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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: January 1, 2005
Pages: 552
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In short: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is very special to me and I can't recommend it highly enough.
I am going to attempt to review The Book Thief, a transformative novel that I read at the end of last year that left me reeling with its beauty and drowning in feels. I say attempt because it would be near impossible for me to do a book such as this one justice. How can I adequately relate my feelings for a book that has become so special to me? I struggle with this when it comes to reviewing these kinds of meaningful books and I'm envious of any reviewer who can manage to describe their feelings effectively. But attempt I will.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death, a storytelling device, which, at first I thought was going to be a bit gimmicky, but actually pays off in dividends and really elevates the book into memorably-genius-work-of-fiction territory. The standouts in The Book Thief are the characters and the character relationships, each notably dear to me and thought-provoking in their own way. But the crappy part about reading a book about treasured characters living in Nazi Germany that is narrated by Death is that you know things are not going to end well for many of the characters that you have grown so attached to and you just have to deal. Somehow, someway, with plenty of tissues and maybe a shoulder to cry on, you have to deal.

I suck at describing writing styles so I usually just settle for “well written” or “not well written” in my reviews, but I feel like it would do Markus Zusak’s writing a disservice by merely calling it “well done” and leaving it at that. So I will attempt to expand on this a bit: Markus Zusak is a freaking GENIUS. His grasp of imagery and metaphor is unparalleled (albeit as far as my limited range of reading goes). There were certain turns of phrase that he uses that were SO unique and that I have never read anywhere before that made me – for once in my life – want to whip out a highlighter and start highlighting the crap out of his prose. No, I didn’t actually deface my copy, but I was TEMPTED. Maybe I might consider it again upon a reread.

If you’re wondering: no, I haven’t seen the movie yet and I’m a bit apprehensive about it because the reviews have been less than favourable, which bums me out SO MUCH because this book deserves nothing less than brilliance in film form. How about you guys – has anyone seen the movie and would you recommend it?

So there were my jumbled thoughts. I do wish I were better at thoroughly describing the perfection of certain books, but instead I will settle for shouting it across the rooftops, if I must: READ THE BOOK THIEF. I know I must’ve been among the few remaining non-readers of The Book Thief out there, but I imagine there are still a few of you out there somewhere who have yet to read it. And you simply must! Please say you will and then once you have, let me know and we can drown in our feels together.

Other Reviews:
Books: A True Story
The Daily Prophecy
Just Another Story
Reading In Winter

Author Links:


  1. I too, loooooved this book and agree wholeheartedly with your review. And I saw the movie and thought it was pretty good. Obviously the movie is never as good as the book but it followed it pretty well and I cried watching the movie too. I'd recommend watching it, I think it was cast well too. :)

  2. I am so happy you finally read this :) I am extra happy that you actually loved it as well! I knew you would.

  3. I really want to read this!! There are just so many books I'd love to read and I never have the time to do so...but I'm so happy that you loved this so much, and I think your review was great. I need to get this soon!

  4. I've had this one on my reading list and haven't read it yet if only because I know I need to be in the right frame of mind to get into it - not to mention being emotionally prepared for such heavy feels. Believe me, you made the writing style sound absolutely wonderful but I know what you mean about how when a book really captures your heart, it's impossible to find the right words to sing it's praises. I always feel horribly inadequate doing so heh. Fantastic review Aylee, I'm even more eager to get into this one ^^

  5. I haven't read the book yet, Aylee, but I've watched the movie and I enjoyed it. I even cried a little! Then again, I can't compare the movie with the book to see how much better the book is. I've got this one in my TBR pile but want to read it when I feel mentally prepared.

  6. I loved the imagery and the unique way the author used words too! I also read this last year and have yet to attempt a review, because I just don't know how to explain how good it was. I think you did a great job! :)

  7. Well done Aylee! You're review was great. You said it all. I agree, it is/was hard to convey how beautiful this book is. I think you said it plain and simple: Markus Zusak is a genius! I almost want to buy another copy of the book so I can reread the one I have and highlight away.

  8. omg yeeees I recently read this and I'm like WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS SOONER? I am in love with Markus Zusak's writing!!!!! so so beautiful.

