Finally, I'm to the YA books, but interestingly I re-read this book for my grown up book club. and I wasn't even the person to suggest it! Love, love, love this Printz honor book by Markus Zusak, an Australian author. This book, however, is not an easy read. It is very long, over 500 pages, and it is a Holocaust novel, so the themes are challenging. And the narrator of this book is quite unique as well. The story is narrated by Death. This may make it sound even more ominous, but actually the portrayal of death is something we discussed at book club last night, and Death is actually portrayed as a kind, benevolent, and even thoughtful "being", not the Grim Reaper vision we often associate with death.
Liesel Meminger, who is only nine or ten when this book begins, is sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann as a foster child in Nazi Germany. She arrives there plagued by nightmares and behind in school, and is soothed and aided every night by the very caring Hans Hubermann. Liesel forms an incredible bond with Hans, and without him, I believe she would not have survived the emotional traumas of her young life. Not only did Hans provide her with shelter and emotional support, but he taught her, slowly, painstakingly, how to read, even though he wasn't the best reader himself. And of course a Book Thief would not have been able to survive without knowing how to read.
This, too, is a story of powerful character development, not only of Liesel and Hans, but of her foster mother, of the crazy mayor's wife, of Max who's a Jew hiding in teh basement of the Hubermann's home, of the boy next door (Rudy), of Death, and again, of many more minor characters in the story. But this story also has very strong writing, including amazing descriptions, and very strong plot development. It is an incredibly well rounded piece of literature which tells a similar story to others that have been written in the Holocaust genre, but in a different and very interesting way. Zusak pulls his readers in and pulls them along, uniquely using foreshadowing and interruptions in the text to increase tension and compel readers to continue the story.
I highly recommend this book to mature readers - YAs AND adults who have an interest in Holocaust literature. It's a fascinating book that will not disappoint.