Friday, March 27, 2015

I Am The Messenger

Markus Zusak
Completed 3/22/2015, Reviewed 3/25/2015
3 stars

This book was a selection of my book club, made by a member who considered this a fantasy.  Upon her second reading, she wasn’t as sure if it was really a fantasy.  I was excited about the book because I know a few people who really like the author.  I voted for it.  I enjoyed reading it, but in the end, it felt it was a pseudo-fantasy with a plot hole and a hit you over the head message.  It’s good, but not great.

The story begins with our young main character Ed foiling a bank robbery.  Afterwards, he goes back to his dreary life as cabby who spends most of his time thinking about the sex he’s not getting, drinking and playing cards with his friends, pining over his friend Audrey, and bemoaning the fact that his mother doesn’t love him.  Then he gets a playing card in the mail with addresses on them.  He visits them, finding situations, some good some bad, which need intervention.   Does he act?  Does he not?  When he seems to have fulfilled his task, he gets another card, and so on, until he comes to a profound conclusion about himself.

Ed is loser, a son even a mother can’t love, but I really liked him.  I pitied him and wanted him to wake up and do something to change his situation.  The playing card with the addresses is his catalyst, unknowingly making him grow in amazing ways, and helping those around him grow as well.

But this basic premise presented a huge plot hole for me.  I couldn’t figure out his initial motivation for going to these addresses.  It didn’t make sense to me.  It required a huge amount of willing suspension of disbelief.  Once I convinced myself to get past this issue, I was able to enjoy the rest of the book.  It’s told in first person present, and it engaged me quickly. 

The next part is difficult: was this fantasy?  Maybe.  The sender of the cards seems to be omniscient.  Perhaps it’s an angel, or even a devil granting him the possibility of redemption.  Or maybe it’s a terribly cruel joke.  There is an answer to this at the end, but I didn’t quite believe it.  It attempted to wrap it up nicely, but it left me very uncertain as to what really was going on.

It’s hard to write more about whether this was a fantasy because it would be a spoiler.  It’s also tough to discuss the ending, well, because, of course, that would be the ultimate spoiler.  But it’s a message and it smacks you in the face.  I did a lot of poking around goodreads and amazon looking for discussions about the fantasy concept, Ed’s motivation, and the ending.  The commenters’ focus was on the ending.  Some people thought it was an easy out, some thought it was brilliant.  I fell into the latter at first, but after reflecting on it for a while, I decided it was a little too much.

I’m going to conclude by saying this was a good book.  Three stars out of five.  It’s considered a YA novel and has won many YA book awards.  Perhaps that’s why the ending left me more nonplussed than ecstatic; its message is intended for young adults.  It’s a short book and an easy read, which really makes me want to recommend this book to see what other people think of it.  I’m looking forward to the discussion at book club in hopes that other people might have had the same experience with it as I did.

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