Reading this book propelled Markus Zusak onto my list of favorite authors, which is a place reserved only for those authors who have written more than one book that I adore. (Writing more than one good book may not seem like that difficult of a feat, but when I say good, I mean one of those books that when you finish, you just say "wow".) I read The Book Thief, and even saw Zusak speak and had him sign my copy and chatted with him a little bit. At that point, as far as I knew, he'd written one book that I loved. Now he is in a new spot in my reckoning.
I Am The Messenger is completely different from The Book Thief, not only in subject matter, but also characters, plotline, and story location. Yet they are similar in that the main characters of both books face situations that would never come up in our lives. But Zusak creates a feeling of similarity between his readers and his characters, so although you are nothing like the person you are reading about and will never encounter the things they come up against, there is still a connection.
Ed Kennedy is the main character of I Am The Messenger, and the things that happen to him surely would never happen to us or anyone we know. He manages to stop a bank robber, not too heroic of a feat, as the man bungles the job on his own, but this begins a chain of events that Ed does not know how to control. Soon after this bank robbery, Ed finds a playing card in his mailbox, an Ace of Diamonds, with a message written on it. Ed deciphers the message, and then finds himself in the role of messenger, which does not stop after he completes the first ace. Who is supplying Ed with the aces, and why? These are the questions that keep Ed going, when there seems no other reason to deliver the messages anymore.
The other characters in the book, Ed's hapless friends, his mother, his dog, all offer no help in his endeavors, as they are suffering from their own senses of apathy or lethargy. But they all bring depth the the book, and more realism to this unreal situation. As Ed discovers himself through the messages, he opens up the lives of all of those around him, including the reader.