Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Introduction

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I Am the Messenger Introduction

Imagine if today you got a card in the mail with three addresses and times on it. No explanation, no return address… just the places and times. What would you do? Would you go to the addresses and hope there's something cool going down, or would you be too freaked out that something terrible might await you?

This is the exact scenario that Ed Kennedy, a lazy cab driver with no real future, finds himself in in I Am the Messenger. Eventually Ed works up the nerve to visit the addresses, and he's shocked by what he he finds: a woman being raped by her husband, an old lady in need of a friend, and an insecure fifteen-year-old girl. Yikes for everyone involved.

Ed decides to start helping these people, but the real question is: Who is sending the cards? What do they want from him? And, most importantly, why Ed? He's a nobody—and even his own mom thinks he's a downer. Ouch.

Markus Zusak's young adult novel asks us to consider some pretty big questions about life and how we treat others. It's part drama, part love story, part mystery, and all page-turner. The book was first published in 2002 in Zusak's home country—Australia—under the title The Messenger, and then it jumped over to the United States and went on to become a 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

Written before Zusak's international bestseller, The Book Thief, this novel takes creativity to a new level. It makes us think about how people live, what people want from their lives, and where relationships blossom—and all from a series of playing cards. Aces.

What is I Am the Messenger About and Why Should I Care?

What happens when the world doesn't care about you? Let's just say it ain't pretty, and since this is one of the big questions I Am the Messenger asks readers to think on, you'll find loads of people in this book that you often don't find in young adult books. Ed is sent to help a rape victim, a poor family, a beaten kid, an overwhelmed mother… need we say more? Author Markus Zusak takes the YA genre to a very serious place and asks readers to consider some very real adult problems.

Here's the thing, though: YA done right helps pave the path forward and sheds light on the questions and conundrums that plague people as they leave childhood behind and come into their own. So though this book often forces us to look at some pretty harsh realities, it also inspires us to invest in both ourselves and those around us. I Am the Messenger doesn't just take us to dark places and ditch us—nope, it shows us that with some creative thinking and stick-to-itiveness, we can find happiness and satisfaction time and again.

We don't imagine anyone is going to start mailing you playing cards any time soon, but that doesn't mean that you won't encounter some of the major obstacles found in this book. After all, we're talking poverty, violence, loneliness, fear of love, and more, issues that crop up everywhere in our society. And while we wish you all the best, this book just might offer you some useful guidance in tough moments you face as you come into your own—and if nothing else, it serves up the hopeful message that today is a great day to start trying.

I Am the Messenger Resources


The Man Behind the Message
Check out the author's website for lots of into about this book and his other works.

Reviewing Reviews
They say there's no such thing as bad press, so good or bad, reviews are worth a look.


Interview with Zusak
The author of I Am the Messenger answers questions about his book and The Book Thief.

Why Write?
Author Markus Zusak answers just that question in this interview.

He's a Character
An interview that takes a look at the characters in I Am the Messenger.


Messenger the Movie
So this isn't really a movie, but this fan made trailer shows what Ed goes through in the novel.

Can Anyone Be Ed?
This trailer for the novel asks us to think about whether anyone really can do what Ed does.

That Guy Can Talk
Aussie accent alert: author Markus Zusak gives a talk at a library about his life and writing.

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