In Nazi Germany, death was an inevitability for millions of people. Jews were being executed at concentration camps, thousands died in battle, and ordinary citizens were suffering from the effects of the war. But there was one little girl who stood out to Death: a little girl known as the Book Thief. Death first encounters Liesel Meminger at her brother’s graveside, where she steals a book that falls from the pocket of one of the gravediggers (a book appropriately titled The Gravedigger’s Handbook). Following her brother’s burial, Liesel is sent to live with a foster family because her mother can no longer care for her. With this foster family, Liesel finds herself happy, but the problems of wartime Germany affect her new family and her life. Over time, she steals a few more books, and it is these thefts that earn her the nickname given to her by Death.
This was a beautifully written story about the effects of war on non-Jewish Germans who didn’t necessarily support Hitler, but still took pride in being German, and feared the attacks of the Allies on their homes. Liesel, her best friend Rudy, and her foster family (including Jew-in-hiding Max) were all charming characters that valued each other above all else. Certainly there were villains: Hitler, of course, as well as a member of the gang Rudy and Liesel join. But at the same time, this isn’t really a story of heroes and villains; it’s a story about people doing their best to survive a horrific war.
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, and encourage those who shy away from young adult literature to look past the YA label on this book. It definitely defies that particular categorization. I’d also recommend this to anyone looking for an engaging story.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Qualifying Challenges: 100 Books, Countdown Challenge, Spring Reading Thing, YA Challenge, 999 Challenge
999 Category: Young Adult