THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak ... a Book Review

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak ... a Book Review

      Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF, nominated for best young adult book at the 2006 L.A. Times Book Festival, is an astounding piece of literature. Originally published in Australia as mainstream fiction and arguably not young adult, the novel works surprisingly well both ways. Adults will relish the story's beauty and magnitude, and while the first third of the novel may be a tad too slow for teens, the persistent ones will connect with young Liesel's tragic experiences in Nazi Germany.
      Zusak's novel, set in a small town outside Munich during World War II, chronicles the story of Liesel Meminger, a German girl taken into Hans Huberman's household as a foster child. As likeable as she is well-developed, it's amazing to watch a young girl like that remain so strong in the face of human tragedy, impossible hatred, and adolescent love.
      The twist is that Death is the one telling Liesel's story. From the very beginning, he wants us to trust him. "I most definitely can be cheerful," he tells us. "I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me." An interesting character, to say the least. But what does Death think about our wars? Our famines? Our day-to-day lives? We may not often think about such things, but he does. It's his job to see the world as it is. Infinite in color. And fear.
      John Green, author of the award-winning LOOKING FOR ALASKA, said that this is the novel he wished he'd have written. I must wholeheartedly agree. While the story is painful and lovely, the images are fresh and lasting, the words, poetic and stirring. This story pays tribute to the simple power of words, to their ability to change our minds, destroy our lives, move our souls, recount our memories, and yes, heal our world.
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