Lisa Vegan's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Apr 01, 08

bookshelves: orphaned-and-quasi-orphaned-kids, fiction, groups-buddies, reviewed, bookclub, favorites, novel, historical-fiction, young-adult, books-about-books, gr-a, aaalt, holocaust
Recommended for: anyone who appreciates the power of words, those who enjoy reading holocaust era fiction
Read in March, 2008

I admit that I am perplexed about why this is considered a young adult novel and not an adult novel that could be read by those 12 and up. The title character is a young girl, but there are plenty of novels written for adults that have young main protagonists. And I have to say that I could have enjoyed it at 12 but perhaps it’s more appropriate for those 14 and up, although that obviously depends on the reader. But I know that I enjoyed it more reading it as an adult than I would have as a young adult. (This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, since before I joined Goodreads, and I am extraordinarily grateful to the Goodreads YA Book Club group for choosing this as the first book read/the April 2008 book, because it’s why I motivated myself to read it at this time, possibly ever given the number of books I want to read. And I’m glad to have the opportunity to “discuss” it with others.)

I have a penchant for reading books about the holocaust, and this is the most unique book about the Nazi era I’ve read; in fact, it’s one of the most unusual novels that I’ve ever read. Although not for the very first time, I was able to feel empathy for and care about the non-Jewish German population during the holocaust era. I really appreciated the viewpoints shown.

This book is lyrical and poetic and powerful, and thankfully at times funny. And I really got attached to many of the characters: Liesel, Hans, Max, Rudy, Rosa, etc., death also actually. But it’s the author’s choice of narrator that elevates the quality of this book. Death is the narrator and, in my opinion, the perfect one, although I’d have never thought of this plot device myself; without Death telling the story I doubt this would have been a 5 star book for me. I loved how all of the characters felt like real people and how they changed, and how my opinions of them then shifted as well. The writing was so full of vivid imagery that I felt as though I was right smack in the middle with the people and place, more so than in most of the books that I read. I loved the books and pictures within the book.

I found it to be both a sad and exhilarating book. Although I got choked up at several points, I did not feel that it was a depressing book. It’s about friendship and love, the power of words, loss and abandonment, that which saves/heals us, and life and death.

And reading the book struck me at the very core of my being. I really identified with Liesel in so many ways. Some of the events of her life felt similar to mine, although most of the details diverged significantly, but the emotional potency imparted in this book felt so real and influential to me.

Death the narrator both drew me in and also gave enough distance from the tale to make the events more bearable.

And I’m really happy that the library gave me the paperback version that contains some discussion questions and an interesting interview with the author.
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Comments (showing 1-35 of 35) (35 new)

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Sfdreams Thanks, Lisa! This book sounds intriguing. I will have to add it to my growing to-read list! Actually, I am just heading off to the library...hmmm.


message 2: by Lisa (last edited Apr 01, 2008 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Terri, I'm not sure if this is one you'd enjoy or not. Let's talk. :-)

And I want to do more work on the review actually. It was a complex book. And I'm thinking more & more highly of it as the hours pass since I finished it.


(edited for a split infinitive ;-) )


rivka It was enough to get me to finally order it. ;) And a bunch of other books on my to-read, while I was at it. :D


message 4: by Lisa (last edited Apr 01, 2008 03:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Oh gosh Rivka, Now I feel responsible. Well, I sure hope that you enjoy it. When you've read it, I'd love to hear your feelings/thoughts about it.


Lisa Vegan Ok, now that the two of you have voted yes (thank you, by the way) and commented on my review, I feel uncomfortable altering it. So, I'll leave it as is. And save any other things I'd like to say for the online ya book club group and for with discussions with you and any other friends when we've all read it.


rivka It was already on my list because another friend gave it 5 stars. So you can share the responsibility. ;D

And as far as I'm concerned, feel free to edit your review. :)


Lisa Vegan Rivka, :-) Yes, 60% of Goodreaders who've rated it have given it 5 stars, which is impressive.


message 8: by rivka (last edited Apr 01, 2008 04:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

rivka Indeed. And that includes three friends whose taste I trust, which is even more so. ;)


Imani Thanks,I went off to find it and...everything you said is true,...though I was 12 when I read this book.It was alittle mature ,but hey I'm not the kind to go off and tell my teacher "This book describes a young boy cupping his hand around his d***and I learned three new curse words in German."I looked at the whole situation instead of just a couple of lines that may make some young teens blush and words that are offensive.I told my techer it was a good read,but I suggested it as a good read for the hungry who want something different.She got a copy and read it.
On the other hand...I was crying my eyes out at the end.I loved how the author made Death as the narrator.It gave the reader a new...perspective on reading the book.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Hi Imani,

Yes, I could have enjoyed this book when I was twelve also.

