Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Plot Summary: Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Some time ago, I picked up THE BOOK THIEF with low expectations. I thought it odd that the main character was a girl, yet the narrator was Death, and didn't think it would come across well in the story. I was pleasantly surprised. :) So, I headed out to pick up other books by the same author, and selected I AM THE MESSENGER.

The story starts out well, piquing my interest and keeping me glued to the pages. Ed’s growth is fantastic. He questions his place in life, steps up to do the things he needs to in order to better his life, as well as the lives of those around him. Each mission he accepts makes him stronger, more sure of himself, and more interesting. He goes from a passive observer to an active member of life, and the writer geek in me was giddy with glee.

Then, we find out who’s behind Ed’s mission...

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

After Ed receives his final mission, a mysterious man appears. It turns out he’s been responsible for the whole thing. The missions, the events, people’s reactions, everything. Absolutely everything.

In fiction, who is the only person that can be responsible for everything that happens in a story? The author. That’s right. The mysterious man who comes to talk to Ed is the author. Markus Zusak. I screamed “are you kidding me?” then nearly threw the book across the room. Nearly, because I can't bring myself to actually throw a book. But this is the closest I've ever come.

If Zusak had simply appeared, said “I did all this to you because I wanted to. Sorry, kid,” and then walked away, I’d have still liked this book. But he didn’t. He sat down, rehashed every single aspect of the story, explaining how it has led to Ed’s growth as a better person. Basically, he told us everything he'd already shown us throughout the entire story.

I haven’t been so insulted as a reader since...well, since never. I am perfectly capable of reading a story and gleaning what the author wants to say, as well as taking away my own meaning. It seemed like Zusak didn’t think that I, or any of his readers, was capable of doing this. So he stuck himself in there just to make sure.

Honestly, I’ve never had such a violently negative reaction to a book before, so I'm unfamiliar with this territory. According to Amazon, this book is classified as YA. I’m wondering what young adults think of this book, and whether they would agree or disagree with me. Anyone know?

20 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

No clue, but now I've got to read it just to see what happens.

Bish Denham said...

I read this book and liked it except something bothered me about the ending. It seemed like maybe Zusak couldn't figure out who the instigator needed to be and it was getting near the end and he had to picked someone....

Kelly said...

I haven't read it, but it sounds like this is one I could skip! I do think a coffee addicted dog is an interesting aspect of the character!

C.R. Evers said...

hmmmmm. . . I've never read it, but sounds like something that isn't worth the time. Thanks for the heads up!

Christy

beth said...

I haven't read I am the Messenger, but plan to...I thought the Book Theif was one of the most brilliant books ever written.

PJ Hoover said...

Thank is a violent reaction! I haven't read it at all (I'm halfway through Book Thief - eternally - need to finish it).
Read something fun next!

Gottawrite Girl said...

I can relate to a coffee-addicted anything, if I'm honest! : ) Thanks for sharing, Tabitha!

Tabitha said...

Carrie - I hope you'll share your view once you read it. I'm curious if I just didn't get it, or if my reaction is shared... :)

Bish - yeah, I loved the book until the end. He could have had the same kind of ending, but not been so heavy-handed about it. Then I still would have liked it. But as it is... :(

Kelly - there's some great writing in this book, and great character development, too. I really liked the dog. :) It's just, for me, the ending ruined it. :(

Christy - if you're the kind where the wrong ending will ruin the entire experience for you, then skip it. But if you can still get enjoyment even if the ending doesn't work, then it's still a good read. The whole book is amazing...except for the end. :)

Beth - definitely share your thoughts once you read it! I'd love to know if I just missed something... :)

PJ - you betcha. I just picked up the sequel to I'd Tell You I Love You... and am expecting to laugh. A lot. :)

GWG - LOL!! Yeah, so can I. :) I guess that's why I liked the dog. :)

CJ Raymer said...

Uh... wow! If there's anything I dislike in a novel it would have to be a violent reaction! Tee! Hee! I think lessons in literature should be subtle. Personally, I like the "AH! HA!" moments.

