Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Break Book Five: The Book Thief

                There are good books and there are great books. Good books make you think. Great books go a step further and make you feel.
                This is a great book.
                Another recommendation from my brother, this novel brought both of us to tears. It has joined and maybe even surpassed The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game at the top of my list of favorite young adult novels.
                Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is set in Germany during World War II. The protagonist, Liesel Meminger, takes an abandoned book from the snow at her brother’s grave and soon, with the help of her foster father, learns to read, fueling her soon-insatiable hunger for words. She also learns to keep dangerous secrets when a Jew seeks refuge in her foster family’s basement.
                And if that wasn’t enough, this story is told by Death itself.
                That sounds weird. I know. But Death is a hugely appropriate narrator for a story set during the time of the Holocaust. Death, it turns out, is (more often than not) reluctant to take those whose lives have ended.
                Liesel’s story is that of a typical teenage girl in a time that was far from typical, and Zusak—whose parents also grew up in that time in Nazi Germany—tells it brilliantly.
Pros:  Zusak’s voice, though simple, is precise and profound, perfect for this story. He does an excellent job of balancing somber subjects with his strangely fitting dark humor. In The Book Thief, he does historical fiction in a way it’s never been done before, and the effect is phenomenal.
Cons:  I’m not a historian so I can’t be sure of this, but there are probably a thousand deeper, more intricate meanings between the lines that I completely missed because of how little I know about World War II. I’d like to find out how someone more knowledgeable on that era would react to the story.
Conclusion:  This is a must-read. Just have a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them.
Next up:  And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie.

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