Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
This is probably the first literary young adult novel that I’ve ever read. I’ll admit – literary fiction (young adult or otherwise) isn’t really my thing. It’s not that I don’t see and appreciate the value of it, it just usually isn’t what I’m jonsing for. Reading for me is escapist and I do tend to prefer things that are a bit lighter. That said, the book won some awards and was getting rave reviews over on Good Reads so I thought I’d check it out. And, I have to say that it was worth it. Is it a book that I’m going to say everyone must drop everything else to read and/or read next? No. But I will say that it’s worth reading.
The plot is simple enough: Leisel is (at the start of the story at least) a 10 year old girl living in Nazi Germany. The book is really just a simple tale of a person trying to survive in a cruel world. And that’s it. There really isn’t that much to the plot itself, the main hook of the book is that the narrator is Death.
As a mechanic I think it has its pluses and its minuses. On the plus side it allows the narrator to impart information on us that the main character would have no way of knowing in a way that didn’t feel too intrusive but really helped to flesh out the world. On the minus side, in some ways Death felt almost like a scientist, observing the heroine like she was a project of sorts. Because there was no emotional connection there it actually hindered me from making an emotional connection to this girl that we were supposed to be pulling for. In fact, it took well past half the book for me to realize that I was involved with the character and really did want to see her story through. And ultimately, that’s why, although I do think it’s worth a read, it didn’t make an impact on me the way that say, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour book store did.
Bottom line: this book is a slow burn and a slow read. There’s nothing truly innovative about the story, but it is handled well and strikes a good emotional balance considering the subject matter. Check it out, but know that it may take you a while to get through it.
Verdict: Borrow it