ‘f**k off’ and so would his friends. However everything changes after Ed inadvertently foils a rather incompetent bank robbery.
After this event his name and face is plastered across the newspapers and someone sends him a playing card, the Ace of Diamonds, with addresses written on it and Ed soon realises someone has given him the mission of giving people messages, some they may like and some they might not either way Ed is now in charge of changing the lives of strangers, only the cards keep coming and everything starts to get much closer to home.
Some of the stories were genuinely touching like a tale involving Christmas lights and also a relationship that Ed builds with a wonderful old lady called Milla. The later in particular really made me smile throughout the book and I am not ashamed made me feel a little warm inside. Some are easy such as giving someone an ice-cream which touches them more than anything else could. Some are dangerous and disturbing such as the case of a man who regularly rapes his wife in a drunken stupor and how to stop him.
I liked how Zusak could take you from something quite humorous to something quite hard hitting within a paragraph or two and yet it never jarred and kept the pace the whole way through (in fact towards the end I felt I was reading a thriller to a degree). I found the characters of Ed and his friends a little two dimensional to begin with but as the book went on they were fleshed out as the plot thickened, that’s all I will say for now, you will spot the love story a mile off though!
What won me round with this book in particular, being a bit of a cynic, was that this book never strayed too far into cheesy territory which could have been an easy move, nor did it preach (I did on several occasions think the book might suddenly gain a religious slant) despite the author clearly having a motive and a message of his own. Though not always subtle and slightly saccarine in parts, Zusak has created a book that can be dark, laugh out loud funny and occasionally quite poignant. 6.5/10
Having now read ‘I Am The Messenger’ I don’t think I would call this a cross-over book, maybe I have become a bit of an early old timer but I wouldn’t want my brother or sister (8 and 12) reading this, mind you they read Twilight so what do I know. It did work for me though and I will definitely be reading whatever he comes out next without question and am really rather keen to read more of his already published works.
Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (if you haven’t read it you should)
The Other Hand – Chris Cleave (though if you have read it and hated this book – it’s a marmite number – don’t let that put you off)
And no… I haven’t mentioned today’s general election… yet!