I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
5Q 4P (if you don't like the ending, 3Q 3P) S/Adult
Give this book to people who think YA books have no sense of humor. Give it to people who think YA books have no depth. Don't give it to people who have a problem with teens reading books that contain swearing and sex, but it will be their loss. I often introduce it by saying that the ending makes some readers howl and call Zusak a cheat, while others embrace it. To my way of thinking, that’s just another great hook: Will you love it or hate it?
If you asked Ed Kennedy to describe himself, he’d tell you that he’s an underage cab driver, pathetic at cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend Audrey, and devoted to the Doorman, his old and incredibly smelly dog. He’d tell you he doesn’t have a lot of prospects or possibility, that his life is just work and hanging out with Audrey, Marvin, and Richie, who are all as much at loose ends as he is. But that’s before he becomes a hero.
Ed doesn’t mean to become a hero. It’s just that it’s all so stupid. He and the gang are stuck in the middle of a bank robbery perpetrated by one of Australia’s most useless criminals ever. The guy’s pathetic. It’s taking him an age just to rob the bank, and Marvin doesn’t have that kind of time to waste. He starts to grouse about being parked in a 15-minute parking zone. If this farce goes on much longer, he’s going to get another ticket he can’t pay. The bank robber yells, “I said shut up back there!” “Hurry up then!” Marv roars back. The bank robber has had it. “You want to die, don’t you?” “Well, actually,” Marv explains, “I just want you to pay the parking fine for my car. You’re holding me up here.” “Damn right I am!” Says the gunman, pointing his gun at Marv. Just then, he sees his getaway car drive off. “No!” he screams, running out of the bank, dropping his gun along the way. Then the fateful moment arrives. Without thinking, Ed runs after him, picking up the gun. The guy’s in Marv’s car. Of course, it won’t start. Ed points the gun at him. The guy freezes. End of robbery. Beginning of fame.
When the envelope arrives in the mail, Ed doesn’t know what to make of it. Inside he finds a playing card, the Ace of Diamonds. Three addresses are written on it: 45 Edgar St: midnight; 13 Harrison Ave: 6 p.m.; 6 Macedon St: 5:30 a.m. It is, without a doubt, the strangest thing that’s ever happened to him. Who sent it? And why? His friends all deny having anything to do with it. It’s Audrey who suggests that maybe it all ties in with the robbery and what he did then, that something’s going to happen at each of those addresses, and he has to react to it. Okay…
One address belongs to a lonely old lady who just needs a friend. He can be that. One belongs to a girl who runs barefoot every morning. She needs confidence. He can give her that. One belongs to a drunk who rapes his wife every night while their daughter hides on the porch. The women need help. Can a loser like Ed give them that?
The aces keep arriving, each one forcing Ed to get more involved than he’d like to be. There’s a message he has to deliver at each address. He just has to figure out what it is. And is there a message in all this for him?