“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…” ~~ Markus Zusak in The Book Thief
“Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.” ~~ Markus Zusak in The Book Thief
From Lauren’s Perspective:
I spent the last hour trying to find the perfect quote to begin this review. What I was left with at the end was a page full of beautifully crafted quotations that all do justice to how amazing this story was. To pick just one seemed impossible, so I picked two.
This book was exquisitely written and profound in a way not many books are. There was meaning and a lesson on every page. The fact that this story was once again categorized as a book for Young Adults blows my mind. I have read many adult books and few of them are as amazing as this. I don’t even know where to begin.
Without spoiling the story, I will give away the key points. This novel is narrated by death and tells the story of a young girl living in a town in Germany during World War 2. She has a fascination with words, and as we follow her, she learns to read, write, and even tell her own story. Hers is one that is beautifully tragic and haltingly optimistic for such a heartbreaking story. Her life is hard in a way few of us can imagine and how she lives through it is remarkable. The stories main character, Liesel Meminger, begins as a precocious 11 year old who is abandoned by her only real family and left to live with complete strangers. She takes a liking to her foster father immediately, as Hans Hubberman is kind and smart and everything you could wish for in a role model. It takes longer for her to warm up to her foster mother, but despite Rosa’s gruff exterior, she is also loving and sensitive and wise. Watching their bond grow throughout the novel is fascinating to behold. They truly become one another’s family, tighter than blood, and it is the optimism that holds the story together through the terrifying war that killed millions.
The narrative is what really takes this story to another level. We, as readers, are given a view of Liesel’s life from the time her mother takes her to live with the Hubberman’s, until her death through death’s eyes himself. From his perspective, he writes, “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” The beauty in death’s vision is the best way to experience this book. We are also given an interesting view of the war. We travel with death as he reaps the souls of the millions that died during this harrowing time, Germans and Jewish alike, and we are made to feel sorry for everyone who suffers. This unique perspective, and Zusak’s interesting style makes this novel into a true work of art. He litters the pages with definitions, spoilers, and facts about the war; he gives his reader multiple perspectives to consider, and he does so in such a way that leaves you almost breathless at the result. I can honestly say I have never encountered a novel quite as different and breathtakingly lovely as this.
Zusak crafts his words with such extreme care that you would be hard pressed to find a single word in this novel that didn’t fit exactly where it was as though it was destined to be in that sentence from the beginning of time. He writes, “His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.” To speak of death in such a delicate way is a talent that few have managed as well as he has. He speaks of life, love, regret, belief, morals, and of course, death, with such care, you can feel the passion behind every word.
Above this already finely crafted novel, Zusak has created stories within his stories. He shows us picture book drawings from another character, Max, that riddle the pages with their interesting style and perfect knack for adding more wonder to this story.
These stories act as reminders of the importance of words, the importance of family and friends and the importance of story telling. I honestly cannot give enough praise to this perfectly put together novel.
There are so many brilliant quotes I still want to add to this review, but don’t for fear of spoiling the intricacies of the story, so I will leave saying this. Read this book. Read this book now. You will not regret it.
Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 6/5 (YES I CAN DO THAT!!)
Characters – 5/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4/5
Overall Score – 19/20