Zusak plays a predictable card trick in "I am the Messenger"

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Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger introduces Ed Kennedy, a quaint cab driver who had been routed to a series of addresses. His mission: to help the people at each address find  their life’s purpose. But Ed isn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart. An unknown source sent Ed the first playing card that started this game.

Days after being held at gunpoint during a bank robbery, Ed Kennedy was sent a mysterious playing card in the mail, inscribed with three addresses. Ed decided to go to each address and find out what he was expected to do. Throughout the entire process, Ed received minute hints from an unidentified source in accordance with each address, until Ed was able to decipher the clues on his own. After being dealt the one mysterious card, Ed had to deal the whole deck.

Although it tells a charming story and features memorable characters, the book lacks an argument, and has a ridiculously predictable ending.

After reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a novel which effervesced with historical significance, my expectations were high for I am the Messenger. Since the latter told a gutsy story about a  young girl who stole books to preserve knowledge during the Holocaust, I had always pictured Zusak as a serious author who wrote for intricacy and intelligence, and not just for pure entertainment. But I am the Messenger didn’t measure up to the intelligent and emotionally moving Book Thief.

Despite a modern setting, I couldn’t wrap myself around this book; it was profusely predictable. The first few chapters intrigued, probably due to the playful Australian vernacular and Zusak’s raw humor. After Ed went to the first three addresses and mingled with the locales, I got in touch with my inner psychic and predicted the ending easily.

Yet the childishly simple plot didn’t interfere with Zusak’s crude and penetrating characters. Zusak did an excellent job of making Ed honest, compatible, inexperienced, and timid. Moments such as when Ed shied away from the challenge and then found the courage to continue made him the perfect unlikely hero.

Ed and his best friends, Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey, seep into your soul, and seem familiar, but still original. Just like Ed, the close and relatable poker-playing quartet seemed like an ordinary group of people. By the end it was as if I was part of their group.

Ed’s adventures are heightened by his familiar personality, making us feel as if we are reading a personal narrative or diary entry rather than a novel. Ed is unmistakably genuine, so authentic and virtuous that his morals and self worth form the basis of the entire novel.

The book spins on an axle wound of selflessness and courage, two highly revered (and rather rare) qualities. Part of what makes this book appealing is the fact that it tries to instill these traits in you.

Though it has a plethora of humble details that make the novel appealing, Zusak’s unique and striking style wasn’t able to drag me away from the obvious conclusion.