I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

I am the messengerReading level: 6.2

Genre: Realistic fiction, mystery

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: High school

I read The Book Thief by Zusak last year and LOVED it. I was wary of reading another of his books for fear that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I Am The Messenger didn’t disappoint.

At first I struggled to like the narrator Ed Kennedy. At the very end, someone calls him the “epitome of ordinary” which is why he didn’t strike me as particularly kind, sweet, or interesting. But what he DOES is extraordinary. He goes about it in a rather matter-of-fact way, which I found weird, but that’s just Ed – he rolls with the punches and takes life as it is. He’s just the messenger. It’s his assignments that held my interest more than his character, although he’s clearly a genuinely good guy.

This is one book that’s really sticking with me. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

OH I forgot to mention the best part. I listened to the audiobook which was read by an Australian! It’s set in Australia and the author is Australian, and I was thrilled to be read a story by someone with that accent. It complicated some things where words were pronounced differently than what I was familiar with, but it was all worth it. For example, “math” was pronounced like “meth” which caused some confusion on my end. Plus, students wouldn’t have that problem if they read the book rather than listened to it.

There are several reasons why I don’t think this book would sit well with middle schoolers and why I wouldn’t put it on my middle school shelves without some discretion (if I owned the book).

  • Swearing. It’s not excessive and no F-bombs, but there’s enough to make parents mad (am I being too sensitive about that?)
  • Sex. There are some references to and thoughts of it but nothing explicit like in Beauty Queens.
  • Plot. There really isn’t one. The story is more like a bunch of small fragments as Ed acts on his messages with different people. Holding it all together is his will to find out who’s behind it and his love for Audrey. Because there’s no driving plot, I’m assuming few middle schoolers would take interest. The “interest group” according to Scholastic is 9th grade despite the reading level being 6th grade.

I would gladly put it on a high school shelf, though. The content is more mature but something students could get behind. The overall message (no pun intended), I think, is to LIVE your life and improve the lives of others. It’s truly a feel-good story that restores one’s faith in humanity. There’s so much good out there that you don’t even know until you put yourself in a vulnerable place that allows you to see it.

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