Easily one of my favorite novels geared for young adults, The Book Thief is a poignant story of family, loyalty, death, the effects of war, and love. Taking place in Nazi Germany and narrated by a personified version of Death (who is more of a bleeding heart than a soulless Grim Reaper), the story revolves around Liesel Meminger, a young orphan girl who goes to live with her new foster parents, the Hubermanns. The relationships between Liesel and her foster parents, her neighbors, and a Jewish fist-fighter that her foster parents hide in their basement during World War II, are all examined. Throughout the story, Liesel is a notorious book thief, stealing books from unlikely places that include graveyards, a local book burning, and even from the mayor's wife's library.
The plot itself is absolutely intriguing, and Zusak's writing style is fluid. It's unique from books of similar topics in that it doesn't hold back; every scene bursts with raw emotion. Liesel's youthful innocence, which later is taken away from her by the effects of war, is a stark contrast to the bombings, beatings, and senseless killings that occur. Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and temporary cuts from Liesel's life to Death's job of gathering souls around the world during this devastating period of time occur quite frequently and are very normal in the novel. Everything is shown as being connected to each other, with all the stories intertwining at the end.
What really makes The Book Thief one of my favorite books, however, is the characters. Each one is written with remarkable depth, and it's impossible to not feel attached to such memorable characters as Hans Hubermann, Rudy Steiner, and Max. However, this book should come with a warning label; it is incredibly sad, and you're going to need a box of tissues by the end of it. Though Death gives you an insight as to how the ending will play out, it is still a blow to the stomach when it finally arrives.
The Book Thief is also now a major motion picture, slated for release in November of 2013. Actors include Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as Hans and Rosa Hubermann respectively, and Sophie Nelisse as Liesel.
Review by Kaitlyn San Miguel on August 30, 2013