I've had every (good) intention of reading The Book Thief, but haven't as of yet. Maybe I'll give this one a try, barring any negative internal response. ;-)

liquidambar said...

I haven't read this book, but here's an analogy that occurred to me immediately:
Imagine a person asking why God allowed this or that bad thing to happen to him, and why did his life go this way instead of that ...
and God actually shows up and explains it.
You know, God:people as writer:characters?
Was that was Zusak was going for?

--Jenn Hubbard

Mary Witzl said...

Now that I've read your review, I'm trying to picture how it might be possible to get away with something like this, and I have to say I can't imagine it. But I want to read the book anyway. Just wish I had the time...

Jacqui said...

I thought this book was fascinating and, like The Book Thief, a totally new idea. But I was a little disappointed in the end as well, though not violently.

I did have a massive negative reaction to the depiction of domestic violence and the way the main character handled it. It would be one of the absolute worst things to do in most real life abuse situations and could add to the guilt children in those situations already feel or give them the idea to do something similarly stupid.

Tabitha said...

CJ - right there with ya. :) I prefer an "AH HA" to nearly throwing a book. Not very fun. :)

Jenn - interesting analogy. Yeah, I think that could fit. For me, though, it still doesn't work...mostly because he spent so much time telling us what he'd already shown us. Plus, I'm not sure God would be so forthcoming. :) He tends to work in mysterious, sometimes frustrating, ways. If someone tells you the lesson, it has less impact than if you figure it out for yourself. Ya know? :)

Mary - if he'd just stepped in all mysterious-like, said "It was me," and then walked away, I think it could have worked. But the more he talked, the more frustrated I got. And I just wanted the story to end already. :) If you can get your hands on a copy, I hope you'll let us know what you think of it!

Jacqui - I don't know why my reaction was so violent. I'm not a violent person at all, really. Maybe I was just having a bad day and took it out on the book. :)

I agree about the domestic violence situation. This was my first clue that something else was going on, because I didn't believe the husband/father would really submit like that. And I completely agree regarding the children doing something equally stupid...not good.

Anonymous said...

It was good although the ending was rubbish. Bit of a waste of time

Cheesemonkey said...

you people are dumb. the author is the messenger. at the end of the book ed describes the guy in his living room. LOOK AT THE PIC O THE AUTHOR IN THE BACK OF THE BOOK. dark hair, jeans, athletic shoes,...FOLDERRRR. yah. and ed says "maybe i should write about all this but i bet SOMEONE HAS BEAT ME TO IT" HMMMM????????? obviously.

Tabitha said...

LOL!! Um...did you read my review? I state that the messenger is the author, shortly after the spoiler warning. :)

Von said...

I completely agree with what you're saying. I am a young adult and I find that the ending in "I am the Messenger" left me thinking, "Does he really think that I'm a baby or something?!" I mean, seriously. It's like having to explain a joke to someone, which completely takes the funniness out of it. The same thing applies here; Zusak having to come out and explain the whole thing is ridiculous and overall disgracing to me as a young adult reader.

Tabitha said...

Yep, I basically had those thoughts, and I'm an adult. :) I think it's easy for writers to forget how smart your readers truly are. We worry that what we're saying won't be caught, and then try too hard to clarify. It's extremely annoying. :)

There are some other books with twist endings that I never saw coming, and ended up loving them:
Invisible by Pete Hautman
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Brandon Dailey said...

i am 15 just got done reading the book and i loved it great story but some parts were a little unclear but other than that would recommend to people looking for a good book

Tania Yam said...

I actually loved the book it was amazing for me but yeah I guess I can see how zusak could have ruined the book for some people saying the obvious, although i didn't know that he actually told the man to rape his wife. Besides the man behind the cards is actually the author part I actually liked the I am the message part. At first I didn't get it at all with it being so philosophical and all but I really enjoyed how it made me think and how since the book was so good I needed to know how it ended. I personally thought that the I am the message meant that he was the message to himself and to all the other people that he needed to hear. Not just all the things he did for them but also the knowledge that if a man as ordinary as ed Kennedy could make lives just a little or a lot brighter was amazing. I enjoyed it thoroughly and would definitely recommend it to my friends