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I Am the Messenger

Lots of mature content in gritty tale; OK for older teens.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

This book is the winner of the Australian Children's Book Award for Older Readers. Readers will find themselves racing through this book -- and may want to read the author's other wonderful work, The Book Thief. Teens may have fun discussing the book's themes (Is it possible to change other people's lives for the better with simple acts? Is it possible to change your own?).

Positive messages

This book explores the idea of how helping others can in turn help you.

Positive role models

The main character is a slacker who lies about his age to get a cab license. When he begins helping others, he finds new meaning in life -- and his relationships with his friends and relatives change.


Several bloody beatings, threats with guns. A drunken husband rapes his wife.


Sex talk and sex fantasies, moderately graphic. One character has frequent sex with men she doesn't love, not described.


Liberal use of swearing, especially "s--t."


Ugg boots.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Smoking, drinking, drunkenness, alcoholism.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is loaded with swearing and sexual references and fantasies. There are several bloody beatings, a husband rapes his wife, and characters smoke and drink to excess. But this well-written book, the winner of the 2003 Australian Children's Book Award for Older Readers, has a sweet message: When the slacker protagonist begins helping others, he finds new meaning in life -- and his relationships with his friends and relatives change. Teens may have fun discussing the book's themes (Is it possible to change other people's lives for the better with simple acts? Is it possible to change your own?).

What's the story?

Ed is a loser. His friends are losers. He drives a cab, lives in a shack, hangs out, plays cards, gets drunk. His dog smells. His mother despises him. The girl he loves doesn't love him back. That's his life, until the day he accidentally captures a bank robber who's an even bigger loser. He has his five minutes of local fame, and is happy to go back to his slacker life. But a few days later the Ace of Diamonds arrives in his mailbox, with three addresses and times written on it. At each address and time Ed finds someone in need of help, some fun (an old lady who needs some company), some harder (a brutal man who abuses his wife). As he continues to receive clues about other people, he finds that his view of himself, and his relationships with his friends and relatives, are changing, but a mystery remains: Who is sending him these clues, and why? And how does this mystery person know so much?

Is it any good?


When it's good, it's very good; this award-winning novel about a slacker whose life is altered when he starts receiving mysterious playing cards in the mail has glimpses of brilliance. Aussie author Markus Zusak has that down-under way of being relaxed and hard-edged at the same time, allowing him to deal with some serious subject matter in a way that's both light and powerful. He also has a way of making his slacker characters so intelligent and appealing that it makes the reader wonder just what exactly is wrong with a life lived small and free of ambition. The resolution to the big mystery of who is sending the cards reads as if Zusak just couldn't figure out how to get out of the hole he'd dug for himself, so he just slapped this on. But if you can ignore the last 10 pages, this is a terrific, at times moving, and thought-provoking story that can lead readers to look at their own worlds in a slightly different way.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the author and his work. Markus Zusak also wrote the award winning book The Book Thief. I Am the Messenger is also an award-winner, having earned the Australian Children's Book Award for Older Readers. Why do you think Zusak's books appeal to critics and award committees? Does it make any difference to you if a book is well reviewed or wins awards?

  • Many reviews -- including this one -- criticized the book's ending. Why do you think so many reviewers found it disappointing? What did you think about it? Would you change it? How so?

Book details

Author:Markus Zusak
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:February 25, 2006
Number of pages:357

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Adult Written bylonestarlion December 2, 2010

For mature pre-teens and up

Yes, Yes, this book has some swearing, drinking, violence and discusses some sexual issues (pre-marital sex, promiscuity, sexual desires). It deals with the darker issues of domestic violence and domestic rape but not graphically and these issues are in a way resolved by the main character. I read this in high school and thought it was a fantastic book especially the conclusion, and recommended it to my friends. I would recommend this story to mature pre-teenagers and teenagers. I thought it went into some darker more adult issues and that they were resolved in a realistic manner...well realistic for a young adult novel. Parents, if you think this book is to graphic or goes against your beliefs, or just discusses things you dont want your child to read about, I would hope that you at least read this story before deciding if your kid is mature enough to read about the subject matter because it really is a great story.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byhollywoodhills April 9, 2008

love it!

this book kept me awake, with it's constant twists and turns. It has an excellent plot, and incredible artistry. There's even a love story sort of thrown in there... but not in a discustingly mushy way. This book forces you to think about how much we really do.
Educator and Parent Written bymermaidmom March 4, 2012

A Reflection on Purpose

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing