** spoiler alert **
I added this book to my to-read list after seeing some good reviews for it on GoodReads. Then I joined a YA book club on the site and they chose this as their book to read for April.
It is a story of a girl (Liesel) who is sent to live with foster parents after her own parents were taken away to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. The story follows her progress with this new family, through school and in new friendships. The story is somewhat unique in that it is narrated by Death. This proves very effective and adds a new layer to the book. This is categorized as a YA book, but personally if I’d read this as a 13 year old I don’t think I’d have appreciated it as much as I did reading it now.
Certain parts of the book (and the relationships in it) really spoke to me. The relationship between Liesel and Hans Hubermann is wonderful. He treats her and nurtures her as if she was his own child, and the love between the two is something really special. This touched a place in my heart as the man who brought me up was not my biological father, but was the only person I will ever call dad. Sadly he died 4 years ago. This meant that I was able to understand Liesel’s pain at losing Papa at the end of the book. Also her relationship with Max, the Jew that the Hubermanns took in and looked after, was really touching. It seemed to me that she saw Max as a replacement for her brother who died on the way to Himmel Street. Max and Liesel grew closer as the book went on, and it was wonderful to see this relationship develop.
The book really brought home the suffering and torture that the Jews were subjected to during Hitler’s regime. I found this really harrowing and difficult to read about. It made me realise how lucky I am to have what I do, and to live in a free country.
The narration by Death was an interesting twist, and I enjoyed the format in which Deaths observations were added into the book. I also liked the clues that he gave along the way as to what was going to happen later on in the book. There was a sentence of the book that struck me ‘She had her whole death ahead of her’. This was said casually in a way that one might say ‘she has her whole life ahead of her’. This is there to suggest that there is life after death, and that death is a whole new journey. I really like this idea. Also the way Death handles peoples’ souls is written very well, and the difference in the way that he handles the souls of the people who have been good, and the people that have been not so good.
All in all, this book was an excellent read, and I have the feeling I will read this again and again. For me it lived up to the hype and beyond. I would definitely recommend this to others.