entertaining and suspenseful
I had a feeling about this book in the store--that sudden understanding that I would either really love it, or really hate it. I took a chance for the positive, and that chance paid off. I've never read anything by Zusak before; he's a talented writer, with a sharp ear for dialogue and a quick wit.
The lead character is highly relatable, an everyman schlub caught between teenage angst and adult pragmatism. I like the way Zusak builds from one assignment to the next. I like the way Ed's eyes and understanding open mission by mission.
As Ed grew to understand his life as a messenger, I couldn't help but think that what he is learning is the whole purpose of life (or pretty close to it). Ed has to watch the houses and the people in order to know what needs to be done. He can't just waltz in and out of their lives. He has to connect on a personal level. Ed shows us the meaning of friendship, family, and community, by taking part in the lives of those around him.
A few things make me hesitate to recommend it completely: For one thing, there is far too much swearing. I don't like it, though the writing is good enough that I overlooked it this time (I've been known return books to the store unfinished). Also -- and here's another BIT OF SPOILER, so skip to the end if you don't want to know -- I didn't like the meta-reference ending; it made the story feel suddenly like a sermon. Good point, Zusak, I got it, no need to point to it with neon.
Overall: stylish, smart, fun, mysterious, and thought-provoking.