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Ed Kennedy is a bit of an underachiever. Let’s face it: he drives cabs in the same Sydney suburb where he grew up, runs errands for his trash-mouthed Ma, enables his smelly old dog’s caffeine addiction, and has a hopeless crush on one of his best friends. His young life seems to have settled into a rut of quiet mediocrity… until the day he single-handedly thwarts a bank robbery. As he goes to prison, the robber tells Ed that he’s a dead man. But by then, Ed’s former life has begun to unravel.
It begins when a single playing card — the Ace of Diamonds — arrives in his mailbox with three street addresses scribbled on it. These addresses, and the clues on the other aces that arrive in their turn, lead Ed into a series of puzzles and challenges. Situations in which he must make a difference to people. Situations where he must put his heart, his conscience, and sometimes even his body at risk. Situations in which he is often mistaken for an angel or a saint, sometimes for a bogeyman, and sometimes hardly noticed at all. Gradually, these situations force Ed to think differently about the way he has lived and will live.
I enjoyed Ed’s journey almost to the end. I sensed that Zusak realized that he had written himself into a corner, forcing him to end the book in what I felt was a preposterous cop-out. But I’ve taken some time to reflect on it, and in a way I guess I can appreciate the cleverness and daring of his solution to what is, when you think about it, a completely preposterous story. It ends up making you think of something you didn’t realize the book was about. And it invites you to think preposterous thoughts about your own reality.
Markus Zusak is the Australian author of The Book Thief as well as this book, both of which were Michael L. Printz Award Honor Books.