In my review, when I say for 12 or 14 & up, I was thinking of the level and type of violence and the seriousness of the subject matter, and also the ability to think abstractly about the big ideas this book addresses.

Yes, Death as narrator was wonderful, and I cried at the end too.


message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim This book was actually written in Germany as an adult book, but when the publishers brought it to the U.S., they thought it would be better in the young adult section. So the Zusak did not intend for it to be for young adults. I agree with you, it's better for adults anyway.


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Kim, I thought it was published as an adult book first in Australia, not Germany???

I have friends who see why it's ya, but it seems more for adults to me, although I would have liked it at 12 & older.

What matters is that it's a terrific and special book. It's really stuck with me.


message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim You're right on both accounts - it was Australia and it's a phenomenal book!


Annalisa Easily one of my favorite books. I agree that this is not YA fiction. I think it's sold that way because not only is everything sold as YA these days but where all of Zusak's other books are YA it makes it that much easier to shelf it with his other books.


message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Annalisa, I just voted for your review! A friend of mine has this on her currently reading shelf, and that inspired me to go back and read and vote for a bunch of reviews for this book. I LOVE this book!

It was published in Australia as an adult novel. When the U.S. publisher got it they decided to publish it as ya. I guess that shows how the genres can cross. I was reading adult books at 12 and love ya now.


Annalisa At least the Australians have it straight :).
I met him last night and he is just as down-to-earth and funny as I imagined. He said this book means everything to him and he gets choked up reading it.


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Annalisa wrote: "At least the Australians have it straight :).
I met him last night and he is just as down-to-earth and funny as I imagined. He said this book means everything to him and he gets choked up reading it."


Wow! Thanks, Annalisa for sharing that. Lucky you. Yes, hooray for the Australians!


message 18: by Ann (new)

Ann Great review, Lisa :) I guess I'll just have to read this myself one day to find out what I think of it, lol! :)


message 19: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Ann wrote: "Great review, Lisa :) I guess I'll just have to read this myself one day to find out what I think of it, lol! :)"

Ann, It's definitely dark but so sweet too, and I didn't get depressed at all reading it. It's so inventive. THe pictures, the few there are, are great too. Maybe you could do a buddy read with Kathryn or someone, someday.


message 20: by Ann (new)

Ann Yeah, that's a good idea. I like finding books that are good "discussion" books (one reason HP is so fantastic) to read together :)


message 21: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan This is a great discussion book! I read it for a ya online club then also with my real world book club.


message 22: by Ann (new)

Ann Oh nice!!! That's great to know - thank you Lisa :D


Cadekis I just want to say first that you gave this book a fantastic review. I just finished reading it myself, and while I only gave it three stars, I have to agree with every point you made about the book. Except. Maybe it's because I'm just a few years out of YA books myself, or because I just graduated from college and all of the classics we read there, but I think this book really belongs in the YA section, because everything it has to say, it says right out. I didn't see any hidden message or thoughts to be wrestled with. I read it right after This Side of Paradise, and while I think that Zusak's writing was definitely comparable to Fitzgerald's, this one left me with a YA morality "things are never black and white" tale, while the other one left me with ideas to work through and figure out what I thought of them.


message 24: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Cadekis, Thanks for your thoughts. I just saw your message. Of course, as with ya, there are also all sorts of adult books.


message 25: by Samm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Samm I thought that this book fit in with the rest of the YA fiction, like The Giver. Even though the Giver is simplistic in its writing, the message is deeper and understood by a high school student than a fourth grader (I read it for both grades). The Book Thief is written and told in the language of a YA fiction and the story is easy to follow, although as an adult you get a better understanding or connection with the characters because you have more depth and feeling for life and how fleeting it can be, where as a teen, you feel as Rudy did in the story: invincible. It's been a couple of years, but I still think of the characters as real people that I would have loved to have met.


