My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think there’s only so many way to say Awesome and this book deserves each of them. Zusak (of whom I’m a big ol’ fan after reading The Book Thief) writes in a fast-paced style that works really well for this story of Ed, who is sent out on a mission to deliver messages to those in need. He doesn’t know what the people need or what the message is…he has to figure it out. Along the way, he grows. It’s simple, it’s beautiful, and has a metafictional ending that’s not only satisfying, but goosebumpy (though perhaps not something every fifteen year old will understand).
Sure, Zusak’s in love with fragment-length paragraphs, but it is believeable to the voice of the youngish narrator. He’s nineteen, has a job, and is struggling to figure out his life–so I do question the age range normally assigned to this book: the teen audience. It should definitely be aimed at older teens, in my opinion. There’s cursing and violence and sexual content, which isn’t a big deal to today’s teens, but the conflict that Ed undergoes is geared to sixteen-and-ups who are about to hit the real world. Thirteen year olds might not enjoy it as much.
It’s also a good thing that I read Zusak was Australian, because there’re turns of phrase that would have tripped me up otherwise. Not a big deal, but again, it speaks to the age of the target audience. After all, American kids go to “college,” not “university.” (Not that American kids wouldn’t get it, just that there’s a difference in semantics that requires some adjustment.)
I really enjoyed the layout of the book. It goes from each ace of a normal suit of cards and goes through each card until the king, then switches suits. That might be just a stylistic thing, but it resonated with me. Ending on the suit of hearts was very telling. The symbols were simple, but impactful, adding to the story rather than taking over the story–which is really easy to do when a story follows a conceit like that.
Overall, Ed comes across like a normal guy doing extraordinary things…which is exactly how he should come across. The book left me believing that, at any minute, Ed could come knocking on my door to deliver a message. And, in a way, he did. Well done.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.