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.

TTTTommy said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:47 am
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, reminiscent of  laconic 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 blue-collar working man, albeit in an alternative setting. The truth is that this book is so much better than I thought. I had originally wanted to read The Stranger by Albert Camus but because of a majority vote (I'm looking at you 2nd and 6th period!), but now I feel so much better that it won. I judged a book by its cover, and  I still probably will because it is one of the biggest marketing assets but I digress. This book is so much better because of the believable characterization of the humans living on Himmel Street. It approaches an experimental style in the novel, with Death often interjecting with his own personal anectdotes about his work and et cetera. It provides an emotional roller coaster for us to ride on throughout this entire journey of a book. I would recommend this book for every young adult.

Chelsea(: said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:37 am
I think the Book Theif was an amazing story! I loved that Death was the narrator because it not only allows you to feel and see what every character goes through but it offers it from a unique and interesting perspective. The story line blew me away and was unlike any holocaust book I have ever read. The only thing that dissapointed me was the fact that the narrator spoiled rudys death for me, I think I would have enjoyed a surprise rather then expecting what I knew was going to happen.

on May. 28 2010 at 10:36 am
In my opinion, The Book Thief was a very interesting book. I thought that the narraration coming from 'Death' was a very clever tactic in writing this novel. It gave the book a different point of view, and it also opened up your perspective to the allusions of death around us. It broadened your perspective on the contradiction of ourselves as humans as well as getting us to think about how words influence our everyday lives. There really is a strong presence of words in our lives, and we allow so many words to influence us that it changes the way we live. The imagery used in this book gave depth to the book and the emotions that stood behind the characters. The character development in this book was also very detailed and it gave you a good sense of who everyone was. My favorite character in this book had to be Rudy because his spunk and childlike manner made you smile everytime you read something that had to do with him. I enjoyed the book alot and I also think that Max and Leisel God Married(:

Lilian said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:33 am
I enjoyed The Book Thief but it took a while for me to get into it and begin to like it. I believe Death takes some of the fun out of reading the book because he leaves no mystery. By saying everything that will happen next, I become less interested in the book. I did like the story line, and the fact that he actually included illustrations of the books Max wrote for Leisel, also the character descriptions, and lists, etc. which were in bold. It was also nice to read a book about Nazi Germany which didn't focus so much on the suffering of the Jews. I recommend this book to anyone.

Margo said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:28 am
The Book Thief was an exceptionally interesting novel. I have never read a novel narrated by death. This aspect of how the novel was set up really absorbed my attention into the novel. Granted at times it might have been a disappointment to know the many events that were being foreshadowed but in my personal opinion it added some excitement and thrill to know the exact details of what happened to that individual character of that certain event. The imagery and themes that the novel entails really gives a more grasping reason to continue reading the novel. Zusak organized the book in such a way that captures the idea and feelings of how life was during the Holocaust. This is a great novel to view a series amount of analytical discussions and to observe a time in history that changed the lives of so many individuals.        

Zuchini said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:22 am
Reading this book has been a new experience for me. I have never read another book similar to "The Book Thief". I liked the idea of helping a Jewish man and giving bread to the starving Jews knowing that there would be consequences. It was heroic. The only thing that spoiled the book was the way death ruined the ending for me. Knowing Rudy was going to die before he got his kiss completely ruined my hopes. I would have also appreciated not knowing that Himmel Street was going to get bombed because I was expecting the tragedy instead of experiencing it. The concept of the book was very inspiring, but I disliked the spoiler.

raivo. said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:21 am
The Book Thief provides a unique persepective into World War II through the usage of Death as the narrator. Zusak portrays a commonly invisible point-of-view during the Holocaust ; life on the German slum of Himmel Street as a participant of the counter-culture movement. He shows the reader what he percieves as the daily life of Germans who did not get caught up in Hitler's self-strengthening movement, which I think is great. However, Death's character is overexaggerated as a human-like personality rather than an abstract concept. Zusak attempts to balance this out with the use of colour imagery and confusing sentiments, but I feel that this portrayal may be too partial to human influence. Anyways, the book took advantage of vivid imagery which made the picture more clear for the reader. It was an easy read mainly because it was not hard to keep myself immersed in it.

Rebecca said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:17 am
The book thief was an amazing book that caught my attention. In the beggining of the book, it was very slow but as u kept reading it became better. The book was like a puzzle piece that needed to be solved. Death(the narrator) gave clues ahead of time to show what was going to happen.  There was alot of symbolism that helps to explain the events in the book. I believed the best part of the story was Part 10. Every clue from the other parts of the book came together as one to show the last event. Part 10 was the most interesting because it explained what happened to each character, it had drama and imagery. I thought the ending was great and i believe people should read the book even though it is a little confusing at times.

