The Book Thief | Teen Ink

The Book Thief

April 6, 2009
By LaylaMB SILVER, Columbus, Ohio
LaylaMB SILVER, Columbus, Ohio
8 articles 3 photos 0 comments

Death is not only used as a theme and symbol in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, but it is also the narrator. In this book, Death gives the reader a different perspective of what death means in Nazi Germany by looking in his eyes, rather than the victim's. He follows foster child Liesel Meminger because he believes she is different from most humans. The Book Thief is truly a novel that will give readers shivers down their spine, goose bumps on their arms, and a tear in their eyes by the time they turn to the final page.

If a book is to be considered a work of art, it is crucial that there is a solid plot that will grab the reader’s attention. Early on in The Book Thief, the reader discovers a plot that is out of this world. For the first time in literature history, there is a book that takes place in Nazi Germany that does not have a biased opinion toward either party (Germans/Nazis vs. Jewish society)! Events that occur in this book are random at times, but by the end, all those events intertwine and make sense because they have hidden meanings. The Book Thief is interesting in the sense that there is so much going on at once, but the reader does not realize it because everything can be linked back to a common event in the book. It flowed nicely and kept the reader reading because of its unique structure.

Zusak draws a picture of what the characters look like and behave in The Book Thief. Liesel, Rudy, Max, Hans, Rosa, and numerous others are described not only in words, but the actions they take. After reading The Book Thief, readers will be able to relate one of the characters to a person they know in real life. The characters created are bold and could very well be real people because they are developed and have a voice of their own. Major or minor, protagonist or antagonist, every character contributed someway to the outcome of the novel, which makes The Book Thief standout.

The setting plays an important role in this novel. So many aspects, events, and mishaps that occur are based on the fact that it takes place in Nazi Germany. The whole ending of the book would be different if it was not set in the little town outside of Munich. Zusak describes the setting as if he were there. Readers will feel like they have been transported through time as they read this epic story.

The overall lessons and themes of The Book Thief are deep and mature. Death and color are major themes that require a philosophical outlook on the book to understand. For example, one of the final passages in the book is about death. To understand this passage, the reader has to have an understanding of what death means to the protagonist to make connections. Every theme is a factor of what and why things happen. The reader needs to be able to see abstractly, which a lot of this book is.

Within this book, there are particular words and structures Zusak uses that differ than other books. At one point in the book, there is a “story within a story.” Little side notes and inside clues are spread throughout the story coming from Death’s angle. The way the book is set up makes it seem like it is Death’s personal journal, causing the reader to feel what he was feeling at a given point in time. Style gives literature flavor, which The Book Thief has.

There is not one section of this book where the reader wants to stop reading. A connection is created instantly as soon as one reads the situations the hero is facing. This book keeps readers biting their nails until the climax and sobbing at the end when pain is evident in the hero’s eyes. Everything is described by showing rather than telling, which gives readers an experience as if they are in the book as well. The Book Thief is memorable and should be read by everyone to learn a lesson not only in dying, but living.

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This article has 41 comments.

TessJW BRONZE said...
on Jul. 14 2018 at 9:32 am
TessJW BRONZE, Lincoln, Other
3 articles 2 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
‘ Death is not the greatest loss in life, the greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live,’ - Norman Cousins.

‘ Standing alone doesn’t mean I am alone, it means I am strong enough to handle things all by myself,’ - Unkown.

This is one of my favourite books ever. Death is such an interesting character and to have him narrate this book is just fabulous. I thought your review was great.

on Sep. 4 2015 at 11:23 am
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be a Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios."

I absolutely loved the book. I usually hate reading books without action or magic. But this book was magically in its own way. I loved all the characters, cried a bit, and had a feel for what happened to the people of Germany during WWII. I own the book, although my friend hasn't given it back in TWO YEARS and reading this review made me remember I should get that back before she becomes a book thief.

JackTrobak said...
on Feb. 8 2015 at 2:56 pm
this book was absolutely terrible. do not read it, i basically fell asleep and didn't even get through the whole thing. truly a horrendous book

Pusheen612 said...
on May. 3 2013 at 6:47 pm
Pusheen612, Lake Oswego, Oregon
0 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn," -Anne Frank

I love this book! My LA teacher recommend it to me and I thought it would be boring but it was not at all. I cried at the end when Rudy died...I thought he and Liesel would look cute together. But fate pulled them apart. 

Nicki23 said...
on May. 6 2012 at 1:30 pm
 This book is one of the best I've ever read. It teaches morals, and even though it isn't an adventure, the journey you travel on when you read it makes up for it

on Apr. 4 2012 at 1:29 pm
MarieAntoinette2014 DIAMOND, Scottsburg, Indiana
54 articles 2 photos 237 comments

Favorite Quote:
Isn't it ironic? We ignore the ones who adore us, adore the ones who ignore us, love the ones who hurt us, and hurt the ones that love us.

Me too, completely and forever.

on Apr. 4 2012 at 1:28 pm
MarieAntoinette2014 DIAMOND, Scottsburg, Indiana
54 articles 2 photos 237 comments

Favorite Quote:
Isn't it ironic? We ignore the ones who adore us, adore the ones who ignore us, love the ones who hurt us, and hurt the ones that love us.

You should! It is AMAZING!!!!

on Jan. 29 2012 at 12:25 am
Bookworm1997 BRONZE, South Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1 article 0 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
You cannot open a book without learning something. -Confucious

I have heard a lot about this book, but I never really took action to read it. After this review, I think I will use it for my historical fiction book report because it seems interesting.

