|I loved Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and now I’m a giant fan of I Am the Messenger, too (both Printz Honor books). Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old slacker, working as a cabbie, living with his smelly dog, The Doorman, in a hovel, fairly content to silently worship his best friend Audrey and drink with his friends.
He’s a passive guy, which usually makes for an annoying character. But then he begins receiving anonymous playing cards in the mail with cryptic directions to fix things. As he reluctantly becomes involved in fixing other people’s lives, Ed becomes more active, more assertive. The change is realistic and touching. And he never loses the humor that made me stick with the book despite not liking him all that much in the book’s beginning.
Reading the book, I cared not only about Ed but about his friends and the people he helps, from the mom and daughter living with an abusive man, to the old lady with Alzheimer’s, to the priest with the empty church. It’s a mixture of humor, mystery, and melancholy. And somehow, Zusak drew me right into a character whose life is so unlike mine, but whom I identified with completely by the end of the book. And it takes a lot of skill to make me identify with a slacker 19-year-old guy. The smelly dog part is only natural, since Captain Jack Sparrow smells a little ripe some days!