  9. Yes! To everything you just said! This book is one of my favorites, and just reading your review and seeing how much you loved it makes me want to read it all over again. I have been meaning to reread it and I need to do so ASAP. As for the movie, it was pretty good. I didn't find it to be nearly as amazing/heartrending as the book, but it was far from horrible. But Death's narration didn't work nearly as well in the movie as it did in the book. It lost a lot of its meaning in the transfer, but I'd still recommend watching it. Great review, Aylee!

  10. I read (well, technically I listened) to TBF for the first time last year and it was so good! I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. You're right, the characters and relationships are wonderful. I can't wait to watch the movie now!

  11. I have a copy on my shelf that I only read about 100 pages from before setting it aside (I think I was in the wrong mood for that sort of story at the time), and you're making me want to give it another shot. I've heard the film was good, although I heard it from a non-book reader, so...

    Great review!!

  12. I'm SO thrilled to hear you loved this Aylee! It is one of my all time favorite YA novels, and I remember when I read it I knew I would be re-reading it many more times in my life. Now reading your review, I'm reminded that it's almost time for a re-read. Lovely review!

  13. I'm glad you liked it Aylee! I actually never finished this book and ended up giving it away... mostly because I really wasn't in the mood to read it, but I've been thinking of picking it up again, maybe in audio or something.

    Your review was lovely, :)

  14. I loved this book too, Aylee, and it makes me so happy to see that it left an impression on you. I couldn't find the words to review it myself, but I completely agree what you've said here. Zusak does have an incredible writing style, doesn't he? I haven't seen the movie either, but I think I might give it a try eventually.

    Fantastic review!

  15. I can't believe you haven't read it til now! But glad you liked it :) I think I was a bit young when I first read it to grasp it properly, but it's great. I love Death's narration and the little announcements!

  16. I'm so glad you read this and enjoyed it! I completely agree that this is the kind of book that is just so magnificent that it is hard to process and express in words. I think this summer I need to re-read it because it's been 7 or 8 years since I've read it.

    But I do remember that one of the things I was most impressed with was his use of imagery and metaphor. And I smiled at your temptation to highlight and deface the book. I definitely think this is the kind of book that you could study for craft of writing. Come to think of it, if I ever taught a creative writing class, this book would certainly go on the text list. His writing is haunting and mesmerizing.

    Now... about the movie. Keep in mind it's been 7-8 years since I read the book... so the book wasn't fresh in my mind. But I did love the movie. I thought the casting was EXCELLENT. The girl who plays Liesel successfully bears the weight of carrying the movie. She has such expressive eyes. Geoffrey Rush is brilliant as Hans. Rudy was my favorite character in the book, and I found him endearing in the movie as well. Again, the book wasn't fresh in my mind, so I wasn't as aware of changes, etc. But I thought it was well done. What I read of most critics' reviews made it sound as if they hadn't read the book... so they didn't understand why Death was narrating and felt the movie was too family friendly. I loved that the movie is PG, and I'm showing it to my 12-13 year olds at school for our Facing Injustice unit because it parallels beautifully with our required text for the unit (Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez). And several kids enjoyed the movie so much that they are now reading the book! Teacher success ;)

    Sorry my comment was sooooo long! Enjoyed your review!

    Lauren @ Wordy Hughes

  17. I think I'm the odd person out here in that I didn't love The Book Thief. I read it 5ish years ago and it just didn't work for me. I didn't feel attached to the characters and the bolded out sections where Death makes observations were not my cup of tea. But maybe it will upon a re-read?
    I did see the movie and LOVED it. I know it's different than the book, but I actually thought it was even better (could be that I just didn't like the book so much). But I'd recommend seeing it. The actors who played all the main characters were wonderful. And the visuals were excellent. The narration of Death felt a little forced, but I think they did the best with it that they possibly could.

  18. I've not read this book. After reading your review, it makes me want to run right out and buy it so I can read it immediately. Maybe I'll check my library to see if I can get a digital copy. I usually don't like this type of book, it sort of sounds like historical fiction. You're so convincing though.

    1. Because of this review, I got a copy from the digital library and I am having an amazing time reading this powerful book. Its just like nothing I've read before. Such a great story. I think the reason the movie may not have been as good as the book is because it would be so difficult to get the death narration right, don't you think. After I'm done with this, I do want to watch the movie, never the less.