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I am the Messenger

by Markus Zusak

Published by U.S. edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005
368 pages
ISBN: 0-375-83099-5

Ages 14 and older

Nineteen-year-old Ed Kennedy is an underage cab driver with no definite plans for the future. He lives in a shack with an aging, flatulent dog. Heís in love with his friend Audrey but canít bring himself to tell her. And the highlight of his week is playing cards with three other friends who seem as directionless as he. So no one is more surprised than Ed himself when he becomes an unlikely hero during a bank robbery. It helps that the robber was utterly inept. Shortly after, Ed finds an ace of diamonds in his mailbox. On it are written three addresses, each one followed by a time of day. Ed is sure itís a joke but he takes the bait. Going to the first address at the appointed timeómidnight--he sees a man come home and go into his house. Then he hears a woman being brutalized inside. A small child comes out and huddles on the porch, more numb than fearful: clearly this has happened before. At the second address, an elderly woman answers the door. She is living in the past and thinks Ed is her young love, Johnny. At the third address, early in the morning, Ed sees a teenage girl leave her house and go for a run. She is shoeless. Clearly, someone wants Ed to do something in each of these situations . . . but what should he do? And who is that someone? Australian author Markus Zusakís remarkable novel is provocative, funny, disturbing, tender, hopeful, and, above all, gutsy. Zusak takes extraordinary risks to create a story that challenges readers to think about what is ethical, what is moral, and what is right regarding the choices Ed makes, and to think about the ways the answers to these questions are far from clear. Each time Ed makes his way--sometimes by instinct, sometimes by agony--to a decision on what to do, there is only a brief respite before another ace arrives.There are four aces in all, each with three addresses and three times of day. Each one raises the stakes on the question of who is the sender, and why he or she has chosen Ed to not only bear witness to the lives around him but make a difference in them as well. Brilliantly constructed, the novel moves closer and closer to the answer by working its way toward the center of the circle that is Edís own life. In the end, when the sender of the aces is finally revealed, it is a shocking revelation that leaves Ed having to defend his very existence. He does so, with courage, lust, and defiance, finally embracing the life he once merely let happen in this unforgettable novel. (MS) ©2006 Cooperative Childrenís Book Center

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