Germany, 1939: Nazis are gaining ever more power. The country, maybe even the world, is holding its breath. Death, as he will tell you soon enough, has never been busier.
Liesel Meminger is fostered in a small town outside of Munich. Times are hard and money is tight. But it is a good life. Liesel lovers her foster father fiercely and, when the opportunity arises, she steals books to even the scales of the world.
But nothing lasts forever. Not pages in a book or friendships. Not secrets hidden in basements. Certainly not good moments in Nazi Germany in The Book Thief (2005) by Markus Zusak.
There isn’t a lot to say about this book that hasn’t been covered already. The Book Thief has received wide critical acclaim. It was Printz honor title in 2007. It was made into a movie in 2013.
The problem with picking up a book after everyone has been talking about it (and loving it) for years is that it puts a lot of pressure on the book. That’s a lot of hype to stand up against.
In this particular case, it was too much. The Book Thief is a very clever book. Death is the narrator. There are illustrations. It does so many cool things. But it was just never quite enough.
Honestly, The Book Thief is a miserable, gutting book. Not necessarily in a bad way. But not always in a good way either. The first parts dragged unbearably. They were ugly and dense but it picked up in the last third and the transformation is obvious for all of the characters. I can see how when it came out (and still) it is groundbreaking and shocking. It’s a powerful book if not a perfect one or one I ever want to read ever again.
Possible Pairings: Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Traitor by Amanda McCrina, Tamar by Mal Peet, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, American Street by Ibi Zoboi