La Petite Américaine's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Jul 24, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: worst-garbage-i-ve-ever-read, sucked, i-want-my-money-back, rants
Recommended for: This is such a piece of steaming dog shit that I'd recommend it only to people I REALLY hate.
Read from May 11 to 12, 2010

** spoiler alert ** UPDATE: AUG 26, 2016: This review has been here 8 years, has 18 pages of 854 comments and 764 likes. There's no outrage for you to add in the comments section that hasn't already been addressed.
If you want to talk about the book, or why you liked it, or anything else, feel free.

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."

"The oldened 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.

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Comments (showing 101-150 of 1,000) (1000 new)

message 101: by Kris (new)

Kris Pitzler HA!

Sarahle Einav “When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak - probably both” How do u expect ppl to even take ur review into account????

La Petite Américaine Love your uncited quote (that sounds like it's from a Hallmark card) and your use of "u" and "ppl." Clearly, you're far more intelligent than someone who swears.
Perhaps you have noticed that this is a website for people to express their opinions about books? If you don't like my review, don't read it, as I couldn't care less what "u" think. Thanx.

message 104: by Mehar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mehar Bharatiya I don't agree with you, but I liked how you tried to prove your point. I know, saying "a breakfast colored sun" is a weird sort of literary element..

message 105: by Ashley (new)

Ashley la petite clearly misses the concept that reviews are as much for people who have not yet read a book as for those who have read it. somewhat entertaining, but crude, inconsiderate review that makes me thankful to have not met the reviewer in person.

La Petite Américaine Feeling is mutual.

La Petite Américaine Dear God, Lachlan, I've had a lot of neurotic / hysterical comments about my reviews but yours? I can feel the crazy. (and the lack of a post secondary education). You may want to seek out psychiatric help.

message 108: by Angela (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angela Lachlan wrote: "If you had been bothered to do any research on Markus Zusak at all, you would have found that his ancestors were SURVIVORS OF THE THE NAZI REGIME and that this book was obviously - obviously - base..."Thank you Lachlan I did not know this was somewhat based on the authors family. Have you ever read "City Of Thieves." Another wonderful book based on author's grandparent's. I loved "The Book Thief" a great perspective from a non Jewish, Liesel a character that needed to be written about. Death also a non-jew has a say, we need to hear from life-Liesel and Death. At least La Petite brings people together. Peace

La Petite Américaine The self-righteous are out in full force this fine Saturday.

Lachlan Smith Yeah, I'm sorry I was so heavy-handed with my comment. I was really tired, and wasn't in a great mood. I should have thought it through first. Sorry if I offended.

Annemarie Sound like you dont understand the book. So, go and reed a commercial book like twilight, maybe you like it.

La Petite Américaine Yes. I like to "reed" :)

message 113: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I was going to read this book because it was recommended to me but after reading your review, which left me laughing being so sarcastic and all, I am reconsidering... I think the idea of stealing books from book burnings sounds like it has potential but if its as badly written as you say... I doubt I'll being read it any time soon.

La Petite Américaine Rachel wrote: "I was going to read this book because it was recommended to me but after reading your review, which left me laughing being so sarcastic and all, I am reconsidering... I think the idea of stealing b..."

Saved another one. Thank God.

message 115: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thanks for saving me :) I've already read a rubbish book (by accident I'll admit, because I picked up the wrong book because it had a similar title to the one I was meant to get... *Sigh*) this week and am greatful I don't get to read another.

La Petite Américaine My work here is done!! :-D

message 117: by Cathy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cathy wowza. i thought it was a good read. i agree with some of your points tho. i wish i could review like you do!

message 118: by Jackie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jackie What have you published? Just wondering. You, being the 'expert' and all.

La Petite Américaine Jackie wrote: "What have you published? Just wondering. You, being the 'expert' and all."

I don't believe I ever claimed to be an expert. It should be abundantly clear that I'm a reader with an opinion. If that much isn't clear, you may wish to find a goodreads-esque site for remedial readers.

message 120: by Angela (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angela Horner You sound a bit angry my friend x

La Petite Américaine astute observation


La Petite Américaine Um. Calm down.

Navneet Krishnan OK, I get that you don't like the book, and that's cool. It's not the type of book for everyone, but going so far as to say that the book itself is a piece of shit and the writer is an idiot only proves this. You're an uncultured idiot who doesn't care what anyone else thinks, your a narcissist, and can't accept that you're wrong, and think that anyone who likes this book haas the wrong opinion. If it's an award winning book, it's safe to say that a large group of people like it.

La Petite Américaine Navneet wrote: "OK, I get that you don't like the book, and that's cool. It's not the type of book for everyone, but going so far as to say that the book itself is a piece of shit and the writer is an idiot on..."
Actually, no, my review doesn't prove anything of the sort.
Books receive awards based on what a small group of people think -- if awards were given based on popularity, Fifty Shades of Grey would take a Pulitzer.

