Epic Recs Review: I Am the Messenger

Posted July 3, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, epic recs, Lyn / 8 Comments

Epic Recs Review: I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger Published by Knopf on May 9th, 2006
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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two-half-stars

This teen gem about an unambitious teenager whose life is suddenly turned upside down by anonymous messages has it all - mystery, humor, romance, friendship.

Meet Ed Kennedy - underage cab driver, pathetic card player, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack, and he's hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That's when the first Ace arrives...That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains. Who's behind Ed's mission?

This was a great Epic Recs pick by Pixie. I read and loved The Book Thief, and I have wanted to pick up more books by this author.

I was fully expecting to love this one. I read 90% of it all in one sitting, and I can’t deny that the book is engaging. Sadly, there was a lot of good things about the novel, but it was all overshadowed by a huge problem, a cancer with today’s books: rape culture.

On a positive note, I was a huge fan of how the author portrayed Ed: a cowardly, everyday guy who was living his life, denying the undercurrent of unhappiness in his existence. His best relationship was with his dog, The Doorman (kudos on the awesome name!), waged a one-sided war with his mother, and harbored a strong crush on his close gal friend. I loved how mundane characteristics of our main man and narrator.

Dynamics and relationships play a huge role in the novel as well. There was the romantic angle, the friendship portion and the family aspect that all blended together, and if I had to pick one major theme of the book, I would quickly pick out the relationship theme.  Ed is over-the-top miserable, and therefore, he attracts miserable people. All of them tiptoe around their own shortcomings and unhappiness, the glue that binds them all together. Through vigilantism, which is kicked off by Ed’s out-of-character actions at the start of the story, Ed slowly starts to build up his self esteem. He even has the bravery to confront his verbally abusive mother, which was a heartbreaking scene. Ed even comes to terms with his feelings towards his alcoholic dad, which was that he wasn’t a low-down horrible person, he just had a very large issue. Ed Kennedy slowly becomes aware of himself and his potential, which I love to see in any novel, because this is a problem I struggle with every day.

Alright, the next part has a warning label. TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE

I was uncomfortable with the rape scene in the novel, but Ed did put an end to it, and I understand why he didn’t call the cops: “you can lead the horse to the water, buy you can’t make it drink” mentality. I’m just thrilled to see a writer fully admit that having sex with your wife against your will is rape.

Up to the halfway point, everything was going pretty well.

But then I hit around page 206.

There were two BIG problems with the novel, which left a pretty poor impression of the book.

Ed has a huge crush on his closest friend, Audrey. Audrey is kind, sweet, and does everything she can to help Ed out. She hangs out with him and always has a nice word to put in for him. But that isn’t enough for Ed. He wants to have sex with her, and he is angry that Audrey will sleep with other guys, but not him. He’s pissed off that her “excuse” is – you guessed it – friendship! Sorry, friendship isn’t the token you put into the Magic Sex Machine to get what you want. Why is friendship such a shitty thing to some guys??  He has a wonderful, supportive friend, but no. He NEEDS sex from her, and Ed often has angry thoughts about Audrey’s lack of sex with him, because, well, HE JUST LOVES HER SO MUCH. I WANT SEX. WAHWAHWAH WHY WON’T SHE SCREW ME, TOO?

Gag. Okay, well, this irritated me, but I just mentally subtracted a few points off of the book.

Then we get to the page I mentioned:

I deserve something. I’m going around fixing people’s lives, even just for a moment or two. I’m hurting people that need hurting, when inflicting pain goes against everything that comes naturally to me.

I at least deserve something, I reason. Audrey could love me just for a second, surely. But I know. Without a doubt, I know nothing will happen. She won’t kiss me. She’ll barely touch me. I’m running all over town, getting trodden on, beaten up, abused, and for what? What do I get out of it? What’s in it for Ed Kennedy?

This is a HUGE problem to me. Ed DESERVES love from Audrey. Nothing about earning it, or that she deserves to choose her partners, or about Audrey’s needs and wants. No. Ed became involved with this plot that had NOTHING to do with Audrey, and yet, he feels that he deserves to take what he wants from her, because of something he is doing.

So how does Ed respond to his feelings?

“And I do something stupid.

I stand up completely in impulse and walk over to Audrey and kiss her on the mouth.”

Afterwards, Audrey just brushes it off and leaves.

This right here is rape culture. If you can’t get what you want, just take it, if you feel JUSTIFIED by your own ACTIONS. Also, can I mention again that these actions have nothing to DO WITH THE OTHER PERSON.

No. No no no. That isn’t right. No one brings this back up, Ed never has any type of revelation that what he did was wrong. He kisses his friend, his supportive, sweet, kind best friend because it was time for someone to pay the piper. He was getting his reward, consensual or not.

There was another part of the novel, towards the end, that also made me just give up on this book. It centers around the rape from the first mission by Ed. Basically, it was a plot device, and I’m just fucking over rape used as a ploy or a game for the end results.

Okay, I am going to wrap this up before I blow up.

words_overall

Without the issues of rape culture in the novel, it was beautiful. I tacked on an extra half-star to the original two-star rating because the author did address another gender-based issue: Father’s rights with children. At least this social issue had a positive outcome.

But, yeah, if rape culture bothers you, avoid this novel. What a pity.

Lyn Sig Plant

 

8 responses to “Epic Recs Review: I Am the Messenger

  1. Great review ! I totally get your issue with the book. I’ve read it a while ago and I do remember being really irritated by Ed’s sense of entitlement towards Audrey’s feelings. Yes, it shows that the character’s not perfect but still, after all the good he did around him, I felt like he should be better than this.

  2. Noooooooo!! :'( I don’t like rape culture, but I so want to read this book. I have it at home and everything. :'( Well, I guess it won’t hurt if I try it. Great review!
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  3. I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for ages, but now I’ll probably just continue to skip it. I’m absolutely with you when it comes to the mentality that you should just take what you want and whether or not people owe love to another person. That’s not how love works. Daniel Radcliffe was just talking about the “friend zone” and how that is a ridiculous concept. Great review!
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