Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Smoke and Aces

jeeperstseepers, who is one of my favorite people in all the world, gave me a fantastic birthday present this year: I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It's a YA novel by the Australian author of The Book Thief, which I will be reading after I finish Anansi Boys (Gaiman/Zusak/Gaiman/Zusak!). I can't do much better than the blurb:
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?
Doesn't that sound awesome? I mean, what would you do if you mysteriously received an ace in the mail with three addresses on it and nothing else to go on? Would you be a keen enough observer of humanity to see what "message" you needed to send? How, specifically, you could help someone, make a difference in their lives? That's the task Ed is faced with.

The writing style reminded me of a less cynical Chuck Palahniuk, with a lot.

Of one-sentence.


Luckily, I'm a Palahniuk fan.

Ed is a great protagonist, and he's very real and honest. He doesn't hold anything back; he'll go ahead and describe how he's feeling even though he knows they're not the best feelings to be having. And you have to admire his commitment to helping these strangers, simply because a card in the mail suggested they could use some outside intervention.

And the beautiful and lovely thing about the book is that it's not always obvious what the best course of action is, or what the true problem is. Sometimes, it requires a large, grand gesture, and sometimes it's just this one small thing that can bring someone happiness. Sometimes you can change a person's life with just the slightest bit of effort. Sometimes it only takes asking them a question.

In addition to that all, you have some lively, interesting characters like Ed's friends, Marv and Audrey (Ritchie is a little less well drawn, and I didn't really pay much attention to him), and his Ma. The characterizations are very, well, real. These are just regular people, here. Not too much special about them, but they're still people. Which makes them easy to relate to.

Also, he has entire conversations with his dog where he makes up the Doorman's lines. It's very cute and really makes it seem like they have just as developed a relationship as he does with anyone else. He knows his dog's looks and what they mean.

As Ed receives more aces, the mystery deepens, and the clues become more enigmatic, which makes it fun. The resolution, to me, really ties the entire book together and gives it meaning. The last line of the book is one of the best last lines ever. I said out loud, "Yes. Yes. Yes." It's that perfect.

Really, if there was ever a book that would literally change someone's life and make them a better person, it would be this one. Ed is an inspiration, a force of good in a world that could use it. Why don't we all go help people, aces in the mail or no? Wouldn't that be better for everyone? Doesn't everyone win? That's why everyone should read this book.
Tags: books, lj friends

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