The Book Thief Book Review

Here it is. One of a handful.

The Book Theif.

If you feel like it, come with me. I will tell you a story.

I will show you something.

–pg 15

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.


From the back of the book: By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, nad it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster-father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

My addition: True that, my brother.

This book.

Oh, this book.

What to say about this book.

In the prologue, it promised to tell me something. And so it did.

Three reasons why I liked it:

1. It was well executed. Many people griped about the writing, the characters, the pacing, the plot, and Death’s narration. I loved it all. Everything was very well done, the writing especially. Some folks called it overdone, superficial, excessively flowery and that kind of bothered me: nobody ever says that when Tolkien does it. Personally, I found the writing engrossing and magical. Zusak definitely has talent in my eyes. Reading his book reminded me of why I love to write.

About the characters, I fell in love with them all. I like stories like Cold Sassy Tree, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the Secret Life of Bees to name a few, where it’s more about themes and character development than it is an action-packed plot. So, instead of focusing on the battles, this book focused on the people at home, people who made me laugh, and cry. Rather than being action-packed it was emotion-packed.

People complained a lot that the book was slow, or too long. Personally, I didn’t want it to end. Mostly because some things, told to you by Death, waited ominously in the final chapters. But also, because I enjoyed reading it. And even though the book is long, it’s about 500 times more interesting than the Diary of Anne Frank (I seriously cannot fathom why people like that book).

Death’s narration was fitting. It’s not like it was that different from having an author/unknown narrate as happens in many books. We just got a little more personal this time. Death was funny and interesting (I liked his little bolded comments splattered through the book), though perhaps not clever, since it seems like an obvious choice.

2. It was about Nazi Germany— from a German’s point of view. I am part Austrian, and a sliver of German and nothing bothers me more when people make them out to be monsters in WWII. A handful of people in power were corrupt and forced a nation down a dark path. But saying that all Germans were murders and beasts is not quite right. It’s like branding all Muslims as terrorists: there are a handful of extremists that ruin the image. A lot of times, in dangerous situations people end up compromising their morals to stay alive. Maybe that’s not noble, but it’s human.

That spiel aside, it was nice to read about Germans who weren’t being shown as monsters. The town Liesel lived in had a good mix of those who agreed, those who agreed to stay alive, and those who quietly disagreed. I found that blend rather real, since life’s not exactly cookie-cutter good and evil.

3. It filled me with more emotions than I can count. As with other wartime books told from a child’s perspective, like the Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, you get an honest look at what war does to people. From Liesel’s eyes we got no politics or preaching. We got the facts:

  1. War Kills
  2. War affects everyone, on all sides
  3. War is a never fair

And that’s it. That’s simply just it. We experience war from every kind of angle, from each person in the town that Liesel befriends or beats up. We are shown monsters and heroes, victims and cowards. As the story moves through Liesel’s life, I learned to love the people she loved, and hate the people she hated. I laughed with her and felt bad with her. And when the end, oh that end, when it came, I sobbed. (And I’m not giving anything away because our lovely narrator, Death, is rather blunt about who dies before they do so.)

On the cover of my book, it said it could possibly be life changing. I’ve heard from so many sources that is was brilliant.

And for once, I agree. For adults, and teens, this story about a book-loving girl is a particularly blunt tale about the reality of war, and how life goes on beyond the battle field.

Maybe it didn’t change my life. But Zusak and his artful storytelling did inspire me. And of all the World War II books I’ve read, it’s definitely up there. And in fact, of all the books I’ve read this year, this book is without a doubt one of the best.

Ri’s Rating:


4.5/ 5

0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Leave a comment


    well, glad that’s out of my system.
    we’ll pick you up on the way to the mall on mon?
    i had a lovely dream that you were in.

  2. And this is the book I was supposed to be reading when I was fooling around on your blog Tuesday. But I finished it yesterday, and it was amazing! I agree with all three of your reasons.

    I recently read The Secret Life of Bees, by the way! That was a good book! Funny, I was actually JUST thinking of recommending it to you, and now I see that you’ve read it already.

  3. Ellie

     /  August 5, 2011

    You do know that this hyperlink was through the Catching Fire hyperlink? I like The Book Thief too but I would like a way to get to the review of Catching Fire.


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