Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I read. I read a lot. It’s probably unhealthy, honestly. The only thing I won’t read is my textbooks. The latest victim of my predation was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The description on the back was pretty blah, but it was heavily endorsed by my Mom…a fail-proof source. Seriously. She hasn’t recommended a bad book to me yet. So I went for it.

No joke, within the first two chapters, it was one of my favorite books of all time. Right up there with Night by Elie Wiesel, the Harry Potter series, Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, Black Hawk Down, and anything by Dan Brown.

The story is about a girl named Liesel Meminger, a foster child growing up in Nazi Germany. In a matter of 500 pages, she deals with more death than any human, fictional or not, should ever have to deal with. Part coming-of-age story, part recounting of World War II, part statement on human nature, and part sticking-it-to-Hitler story, the book is artfully crafted and eloquently written. The storyline is great in itself – Liesel becomes a book thief, learns how to read and write and develops a love-hate relationship with words in the process. All the while, she deals with adventuring with her best friend Rudy, love, death, Hitler’s youth soldiers, bombs, and her foster father secretly hiding a kind-hearted Jew in his basement. Just your average few years of puberty.

The story will keep you involved, but Zusak could have written a 500-page poem about broccoli and I still probably would have read it. Why? By far the most entrancing, involved writing style I’ve ever seen. He has a strange way of keeping it simple, yet descriptive. The character development unfurls over time; he doesn’t give it all away up front. At some points, it’s almost a poetic style of writing but it flows in with the normal prose perfectly. More than a few times, I literally put the book down and sat there in shock at how vivid an image was or how deep a passage was. Don’t laugh, but the only other time I’ve ever had that happen to me when reading, was when Dumbledore died. Sorry if I just spoiled Harry Potter for any real slow readers….

Anyway, that’s the mark of a truly awesome novel: things really stick with the reader. I could try to forget the story, the characters, etc. but I don’t think it’s possible. Did I mention the most original part of The Book Thief? The narrator is Death. Sounds like it could be cheesy. Not even close. Zusak kills it! (That’s a good thing, for my older crowd!) The narrator is a recurring character in the book but it really snaps you back to reality when he shows up. And all the connections that Zusak makes between death and Death work to perfection.

If it wasn’t 8:30 on a Thursday night and I wasn’t getting summoned to play Beer Pong, I’d have a much more in-depth analysis for you. Hopefully I’ve done enough to convince you to pick up The Book Thief and give it a try. You won’t regret it!

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  1. Jamblin – I loved this book too, was really surprised that it was listed as a teen book in B&N but if teens are reading this book, good for them. Liked your blog, looking forward to other recommendations.

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