The Book Thief is very, very good.
Narrated by death, it follows Liesel’s adolescence in a small town outside Munich. From January 1939 through October 1943. Good times to be a German, eh?
Not so much.
Death tries not to pay too much attention to the humans – we depress him – but even so, he noticed Liesel each of the three times he saw her over those four years. And the last time, he took a book. Her book.
Now, in a way, our book.
The original Australian publisher classified The Book Thief as general fiction; it was the American publisher who decided that it was YA. I’m reviewing it here, yes, but I think as a whole I agree with the original publisher. Not that I feel it’s in any way inappropriate for teens – not that there’s much I think is – but it has strangely few of the elements I’ve come to think of as signifiers of YA. Liesel’s self-discovery has little to do with her coming-of-age; school is at most tangential to the story; first love is only slightly more central and its position of ‘first’ is hardly under consideration; I could continue, but that would be boring. I’m not sure it’s even really Liesel’s story, so much as it is Germany’s story, and even death’s story.
Whatever you call it, it is an excellent book.