Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Rating: 1.3.4 (PG-13)
Recommended audience: Mature teen to adult
Category: Historical, considered YA fiction
Review: 4.5/5

When I was about a third of the way through The Book Thief, I was enjoying the book but wasn't sure what all the hype was about. At the end, I understood why so many people liked it but I wasn't sure how I felt about it. It's now been a few weeks since I finished it and I'm finally going to try to write a review. This is the kind of book that I didn't love while I was reading it but looking back on it now, I will say that it is very good. The setting is Nazi Germany and the protagonist is Leisel, a young girl trying to make sense of the turmoil all around her. The thing that really makes the story unique is that the narrator is Death. That took a while to get used to and I felt like it didn't always "work" (there were some inconsistencies or problems with the point of view) but it added some interesting touches. There was quite a bit of profanity (some blasphemous) but it never got into any really harsh swear words, so while the profanity put me off, I would still recommend this book to many people I know (with a strong profanity disclaimer). I'm still waffling between a 4 and a 4.5 star review, but I'll go ahead and stick with the 4.5 because it did touch me, I came to really care about the characters, and whenever I think about it I remember some of the emotions I felt as I read it.

11 comments:

Rebecca Reid said...

Interesting that the profanity wasn't an issue so much for you. I love this novel, but I hated the profanity level. I listened to the audiobook, and maybe the profanity was more "memorable" because I heard it so much and it's harder to "ignore" something when you hear it. I also hated how the author defined the German curse words for the reader. Why was that necessary?

I really didn't think it was a children's novel (and not just for the profanity) and was surprised to find that it had won awards under the category "children's literature." What do you think? Was this a "kid's book" in your mind?

Kim said...

I know, I'm inconsistent, aren't I? Honestly, profanity doesn't bother me that much unless it's the f-word. For some reason, that just shocks my system and I really don't like it. The profanity in this book was pretty bad and as I think about it, maybe I glossed over it in my review too much. I might have to go back and change it a little. :)

As for it being a children's book, I completely agree with you. It is definitely not a children's book and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone younger than 14 (even then I'm not sure I would want my own kids to read it :) ). It is considered Young Adult fiction and is found in the YA section of the library. I'm afraid you and I would both be shocked at some of the content we would find in the YA section. I don't know that for a fact, because I haven't come across any personally, but I've gotten the impression that you have to be careful. I think it's a shame, but it's not that surprising if you look at society today.

Whenever the protagonist is a child or teenager, they--whoever it is who decides these things-- seem to classify it as a juvenile or young adult book and that isn't always appropriate. The only way I know to combat that situation is to get information out there by blogging, so people can make informed decisions about the books they are reading and letting their children read.

Chain Reader said...

It does take a while to get into the rhythm of this book, but when I did I loved it and found it very moving. I thought the German profanity parts were rather amusing, but maybe because I was listening to the book in the beginning, and it reminded me of my husband's Czech grandmother! It's definitely a story that you don't soon forget.

Rebecca Reid said...

Well, I wouldn't put ages to things. And I personally don't like the idea of content rating novels (or even rating movies like that) because content ratings are always subjective.

A mature teen who can handle a novel about death and war could handle it and I wouldn't hesitate to encourage my teen or even pre-teen to read any adult book if they are mature enough to deal with the issues and to not mindlessly repeat any language they hear. I would just want to know what they are reading so I could discuss the language aspect. I would not primarily classify it for children.

Rebecca Reid said...

I want to add that I think what you're doing on your blog is great....I'm not saying it's not. Just that ratings in general don't really work for me.

Ginger said...

I enjoyed reading this book. It is VERY suspenseful and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through this book! This is a must read for anyone who likes Suspense/Thriller books. I hope to see many more books to come from this author!!

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Stephanie said...

This is on my to-read list, if and when my library ever gets it in! I'll put it on hold after I finish my next batch of books. I'm interested that the author translates the German swear words, lol. Reminds me of the time when the dh and I were visiting his family in Belgium. His cousin's boyfriend swore in Flemish, which sounded enough like the German that we cracked up, and dh said, "No translation needed, we got THAT!" LOL Languages fascinate me. This sounds like an interesting book, now I remember why it went on my to-read list. :)

Jeanette said...

Thanks for the review. This is yet another book that seems to be perpetually on my TBR list.
I left a little something for you on my blog today. :-)

KT said...

I realize it probably doesn't matter, but I thought I would throw in that this book was originally published in Australia (where the author lives) as an adult book. I think editors (or whoever) in America tend to always classify any book with a young protagonist as YA.

Anyway. I love this book too! Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

I liked this book even with all the profanity.

My boss and I were discussing this book and he made the point that alot of Germans felt as Papa did about the Nazis. But if they didnt join the "party" they would be shunned. I thought that was interesting because it is very easy to judge all Germans during WWII.
But I got to say it took a while to get into the rythm of this book and I almost gave up. Glad I stuck it out because I loved Rudy.

Laura H

Anonymous said...

Ick. That was a depressing book.