After picking up and putting down the weighty The Book Thief after noting to myself that I have to read it eventually (how often do you get to read a novel narrated by Death himself?), I was pushed by my YA lit group to read I Am the Messenger. Also by Marcus Zusak, Messenger is a far cry from Book Thief, and I've had plenty of reluctant readers pick it up and call it the best book they've ever read.
Messenger is a raw-boned and tough, but a little slapstick, too. Narrated with good-hearted attitude by the protagonist, a self-described loser who wanders through life and can't do anything right but simply be the youngest (illegal) cab-driver in the area.
Caught in the middle of the bank robbery, Ed does something completely out of character and heroic. Then he begins getting mysterious cards in the mail that send him to different locations.
He goes to each, and he finds that there's a job for him at each location; they are at times harrowing and at times sad.
Though his missions can seem a little contrived at times, the ending of this novel blew my mind. Strangely enough, some kids at my school are obsessed with the book but couldn't understand the ending at all. Hint: Read that section about the visitor carefully, and toss out any preconceptions about what a novelist can do!