** spoiler alert **
UPDATE: FEB 17, 2014: I wrote this review 4 years ago on a foreign keyboad
, so I'm well aware that I spelled Chekhov's name wrong. I'm not going to fix it, so please don't drive my review further up in the rankings by commenting on the misspelling. You're very dear, but I know his name is Anton and not Antonin. On that same note, you don't need to add comments telling me that I didn't like the book because I "don't know how to read" and "don't understand metaphors." I actually have an M.A. in in English Lit, so I do know how to read -- much better than you do, in fact. Now quit bothering me before I go get my PhD and then really turn into a credential-touting ass.
UPDATE: JULY 10, 2013: To all jr. high students who find themselves grossly offended by my review: please remember that every time you leave a comment here, you push my review up even higher in the rankings. Please save us both time and energy by not commenting. Thnx.
This was the biggest piece of garbage I've ever read after The Kite Runner
. Just as with The Kite Runner, I'm (somewhat) shocked that this book is a bestseller and has been given awards, chewed up and swallowed by the literary masses and regarded as greatness. Riiiight.
The whole thing can be summed up as the story of a girl who sometimes steals books coming of age during the Holocaust. Throw in the snarky narration by Death (nifty trick except that it doesn't work), a few half-assed drawings of birdies and swastikas, senseless and often laughable prose that sounds like it was pulled from the "poetry" journal of a self-important 15 year-old, and a cast of characters that throughout are like watching cardboard cutouts walking around VERY SLOWLY, and that's the novel.
Here are some humble observations.
First, chances are that you, Mr. Zusak, are not Antonin Chekhov. You are, therefore, incapable of properly describing the weather for use as a literary device, and you end up sounding like an asshole. Don't believe me?
"I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate." Really? Do you, now?
"The sky was dripping. Like a tap that a child has tried it’s hardest to turn off but hasn’t quite managed.” Really?? Wow. Next you'll tell me that the rain was like a shower. I'm moved.
"Oh, how the clouds stumbled in and assembled stupidly in the sky. Great obese clouds." Yes. Stupid, obese clouds! They need an education and a healthy diet!
Next, chances are that you, Mr. Zusak, are not William Styron or any one of the other small handful of authors that can get away with Holocaust fiction. They've done their research, had some inkling of writing ability, and were able to tell fascinating stories. You invented a fake town in Germany (probably so you didn't have to do any research) and told a long-winded and poorly-written story, and in 500+ pages you couldn't even make it to 1945, so you sloppily dropped off and wrapped it up in 1943. What's the point of writing historical fiction if you can't even stay within the basic confines of that hisotrical event? For me, this does nothing more than trivialize the mass murder of over 6 million people. Maybe that's why a 30 year-old Australian shouldn't write about the Holocaust. But that's just me. Moving on.
But what really makes this book expensive toilet paper is the bad writing which is to be found not just in bizarre descriptions of the weather, but really on every page. Some personal favorites?
"The breakfast colored sun."
"Somewhere inside her were the souls of words."
young man." WTF?!!?
"He crawled to a disfigured figure."
"Her words were motionless."
"It smelled like friendship." (Remind me to sniff my friends next time I see them.)
"A multitude of words and sentences were at her fingertips." (HUH?)
"Pinecones littered the ground like cookies."
All of this is quite funny coming from a book where the main character supposedly learns the importance of words. Further, I love that the protagonist comes to the conclusion that Hitler "would be nothing without words." Really? REALLY? Would Hitler be nothing without WORDS? What about self-loathing, misplaced blame and hatred, an ideology, xenophobia, charisma, an army, and a pride-injured nation willing to listen? Don't those count for something??
The shit-storm comes to an end when a bomb lands on our fictional town, wiping out everyone save for the sometimes book-thief main character. Of course. Because weak writers who don't know how to end their story just kill everyone off for a clean break and some nice emotional manipulation. Written for maximum tear-jerking effect, our main character spews out some great lines when she sees the death and destruction around her:
To her dead mother, "God damn it, you were so beautiful."
To her dead best friend as she shakes him, "Wake up! I love you! Wake up!" (Didn't I see the same thing in that movie My Girl?)
Then she profoundly notes that her dead father "...was a man with silver eyes, not dead ones."
And this kind of angsty adolescent prose just never ended! It went on and on to form the one long-ass, senseless, disjointed story.
But that's ok. Take it all the junk, give it a quirky narrator, an obscure and mysterious title, throw in a Jew on the run from Nazis who likes to draw silly pictures of birds and swastikas, and market it all as Holocaust lit. Ahh, the packaging of bullshit makes for such a sweet best seller.
Swallow it down, America. Put it on the shelf next to The Kite Runner. You love this. You live for this.