Brie555 said...
on Jan. 16 2012 at 12:41 am
Ah!!! I wanna read it now! Lol, your comment convinced me x3

on Nov. 22 2011 at 8:40 pm
camohunter19 GOLD, Sedro-Woolley, Washington
14 articles 13 photos 128 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say No when they mean Yes, and drive a man out of his wits for the fun of it." "Violence is never the answer! It is a question, and the answer is yes."

Stop right there! Go to your copies of the Book Thief and read the first fifteen pages. They tell the entire story. One more thing: I am haunted by humans.

Prudhvi said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:31 pm
The Book Thief was a good book, not too bad, but not GREAT either. The narration by Death makes sense, because war and death go together, and the book is set during World War II. The setting in Molching makes sense because it's a little town with many poor people and also a few rich people, which is a huge part of the plot. Zusak's use of figurative language and analysis seemed natural and was both helpful and interesting.

Janelle said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:29 pm

Frankly, The Book Thief didn't top any booklist for me. Mind you, this is a personal perspective. It didn't top my list of the most horrendous books I have ever read, and it also wasn't the most magnificent book I've ever laid eyes on.

The plot at its core was very curious as it is the only one of its kind that paid homage to the Germans within Nazi Germany that didn't necessarily back Hitler's opinions. I think it paralleled with the infamous Anne Frank tale, as it was similar (that is, a teenage girl in a war ridden society that survived off of hatred.) and showed the other side of the fence in World War II.

Analysis aside, it was a decent book with plenty of imagery and symbolism that was a field day for a book club.

howard101 said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:27 pm
The Book Thief managed to become one of my favorite novels of all time. The way the characters are portrayed, as real, living people is truly amazing. The narration by death also provides a dry sense of humor.The plot takes an often-overused plot and turns it into the setting of one of the most beautiful and breathtaking novels of all time. The way Death seems to be bored of his job reminds me of the way society is today. it shows me that people dont even like working and get tired of their job. The truth is that i truly did not enjoy this book at first because i thought it was very boring, but as the story went on i begin that the book is a very good book. The theme of the book which is the power of words is very powerful in this book. I would definateley reccomend this book to other people.

on May. 28 2010 at 1:25 pm
I think this book was really special. The way the book was exposed and introduced was impressive and very inspiring. I believe that the author portrayed these characters in a way that really shows the humanity of this world. The theme of "power of Words" is very true and to the point. I love that this book exposes power and its result but at the same time shows the bond of friendship and its strength to overcome absolutely anything. I love the revelation of good and bad. The way it is revealed through a very neutral person. Death. I love that its blunt and its true to itslef and it doesnt hide its true colors. This author really expresses and does very well at his job. I really appreciated this book and its message :D!<3332

sunil said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:25 pm
In my opinion death narratoring the book keeps you from falling asleep. It gives the book a twist and makes it intresting. I like finding out what is going to happen before it does, because then you start to think about how and what events will lead up to it. If anyone else were to narrarate the book such as Leisel it would have been dull and boring. Knowing everything about everyone in the story helps to fully understand why some people do certain things. What i really like thought, is that there is no guessing involved since Death is nararating.

Chels said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:25 pm
I believe that The Book Thief was an amazing book. I think that it would be better if there wasn't so much foreshadowing. Overall, it was an interesting book to read and enjoyable. The author forces you to paint a picture in your mind to really capture the essence and create such a truly incredible ambiance. The setting was perfect for the story and so was the narrator. If the narrator was anyone else I don't think that the book would've been so captivating. The idea that Death is omniscient was pure genius! <3 :) 

Malik said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:20 pm
I agree that the book was phenomenal but I have to say I prefer the narrating style of Death. I felt that he didn't spoil Rudy's death, but rather made me more curious as to how and when he would die. For example, when Rudy ran towards the destroyed plane, I thought that something was going to happen and that he was going to die. If Death had not told us that Rudy was going to die, the thought of something happening to him would not have crossed my mind. All in all, I preferred Death's narrating style and i thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief.

Adrian 101 said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:19 pm
I think the the narriator, death, ruins the book completly. i have read terrible books in my life and i have to say that this one tops my list of worst books ever. the over use of figurative language annoyed me. I wanted to throw the book in the trash every time death has to ruin the book by telling me what was going to happen. Bottom line is: this book is no better than Mean Spirit

asiaagee said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:18 pm
I definitely found "The Book Thief" to be a great book. There were times that i wanted to throw the books across the room because of Death's foreshadowing, but other than that i really enjoyed reading it. As the story progressed, the characters grew and the plot developed greatly. Connections were established that I would have never imagined and the end was extremely heart-stopping. I would definitely reccommend this book to any of my friends who haven't read it. The story takes a little getting used to but it really is SUPERRR GOOD (: I have to say My favorite parts of the book were Max's stories. The analogies and symbols created by his character were extremely strong. The whole entire story makes you stop and think "Wow this actually happened, There was a Max out there once, there was a Jew who lived in a cold basement and a little German girl/boy who loved him/her." The story also makes you question humanity and all that is made apparent through Death's narrations, Are we as humans truly that horrific? DO we have any sense at all or are we all a lost cause? It's a strange day when we question ourselves but this book will certainly do that to you.

Person said...
on May. 28 2010 at 1:17 pm
I think the Book Theif, for all its faults like the choppy timeline and the forced figurative language, is an excellent book. It really carries a certain degree of feeling and engages you throughout using creative wordplay and anecdotes. For me the best thing about the book is the narrarator, I find it extremely original to have death, an already omniscient being, narrarate a story that needs to pull together the experiences of many characters to make full sense. The characters are well developed, especially Rudy who goes from immature schoolboy to a kind and caring adult in a matter of months, to show you how fast some kids had to grow up to survive something like the holocaust. This book is definetely a 9 out of 10...