message 26: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Samm, Good points, although a lot of the adult books I read could fit in as ya too.


message 27: by Dana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dana I just finished this book and really enjoyed it! I agree... I'm not sure why it is classified as YA. I actually listened to this book, and it was a wonderful recording. I was surprised to see the case said recommended listening for ages 12-17! I think I'd be more likely to recommend it to my mom then to my daughter!


message 28: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan I think there were a few graphics. How is that handled in an audiobook?

I actually can see this for 12 + up, but I do consider it a book for grown ups, an adult book. If your daughter is a teen it might have been fun to read it together and discuss it.

I suspect the ya designation was that in the U.S. it was thought ya would sell better. That's too bad. Money shouldn't be the reason books are assigned genres.


message 29: by Dana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dana Guess I missed the graphics! Might have to check out the book so I can see them. The audio was terrific, though, and really made the story come alive. There was even accordian music at the end! And, terrific voices.

My daughter is 12 and just seems to be too busy with school to read. :-(


message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Dana, Oh, too bad re your daughter not being into reading right now. There are so many great books out there geared to 12 year olds. At least it's school she's busy with and not something less worthwhile.

It's good to know about the audio being good. I think I have read only one audio book in my life but I'm actually interested in them. I even have an audiobook shelf, just sitting there waiting for some books.


message 31: by Dana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dana I had tried audiobooks in the past and mainly been disappointed. But, then I just checked out a stack of them and started trying them. This one was terrific, and so was "Endurance: Shakleton's Incredible Voyage."

I have about a 2 hour commute every day taking my daughter to & from school. 1 hour I'm alone, so that's when I listen! I'm really enjoying it & it's making the drive less of a burden & more of a time to enjoy!


message 32: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan I think that's the key. Most I know read audiobooks when driving but I no longer am in the car for more than 10-25 minute stretches, or while housekeeping, and I don't spend that much time doing that. I used to take long walks and runs. That would have been a good time to read audiobooks.


message 33: by Dana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dana Wonderful! It was an amazing story. I missed the movie in the theatres, but will have to see it when it comes out on DVD. I usually like the books better, though.


message 34: by David (new) - added it

David i bought this book on the strength of the promo for the film i.e. Nazi occupation and the evil that they tried to promote at that time in history as an avid book reader I judged the book by its cover and the review from tabloids far & wide did seam to put it in a good light

BUT... on the back cover of the book the author " this book is narrated by death".. he gave it emotions, colour favourites, sensations of felling what vibration's it liked , and prejudice's what sort of humans it liked disliked , in fact he transferred the malice from the German ternary to death.... An essay on Edgar Allan Poe Preoccupation with Death. Edgar Allan Poe shows a fascination with death, disease, and decay in his stories and poems, ...also A person who feels dead or detached experiences a group of symptoms that have been mentioned They include:Despair/hopelessness •Indifference
•Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
•Lethargy
•Social withdrawal
•this giant leavathian that uncontrollable mass of negativity that hangs like the ozone layer it has touched so many country's sinst 1945
•starlin and the 20million in the gulags of Siberia, then there are others Fidel Castro , Nicolai Ceausescu, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier,
•Francisco Franco, Muamar el-Gadhafi,Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong,Benito Mussolini, Augusto Pinochet,Kim Il-Sung--,Josip Broz Tito...did death visit them with its fav-colour, and vibration ( a wise man can act stupid, but a stupid man can never act wise.)
•words have to be read in Order for them to come alive , this is how the Nazis burned books on a grand scale did death not like the books either ...en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_book... by_governments reading this list should give you sleepless nights
• the life of this book is to read it and agree with the stupidly of the author, the arrogance of the publisher , who assumes that people will like this attempt that can only come from a ( a creative writing class).., that would not even pass for an O..level in English and another thing...very bad houses are never nervous..???..... they are dilapidated, with dated paintwork , structurally un sound, and derelict


message 35: by Aditi (new)

Aditi So insightful review!


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