by Markus Zusak
Alfred A. Knopf, 2005
This amazing human story is most unconventionally written. The story is narrated by Death, who turns conventional thinking upside down. We mostly think that humans are haunted by – and fear – death. In The Book Thief we find rather that Death is haunted by humans, by their capacity both for selfless good and for unspeakable evil. Everyone dies, Death tells us, but he finds it troubling that his business is bolstered so disproportionately by the atrocities that evil human beings wreak upon other human beings. What better backdrop for Death to make this point than Nazi Germany during World War II?
I would add two personal observations: First, The Book Thief has been inexplicably classified as “juvenile fiction.” I would think “parental guidance suggested” is more appropriate, because the book might be quite disturbing for juveniles below a certain level of emotional maturity. Second (and related to the first point), there is much in The Book Thief for adults to ponder and contemplate; be sure to have a box of Kleenex close at hand.