You're officially banned from my page until you learn that being literate doesn't always mean you know how to read. You can apply to comment on my page again when you've learned that people's negative reviews of books you happen to like are really not that big of a deal...perhaps when you finish junior high?
Go play now, dear.

message 126: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El "Uncultured idiot"? Really, Navneet? That's what you're going to go with?

message 127: by Matt (new) - rated it 3 stars

Matt Linder La Petite Américaine wrote: "Navneet wrote: "OK, I get that you don't like the book, and that's cool. It's not the type of book for everyone, but going so far as to say that the book itself is a piece of shit and the write..."

I want to be your friend!

message 128: by Sophia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sophia ok no. its fine if you dont enjoy a book. But saying it was garbage is just not ok. This book was amazing and its not my fault you didn't understand it.

message 129: by La Petite Américaine (last edited Apr 18, 2013 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

La Petite Américaine Sophia:

This is why we call it opinion, and learn from the time that we are toddlers that other people are allowed their own opinions, whether we agree or not.

"Saying it is garbage is just not ok" is the argument of a tween.

To assert your opinion (the book was "amazing") and then attack me personally (by saying I didn't understand the book) simply reveals how young you are.

Please contact me again when you are no longer in junior high.


theBookDevourer Hilarious review. I haven't read it but my book group are voting it up for the next big read - I've been attempting for weeks to convince them to read The Neverending Story. Even if it does "win" I shall certainly be skipping it. Thanks for saving me (and my ever dwindling book budget) from a horrible mistake!

La Petite Américaine I love that I'm costing this author money. :-D

message 132: by [deleted user] (new)

This book was such a disappointment. The author's writing style began to cloy after about 100 pages. I loved the relationship between Liesel and Rudy. In fact, I really liked the book when it focused on the children, but whenever it focused on one of the adults I lost major interest.

message 133: by Brian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brian Malbon I pity you your atrophied sense of wonder.

La Petite Américaine Malbon wrote: "I pity you your atrophied sense of wonder."

K thanx

Christen Eve I agree with some parts of your review about the vague descriptions of the weather and the fact that the author killed everyone was a disappointment for me but in general I really like this book. Thanks for the review though. It made me think more about the book. :)

I think you've made your point without the excessive ranting :)

message 136: by Rose (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rose Funny review, but I've got to disagree; The Book Thief is my favourite book EVER, right up there next to Harry Potter ;D

Rebecca Butler How dare you... This book is fantastic. Oh well I forgive you. It is you opinion after all.

message 138: by Maggie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maggie Normally, I wouldn't bother getting intertwined into a bad review about I book I adore, because normally it wouldn't be worth my energy. However, I will make an exception in this one case, purely because it seems as if your asinine and ignorant review is actually keeping people from enjoying the wonder of The Book Thief. Zusak did more than write a book informing people about the horrors of the holocaust, he wrote art. Not only is the writing style in this book just fun to read, but it is also beautiful, and poetic, and inspiring. If you want to read an amazing book that showcases humanity better than anything else I've ever read, than please, read The Book Thief.

Elizabeth This is ridiculous. The figurative language you mentioned isn't supposed to make sense.

Vinathi Alaburger Ugh--no I have to disagree. This book is perfection, do not try to belittle perfection.

Jennifer You seem like a really likeable, upbeat person. Are you sure your not my mother-in-law? Oh, that's right...that woman doesn't know how to read.

message 142: by Sadie (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sadie Collins Where he says "the oldened young man" he means that even though he is young physically, he has let so much of life age him way beyond his years. You need to learn how to read between the lines and let the lyrical writing take you away, that is all :)

Personally, I hold this book and its characters dear, especially Max.

message 143: by Kyla (new) - added it

Kyla Yes Hitler would have been nothing without his words. If his speeches weren't so incredible, he wouldn't have had the army or nation to back him up. If he didn't have the words that can manipulate a nation full of poor, dying people, the Holocaust wouldn't have happened. He would have been some babbling, xenophobic idiot on the streets of Germany.

message 144: by Sosen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sosen Hey, you gave away the ending to My Girl! Bastard!

Melissa Costello I loved the book but your review is hilarious! I have to confess though the American comment is a little offensive. I'm American, loved Kite Runner too, and proud that we all have the freedom to share our opinions.

message 146: by Abby (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abby Chiaramonte I enjoyed the book, but I agree with everything in your review. Especially the "disfigured figure." I laughed for a while at that one in the text.

message 147: by Sosen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sosen I found his writing style to be very pretentious and irritating - especially his metaphors, which were far more distracting than they were descriptive.

I thought the Death thing was cool for a few pages; but once I realized it had nothing to do with the story, it was pretty agonizing. Zusak should've saved that gag for another book, or something.

Still, it's not a TERRIBLE book. It's both pretentious and sentimental, which has sort of a baffling effect. However, I still cared for many of the characters, and overall, it was a well-paced book; just amateurish, unfortunately.

message 148: by Janice (new)

Janice La Petite Américaine's Reviews, what do you expect from a "common core exemplar" book?

message 149: by Jdutton (new)

Jdutton If you kept a civil tongue in your head, your review might be given some credibility.

message 150: by Sarah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah You a scary person :p

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