Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Author: Markus Zusak
Title:  The Book Thief
Publication Info:   [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2006.
ISBN: 9780739348345


This novel balances the line between heartwarming and heartbreaking, inevitably falling to the later, but never without giving up hope.  Boldly, Zusak has the book narrated by Death who proves to be sympathetic to humanity and tired of the work he’s given in the Second World War.  Central to the novel is Liesel, a German girl taken in by foster parents when her father is taken away for being a Communist.  Set in a fictional suburb of Munich near Dachau, the novel details day-to-day life in a way that’s familiar to a coming of age tale but also has the overlooming presences of things like the Hitler Youth and nights spent in air raid shelters.  Liesel finds comfort in books, and as the title suggests, purloins some books earning her nickname.  Her life is also changed when her foster parents the Hubbermanns (already at odds with the Nazi party) repay a promise by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement.  Zusak focuses on relationships, test of character, and hope while not dodging the tragedy and atrocity in their midst.  It sounds cheesy to describe it but it really is a wonderful, well-written novel.

Favorite Passages:

“They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thin, incessantly: ‘Get it done, get it done.’ So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.”

Rating: ****

Recommended BooksSkeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies, and Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Book Review: Slam by Nick Hornby

Popular English author Nick Hornby enters the Young Adult Book market for the first time with Slam (2007). To be honest, with the exception of a teenage narrator, this book isn’t too different from Hornby’s other novels (which is a good thing). I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the book at the ALA Annual Conference in June so I’ve been looking forward to this book for quite some time.

The story is about 16-year old Sam who accidentally impregnates his girlfriend Alicia. At first he wants to run away (and does, spending a humorous overnight in Hastings) but turns instead for advice to his poster of skateboard star Tony Hawk. Through his magical powers, TH whizzes Sam to the future on three different occasions to show that his life will not be as bleak as it appears, albeit still difficult.

The book is very touching, honest, and funny approach to an all too common problem of teen pregnancy. It focuses on the life-changing decisions that must be made and the resilience of human beings to adapt to changes. This was a book worth waiting for and I recommend it for Young Adults of all ages.