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Books 102-103: I Am the Messenger and Things Can Only Get Better

Book 102: I Am the Messenger.
Author: Marcus Zasuk, 2003.
Genre: Comedy-Drama. Coming-of-Age. YA.
Other Details: Paperback. 357 pages.

The gunman is useless.
I know it.
He knows it.
The whole bank knows it.
Even my best mate, Marvin, knows it, and he's more useless than the gunman.
- opening I Am the Messenger.

This YA novel has won a number of awards since its original publication in Australia under the title, The Messenger. Its protagonist and narrator is Ed Kennedy, a nineteen-yea old 'slacker', whose life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence. He lives in a shack with his smelly, coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman and has an unrequited crush on his best friend, Audrey.

It opens with a very funny bank robbery that Ed accidentally manages to foil. He finds himself proclaimed a hero in the local paper and shortly after receives an Ace of Diamonds in the post from an unknown source. On the playing card are three addresses and times. He soon realises that these represent a series of tasks that he must complete though he has no idea why. As Ed completes one set of tasks, he receives another card with increasingly cryptic clues. Through these tasks Ed slowly changes, though who is behind Ed's mission?

Ed tells his story with a great deal of wry humour and the novel is full of laugh-aloud moments, quirky situations, memorable characters and a great deal of warmth. This was a delightful book that was very well received by everyone in our reading group.

The Hold-Up - excerpt from 'I Am the Messenger'.

Book 103: Things Can Only Get Better.
Author: John O'Farrell, 1998.
Genre: Memoir. Politics.
Other Details: Paperback. 284 pages.

Subtitled: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997, this was a very funny memoir though also had a serious message about the need for political awareness and activity.

It was another reading group selection and I wasn't at all looking forward to it. However, I found myself enjoying it very much. Aside from the humour it evoked many memories for me as I had experienced those years first hand, many of them also in London. O'Farrell was one of the lead writers of ITV's satirical puppet TV programme, 'Spitting Image', as well as writing for comic shows. He downplays this some in the memoir, focusing instead upon political events during these years.

He is a marvellous writer and though there were moments when the narrative got a bit too bogged down in the minutia of various campaigns, overall it was great fun and quite inspiriting too. It proved very popular with our reading group. However funny it is, its tight focus on British politics of the period and unabashed left-wing sympathies may limit its appeal.
Tags: award winner, bildungsroman/coming of age, comedy, memoir, politics, young adult
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