Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on March 14, 2006
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 552
Read From: 10.21.13 - 10.24.13

"It's just a small story, really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . ." 
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist - books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found. 
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I'm a little divided about the cover. The title is mostly what caught my attention, and while the dominoes now make more sense than they did before reading the book, I still don't quite get why it was chosen for the cover art. Hmmm.

Characters: Death as a character is a concept that doesn't always work, but I liked him quite a bit in The Book Thief. He made for a very interesting and surprisingly good narrator, and I enjoyed his odd sense of humor. While never truly a direct character in the story, he was perfect for seeing the events through his eyes. Hans Hubermann, Liesel's foster father, was my favorite character. I loved his easy, quiet manner and gentle teasing. If I could have an ideal uncle, I'd want Hans Hubermann. Rosa, on the other hand, took me a while to get used to. Verbally abusive, rude, and sour, I didn't much care for her form of affection, though in the end I did come to like her a bit. I loved Max and Rudy and of course Liesel. Rudy had a defiant streak and Liesel was spunky. She didn't always behave well, but she always felt horrible afterward; it was hard not to forgive her.

The Romance: Rudy and Liesel have a bit of a childhood crush on one another, though neither would ever admit it. With so much going on in this book, it never takes forefront.

Plot: This is a character-driven book. Many things do happen, but there isn't a main plot. When Max arrives at the Hubermann home, it is definitely a turning point in the story, but it is only one of many in Liesel's life. The Book Thief goes from 1939 to 1945, and follows Liesel's time in a little town outside of Munich. We meet the people who influence her life, witness the events that change it, all through the eyes of Death, who takes an uncanny interest in Liesel for many reasons. Liesel is forced to leave her home and her mother when her father is arrested for being a Kommunist, and when her little brother dies on their way to Himmel Street, where they are to live with the Hubermanns, Liesel turns to book thieving for comfort. She can't read, but there is something about books that she cannot resist. Life with the Hubermanns isn't easy. They are barely able to feed themselves, and Hans Hubermann isn't exactly in agreement with the Nazi Party. But Liesel likes her foster father and she makes friends with a neighboring boy, Rudy. But every once in a while, she still feels the need to steal books, and she soon finds herself taking them from the bonfires and the mayor's house. When a Jewish man shows up at Himmel Street one night, seeking refuge with the Hubermanns, Liesel discovers someone she can share her books with. But Max can't stay forever - not with the war looming ever closer to Himmel Street. Despite the lack of definite plot (because again, Max and even the book thieving is only a small part of the story), I couldn't help but be drawn into The Book Thief. The characters are interesting, I love the era, and the narration style is just so unique and emotional. This is a feels book, and I definitely had a lot of feelings going through me as I read - sometimes laughing, but mostly sad.

Believability: Nothing to complain about.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Though every once in a while, Death would kind of start talking in present tense. The narration took me a little while to get used to. It comes across as choppy at first; Death doesn't have a linear way of thinking. He will jump around quite a bit from one event to another, and sometimes this event has happened before that other event. But in about 50 pages, I got used to it, and was able to follow Death's thought process. And I must admit that I really enjoyed it. His dry, dark sense of humor and sometimes bizarre metaphors and similes added an extra layer of bleakness and emotion to a topic that is already very bleak and emotional.

Content: 15 s-words, 8 g--damns

Conclusion: The Reader will see the end coming fairly well in advance, because Death keeps dropping hints. But it still hit me very hard when I finally read it. I was a little stunned, and for a moment I debated whether or not it completely ruined the book. What was the point, after all, if that was just going to happen? But I honestly liked it, though I cannot exactly say why. I just did. I first tried to read The Book Thief when it initially came out. A story about a young girl who steals books during Nazi Germany sounded like the sort of thing I would love. But I couldn't get into the narration and I thought it was a little too weird, so I didn't pick it up again until recently. The movie is being releases soon, after all, and I hate seeing movies without reading the book first. Now that I'm older, I was able to enjoy The Book Thief a whole lot more. It is a little odd because of Death's narration, and it can feel a tiny bit slow. But I honestly didn't want to put it down, it captivated me so thoroughly. And what exactly it was that captivated me, I'm still not entirely certain. The characters were good, the era was good, the narration was very interesting, and it was an extremely emotional read. But I can't say that the characters were my absolute favorites, or that this was even the best WWII novel I've ever read - or even the most emotional read I've encountered. And yet, there was something about it that just stuck with me. The opening lines and the ending lines will always stay with me.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, better for teens seventeen and up, and adults. Anyone younger than seventeen probably won't stick with it for long just due to interest level. Fans of WWII, Holocaust, and emotional novels will like this.


  1. Great review there's so much fuss biut this one I definitely plan to read it - I even have a copy at home already. I love character driven stories even those with no obvious plots I guess it all depends on the atmosphere, setting, writing, etc. I really enjoy books set during WWII so I'm pretty sure I would like this one - though the epic reviews are kind of intimidating >.<

    1. I hope you end up enjoying it. I'm always skeptical about books that have so many positive reviews because I kind of start wondering if people feel obligated to love that particular book because it won so many awards and such. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really did like THE BOOK THIEF as well as everyone else. It's not my favorite WWII novel, but it left a definite mark on my memory.


Thank you for visiting The Reading Hedgehog! The hedgie and I love hearing from our readers, so please feel free to leave a comment or question! I always try to reply within a day or two. Please keep all comments civil and clean.