Book Review: The Book Thief

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This week has been crazy and definitely not the week to start New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been running around the great state of Maryland trying to get a ton of errands done and out of the way before I make the trek up to Vermont (going skiing!). 

Before I go though (and by go, I mean I’m already in the car on my way up), I want to make a book review on my latest literary adventure: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. 

After tackling on such an involved book like Game of Thrones: A Storm of Swords, I thought I would take it easy with something from the young adult aisle. I heard of the book before and saw the trailers for the upcoming movie. However, I didn’t know how heart-wrenching the whole book would be. 

The novel begins with the morbid tone that will linger throughout the book by having Death narrate the whole story. I think choosing to call him “Death” instead of “Grim Reaper” makes him leap out of the page better. Nowadays, I noticed that the “Grim Reaper” is commonly used for comedic effect (iGermany I.P.D.,” “Dead Like Me,” “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy”) so naming him “Death” already strikes a little terror in the reader’s hearts, which is good for a book like this. 

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Summary: 

So Death is working through one of his busiest times in history: World War II. He’s tired and knows that the war only began a few months ago. There will be more souls to collect. One of these souls is Liesel Meminger’s brother. After seeing Liesel, he notes that he sees her a few more times. The second to last time he sees her, he finds her journal and decides to read her recollections of her life after her mother sends her away. Liesel stays with a foster family who treats her like their own daughter. Adjusting to her new life is only as difficult as Liesel makes it out to be, but she finds her friends and learns how to be a part of her new family. 

Liesel’s life is in Germany where she, like every other kid, enters the Hitler Youth and learns to “Heil Fuhrer” to everyone. Her neighborhood though, is poor. So, most of them support the German government out of necessity rather than national pride. Her foster father was branded a “Jew lover” in the earlier years of Nazi Germany never gets the benefits of being a part of the Nazi party. As a result, Liesel watches her family suffer. 

Things get really interesting when a Jewish man seeks refuse in their home. Liesel then begins to see the world for what it has become because of Hitler’s rise to power. 

Review: 

I really liked this book, but not in the way I wanted to. I originally expected this book to end like a fairy tale. The ending I received felt very real and true to the plot. Nothing written in this book was what the reader might want. This book was written for what the reader needed.

I loved the setting Zusak made for the book. You get a perspective for an area most people write off as “Nazi territory.” Zusak humanizes this small town in Germany, giving you not just one face but an entire community. He also describes the town well, making you imagine the local storefronts and children playing outside. His message is clear that this is a normal German village making due during a dark time.

The characters he writes about are very well developed. Our heroine has some pretty incredible fault including her hobby of stealing books. Her family isn’t the stereotypical heart warming family and both of them make big mistakes. Every character is human. No one is immune to external influences and mistakes are as common as doing the right thing.

Overall, novel is beautiful in its portrayal of humanity during one of its greatest and darkest times. I wish I could put to words what this book truly is. However this book transcends the normal descriptions of great books. It is better read than described. Better reflected on than discussed.

And it is something that you will read over and over again.

Score: 5/5

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