The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books on September 18, 2007 (first published September 1, 2005)
Genres: young adult, historical fiction
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I worry my review of this book won’t do it justice. How do I adequately describe to you the magic of Zusak’s words, the atmosphere he creates–the emotions he makes you feel–if you haven’t experienced all these things yourself?
Death narrates this novel, and he is cynical and weary of his job by the time World War II breaks out. Death is everywhere, lurking in many places, seeing the colors of so many different souls. And yet something about a little book thief named Liesel Meminger catches his interest. Through Death’s eyes, we see Liesel’s story in its full, tragic scope, and we see all the people she interacts with: the Jewish man named Max her extended family hides, the older couple trying to give a home to a girl who’s lost everything, the boy named Rudy who dreams of being Jesse Owens and only wants one kiss from Liesel. In many ways, it’s the story of a community, and Liesel’s place in that community as the violence and evil of WWII encroach ever closer.
It’s hard for me to explain to you the impact this novel had on me. I can write long, long reviews for other books, but when it comes to my favorites, writing reviews is near impossible. The very best books are truly experiences, and how do you explain that kind of life-changing phenomenon?
But I’ll try: In less than two days, I finished all 550 pages of this book and sobbed at the end. Everything about it–the writing style, the characters, Death’s recounting of and personal comments about his job and Liesel’s story–left me completely breathless. The Book Thief remains one of my favorite novels of all time, if not my very favorite. I’d give it seven stars if I could. Please read it.