Jialin said...
on May. 28 2010 at 10:16 am
This book gave me such an overwhelming feeling as I read an account of humanity put into words. As Death continued to narrate this story, he became more and more personified, and it was wonderful to see the point of view change (even though technically, it was the same person). Also, the ability to read a book from an omniscient perspective set The Book Thief apart from other books. That, in addition to the story that seems to be so insignificant, yet woven into the overall plot of WWII makes this book spectacular. However, I did not appreciate the continued foreshadowing by Death; blatantly informing us of the future. It is understood that Death knows everything; however, the story would have been more developed had Markus Zusak refrained from letting us know the conclusion of the story at the beginning. However, overall, this book is one that truly captures the essence of human nature; beauty, brutality, death, hope, and knowledge. The pillars of human existence are woven into this beautiful story.

on May. 28 2010 at 8:30 am
 The biggest disapointment I expirienced towards th end of the novel was when I found out that Rudy had passed away and just the fact that she didnt get the chance to kiss him while he lived was heart breaking. I think another aspect of the book that allowed me to enjoy is that I am most fascinated my stories of survivors from Nazi Germany. It was such a traumatizing event and you really honor those who were able to overcome it because you know that if you went through that same event then your not so sure you could withstand it. The Author Markus Zusak did a great job by tying together the whole plot and making the reader want for more.

JeremyM said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:27 am
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is by far the most compelling and entertaining novel I have ever read.  Its insightful view of life in Nazi Germany is sure to make an impact on all of its readers.  In addition, this book has a very interesting twist from all other books in the way that the narrator is Death.  With the Death as the narrator, it allows the reader to view the book in a totally different light than would otherwise be impossible if we had a more human narrator such as Liesel.  When I first saw the book in my hands, I thought "oh boy, this is going to take a while to read." However, I am amazed at exactly how fast the book seems to just fly by and how once you reach the end of the book, you are going to be wishing you had more left to read.  This is by far my favorite book.

alidtheboss said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:14 am
The book Thief is a great unique book. I found it really interesting and creative that Death himself was narrating the book. It was amazing how even though all the events were forshadowed in the beginning, i never lost interest and  the novel remained suspenceful till the end. This book teaches us to appreciate books because of the powers they can have and how kind words can overpower those of hate.

Simpsonsilly said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:13 am
I absolutely loved this book. I believe it is for anyone and everyone to read. It's not just interesting and addicting, it is moving and inspirational. It opens your eyes to the world around you and inspires you to have your own opinions. It instills a connection and emotional feelingswhen you read it. I am a teenager and I really felt moved by Rudy and Liesel's relationship. However anyone else could understand the relationship between parents and children and husbands and wives. I don't want to ruin the story but the end left me breathless and content at the same time.  

bookblogger said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:13 am
I thought The Book Thief was a good book. When i first saw it i thought it would be boring but it turned out to be good. I didn't like death being the narrator because he forshadowed  the whole entire book. I really liked Hans he was the true definition of a father. It was a really good book and if you haven't read it you should read it.

bianca said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:13 am
                I thought that “The Book Thief” was a good book because as the review said that it showed Nazi Germany from Death perspective and he didn’t sugar-coat anything and he also didn’t side with either of the “party”. Even though a lot of the scenes seem gloomy, the book still has happy moments in a very harsh time in Germany. The book really touches you because it is from Death, and he sees the most of the horrible things that happen in Nazi Germany.

Valeria said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:11 am
The Book Thief is the best book I have read in my life. Though the ending is very sad, I have to admit that the characters were very mature and the author's figurative language really add a little something special to the book. One thing I didn't like about the book was that Death forshadows way too much, it sorta ruined the book for me. My favorite character has to be Rudy, the boy with "hair the colors of lemon" because he is so fun, I love it when he asks Liesel for a kiss, however he never recieves one. This book is a classic, one that will forever be in my mind.

Jocelyn said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:11 am
The book thief is one of the best books ive read.  I really don’t like how death tells you what happenes before the they do but over all its was amazing . it gives you a new perspective of how people who opposed to the ways of hitler and the nazis lived. I agree with the article when it says “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”. Each character does things that define them as who they are. Having death as the narrator is a good thing but then again it’s a bad thing because it forshadows many things and then it ruin the end for you.

claudia said...
on May. 28 2010 at 8:10 am
I believe that with Death as the Narrator you can see what is really going on in many perspectives. Although i dont like how Death gives away too much information before it actually happens i still like how Death describes what happens. The color imagery in the book is helpful to get a picture of the mood and setting. I also really like how there are stories within the story. I believe this helps you get a picture of how people feel and what they think. The BookThief was a great book and i recommend people to read it.

Brianna said...
on May. 28 2010 at 7:53 am
I personally think that having Death as the author gives us a full viewof what is really going on, which is what makes the story extremely good. Although the events are random at times, I agree that it all comes together at the end. The ending is the type where you can finally connect the dots and you find yourself saying “OHHHH, so that’s what it means”. I love stories like that, they gives a bunch of different events, and let you make your own conclusions, and then in the end it’s the final “BAM!”, where they tell you exactly how its connected and how the events affect the lives of the characters. On the other hand, it forshadows the deaths of Liesel’s loved ones, and I really didn’t enjoy that, because I wanted to find out at the end of the story, what happens. It doesn’t make the ending as good, because you already know whats happening. It's like reading from the beginning then getting bored, and flipping all the way towards the back, just to see what happened. It ruins the surprise.

Maria said...
on May. 28 2010 at 5:55 am
I loved this made me cry.