I Am the Messenger

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
I Am the Messenger Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Lots of mature content in gritty tale; OK for older teens.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 31 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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?).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMDeli March 14, 2019

Promoting for kids???

When did this become a book for kids/teens? I didn't get that at all and was a little concerned by it. I did love the book but wouldn't have recomme... Continue reading
Adult Written bycoolp April 18, 2015
It's good if you've read cherub or any series like that but it is still fiction
Teen, 13 years old Written byCoolChato1234 March 3, 2016


Let me just start off by saying... i don't read much, it is very hard for me to find a book i agree with. But this novel, was just perfect! It will remain... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 April 5, 2013

This should be a 5 star book, but...

The ending is just not satisfying. The rest of this novel is FANTASTIC however, with loads of laugh out loud humor with hilarious characters like the grumpy Ma... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love a little mystery

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