Dear Markus Zusak,
Let me tell you a secret.
I am a junior in high school, and by now the school counselors have begun to pressure us to begin thinking about what we want out of our future, and what colleges we wish to apply to. It has become a sort of competition among the members of my class, bragging that they received this letter from that college and that they’re applying to that nationally commended college because they recently became the recipient of this nationally recognized award.
By now I’ve realized that I have nothing whatsoever to brag about. I am exceptionally ordinary. The only subject that I really tend to excel at is English, whether it is the language or the literature, but I have been told plenty of times that, “You can’t make a career out of English Literature.” and “Everybody chooses that major. What makes you think that you have a chance of being accepted more than the others?” I’m rather sure that I will be going to a community college for two years before transferring to one of the local public 4 year universities, but when you are going to private school, where at least half of your classmates are applying to some sort of Ivy League school, the stigma is always placed upon your shoulders, because a community college will never be good enough for the others.. I have heard things muttered under the breaths of Honor Roll Students and even one of the staff members, saying things such as, “You’re wasting your life,” and “You’re not going to make anything of yourself.” It’s rather disheartening, to say the least.
When our Book Club decided to read your novel I Am the Messenger for our latest YA themed month, I found myself rapidly pulling a dusty copy of it out of my bookshelf. I had bought it about two or three years ago due to a friend’s recommendation, but I never had time to read it. High school can do that to you.
By the end of the second chapter, I had found in Ed Kennedy the most relatable character I had ever found within the words I had seen written on pages. He was just ordinary. Typically ordinariness within a novel eventually becomes, “And then the ordinary guy became an all- powerful superhero and saved the world and lived happily ever after.” Ed was different. Throughout the novel, he was just an ordinary 19 year old cab driver, and that appealed to me and my situation. Like me, Ed felt as if he had achieved nothing in his life so far.
“Constantly, I’m asking myself, Well, Ed – what have you really achieved in your nineteen years? The answer’s simple. Jack shit.”
Ed’s personality touched my heart because he reminded me of myself. A young kid who doesn’t do well in school because she’s too busy reading, meaning the only subject that she’s actually interested in is English. We are bystanders, simply watching as other people around us pave their way to greatness as we do nothing. We’re both heartbroken, because the girl who makes the sun shine in our lives is with someone else, and refuses to love us back. We are the epitome of ordinariness, and the things that make us happy are simple things, like gentle winds, playing cards, and dreams of what could be our happily ever after.
Ed and I are both heartbroken. I could feel the sadness and angst that resulted through the heartbreak as I turned the pages, filled with words that dripped with sorrow like a rusty faucet. I
resonated with Ed because he knew how it felt to bleed inside whenever you see the girl you love with another person. He knew how much her words could hurt you, how they could kill you inside when you’re rejected by the girl who makes your heart dance whenever you see them each day. Your book paces a lot of emphasis on words, on the weight of words, as well as their power, and the impact of the messages that they can bring.
“She soon says, ‘You’re my best friend, Ed.’ ‘I know.’ You can kill a man with those words. No gun. No bullets. Just words and a girl.”
However, when Ed receives that first card, he is unknowingly receiving an opportunity. The cards give him an opportunity to make the impact on people that he would have missed by living in that small town, and delivering his messages, especially in the spades and hearts, helps him realize that he can make something better of himself, even if he wasn’t able to go to a good university. Seeing Ed deliver his messages, one by one, helped me remember, for the first time since fifth grade, that there is more than one way to make something of myself.
Needless to say, your book was a page turner. I stayed up until midnight to finish the book, and I haven’t been the same since. Your book taught me that there is more to becoming great than just winning an award or making the existence of your reputation outlast your own mortality in the world. Becoming great means that we become involved in other people’s lives, and that we care about them, and we become a source of some sort of happiness for these people who we may not even know. To be able to find greatness, we have to find our purpose in life, and that purpose becomes our way of being great.
After reading I Am the Messenger, I’m gradually making myself see the opportunities that are ahead of me that don’t lie in the academic world. There are plenty of things that I can do now to make an impact on someone’s life for the better, and I am working to become a messenger, like Ed. You have helped me realize that even the most ordinary of people can be great, and it doesn’t take greatness to do good. You just have to do it.
Most of all, however, you taught me that ordinariness doesn’t automatically make us inferior. I had believed that statement throughout my entire life, but I Am the Messenger has given me not only a change of heart, but another shot to make my future bright, and something that I can be proud of.
Ed’s story has motivated me to strive to become great once more, but this time around it won’t be the sort of great that one wants to use in a bragging match.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Zusak. As I go forth with my newfound perspective, I will remember some of Ed Kennedy’s most memorable words in my heart, “There’s an aura in this card, and it’s been given to me. Not to Dickhead Ed. To me – the real Ed Kennedy. The future Ed Kennedy. No longer simply a cab driving hopeless case. What will I do with it? Who will I be?”
Mr. Zusak, through the character of Ed Kennedy, you have given me my first card, my Ace of Diamonds, and I will be forever grateful for it.
-An Inspired Reader