I am the Messenger is the epitome of metafiction – a story that recognizes itself as a story – and yet it fails spectacularly to make the kind of impact that good metafiction is apt to make. Zusak takes the premise of metafiction to a literal level. Instead of striving to immerse his readers in the world he has created, his big reveal is Spoilerto tell his audience in no uncertain terms that they are reading a book he has written – one that has been premeditated, planned, plotted, and carried out as he (the author) deemed fit.
Everything that occurs happens because Zusak wants or needs it to happen for the story to unfold in a particular way. For example, Marv's behaviour in the bank at the beginning of the novel makes little sense once we know Marv's secret: Spoilerwould he really risk his life by irritating a robber (albeit, a hapless one), when his son or daughter is the whole reason for his existence? I realize that the car becomes a major plot point for Marv, but it is irksome that Zusak uses the bank robbery as a means to introduce the vehicle and then uses the vehicle as a plot device.
In all fairness, it's Zusak's prerogative to make the characters and the plot do as he wishes – it just bothers me to see events unfold that don't necessarily make sense to the overall arc of the story, and then have Zusak give himself an “out” because he is the author, as he so kindly reminds us. I actually did like some of the messages and some of the secondary characters; but the implied inevitability of each of the events that took place made the meanings of these messages less significant. The entire book seems contrived, which may or may not be the point, but it also just makes this reader wonder what the purpose of reading the book is. If Zusak means to inspire his readers by reminding them that they are not characters, but real live people with free will, he only makes them regret their reading choices.
Points to Zusak for his creativity; demerits for falling short. Go read The Book Thief instead; there, Zusak's narrative and creative risks pay off in a big way.