It seems sometimes like the market for young adult literature is written down to the readers, almost in a condescending manner. That is why a book like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is so refreshing in this sea of cookie cutter romances and fantasies. While classified as a young adult novel, it deals with very serious themes. The book’s cover comes printed with this label: “It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.” It is a dark allusion to what is to come. But Zusak makes this story more accessible to the audience he is writing to and does this by creating identifiable characters, by bringing humor into this gloomy subject and by using a unique narrative to keep the reader enthralled.
Zusak, in this book, creates a very identifiable and unique protagonist and then surrounds her with equally unique and engaging characters. The protagonist is Liesel Meminger who is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, in Molching, Germany in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Diggers’ Handbook, a book she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, and life on their little street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. She steals, not because she is a kleptomaniac, but she steals books that mark important moments in her life. “The point is, it didn’t really matter what the book was about. It was what it meant that was more impor...
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...es and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.” Along with his stream-of-consciousness style, Zusak has his narrator divide the book into quick, choppy chapters, rarely any longer than five pages. Death also throws in his own personal thoughts as interjections in the action of the story. Sometimes it’s with small facts about himself, other times its deeper insights to the action and sometimes it’s with clarifications. Death is really the perfect narrator for this story.
The Book Thief stands out in its genre as a smart, entertaining, albeit sometimes dark novel for young adults. It is a book that, through its characters, dark humor, and innovative narration, can captivate practically any audience.
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