Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.”
The Book Thief is perched on the cusp between grown-up and young-adult fiction, and it is loaded with librarian appeal ... Mr. Zusak's narrator offers constant manipulative asides, as in the clever Lemony Snicket books, although in this case wit is not much of an option. The narrator is Death ... While it is set in Germany during World War II and is not immune to bloodshed, most of this story is figurative: it unfolds as symbolic or metaphorical abstraction. The dominoes lined up on its cover are compared to falling bodies ... a long, winding tale, punctuated by Death's commentary ... It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures.
The narrator of The Book Thief is many things — sardonic, wry, darkly humorous, compassionate — but not especially proud ... book's length, subject matter and approach might give early teen readers pause, but those who can get beyond the rather confusing first pages will find an absorbing and searing narrative ... Death meets the book thief, a 9-year-old girl named Liesel Meminger, when he comes to take her little brother, and she becomes an enduring force in his life, despite his efforts to resist her ... Death recounts all this mostly dispassionately — you can tell he almost hates to be involved. His language is spare but evocative, and he's fond of emphasizing points with bold type and centered pronouncements, just to make sure you get them.
The Australian writer Markus Zusak's brilliant and hugely ambitious new young-adult novel is startling in many ways...a long, achingly sad, intricately structured book about Nazi Germany narrated by Death itself ... this book isn't about Death; it's about death, and so much else ... Liesel is a very well-drawn character (and immensely likable), but many young readers will find the going slow until Max Vandenburg, a 24-year-old Jewish boxer, shows up at the family doorstep ... In The Book Thief, where battling to survive is sometimes an act of weakness, we see fighting in all its complexity ...it's the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, The Book Thief offers us a believable, hard-won hope.