I’m in love.

My mother introduced us.

This week, my Mother sent me THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak (Thanks Mom!).  I couldn’t wait to blog about it.  I’m going to have to watch my blog post lengths because there’s so much to talk about.  My mother read THE BOOK THIEF as part of her book club and told me that everyone had something good to say about it.  I understand why.  Realistic characters, some of which I would love to know; a beautiful, almost poetic writing style; and a compelling plot.  This book has it all.

THE BOOK THIEF isn’t Markus Zusak’s debut novel; he has three previous novels.  The most notable is I AM THE MESSENGER, the winner of the Printz Honor for excellence in young adult literature.  THE BOOK THIEF was published in 2005 and has won a variety of awards as well, including the Printz Honor and Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year.  It’s definitely worth your time to check out his website.  There, he talks a little bit about his writing routines and admits that it took him seven years to publish a book (Oh, thank you for that little bit of hope, Mr. Zusak!).  Also, I wanted to link you to my favorite version of the cover art because I just thought it was so cool.  By the way, that’s not the cover art above–just an image I liked. 🙂

THE BOOK THIEF is the story of a girl named Liesel.  After her mother is accused of Communism in Nazi Germany, she and her brother are shipped to couple in a small town outside of Munich.  Sadly, her brother dies on train ride to their new home.  While he’s being buried, two things happen: Liesel steals a book called “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” and she’s catches the interest of Death, himself.  The rest of the book follows the next four years of Liesel’s life as she struggles to learn how to read, to make sense of the kindness and unkindness of humanity, and survive in the throes of World War II era Germany.

Two things separate this book from other historical fictions of Nazi Germany.  First, this story is about a lower middle class German family.  Many of the stories I’ve read or seen from this era are about Jewish families or take place in concentration camps.  By placing the story in a non-Jewish German family, it really gives the reader a unique viewpoint.  Second, the point of view character in this book is Death.  It really, really worked.  Death was a weary, curious, sympathetic character, completely confused by humanity.  I thought it was a very interesting choice.

You might have noticed that the subject matter in this book is pretty heavy, even though it is classified as young adult.  I think this book is for the mature young adult reader.  THE BOOK THIEF is classified as young adult for some of the same reasons that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD might get the same designation if it was published today.  They both have a protagonist in the tween to teen age range.  However, the themes–death, guilt, doing the right thing even when it’s the hard thing–are mature.  I think this could be enjoyed by any adult reader and might not be the right choice to woo a reluctant reader.

Like I said above, I’m really looking forward to writing the blogs about this book.  Like usual, my next post will discuss characters and setting, the following one looks at plotting, then my last one for this book will be about Mr. Zusak’s writing style. I’ll see you Wednesday!

The gorgeous photo is by szlea and I found it on flickr.