The Book Thief Book Review
By Markus Zusak
Published on September 11, 2007 (reprint) by Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
“The Germans in the basement were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. That basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable.” (pg. 376)
How do I even review this beautiful book? First of all, I don’t feel it’s a Young Adult book, although young adults should certainly read it. But don’t you dare let that turn you adult readers away. For the format, this book was written from the perspective of Death, a character who was very involved and very present in World War II. Very clever idea. Death really has his own personality and his own unique way of looking upon humans and the human situations. His insight really adds another layer of depth to the story.
Liesel is a foster child whose brother dies on the way to their foster home. She has a mother, but she is unable to care for her. Liesel develops a strong bond with her foster father and somewhat of a fear for her cold, hard mother. A Jew shows up on their doorstep to cash in on a decades old favor Liesel’s father owes his father. The family is suddenly thrown into the dangerous situation of hiding a Jew. It is in this environment that the characters change and develop.
The characters in the book are so fully developed and so fully human. You understand their situations (even those of secondary characters), even as we look back at the past and think, “How did the Holocaust happen?” This is how it happened. People trying to protect themselves and their families. People who don’t know what else to do, or those who do something and are punished for it.
I cried at this book’s ending. You know why? I’ve been to the Holocaust museum- I know it’s all true. Maybe not this exact story, but hundreds of others that resemble it. People who were good people, but did nothing to stop the Holocaust. People who did what they could, living in fear. Even those who believed they were doing the right thing by joining the Nazi party or the German army. People just like you or me. Fooled by words, so many words. Books like this are important because they remind us of what happened. May it never happen again. The Book Thief is one of those books every person should read. It’s not a comfortable book by any means, but it will grow and change you. Thank you, Markus Zusak, for keeping the stories alive and for writing such a beautiful story with characters and events that will haunt me for a long time.