Ryan Chartrand

Death, despair and Hitler ripped through Europe in World War II. We have all heard the story from every vantage point we thought possible – the Jewish side, the Nazi side and those it touched that fell into neither category. However, the side of Death is not one we hear often.

The Grim Reaper obviously must have been busy during the Holocaust, but how often do we think about what it would have been like to have that job? Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” explores the life of one German girl through the storytelling of Death. Now that’s a story Hollywood doesn’t go near.

It is a story about a German girl, Liesel, who cannot help but swipe books from anywhere possible. She learns to read them at night with her foster father. Due to an event in his past, the family takes in and hides a Jewish man, Max. Throughout the whole book, Death tells the story and adds his own narration and editorial remarks along the way.

Zusak builds the characters in a way that makes the reader feel for them. Liesel is this girl that keeps living through fascinating events, some on her own accord and some she cannot prevent. Her foster mother is a loud, mean lady that nobody likes, but she has a secret, more intimate side that her family sees. In turn, the reader sees this side and even respects her.

Then there is Max. He is running from the Nazis and the only person he can rely on is a man that was his father’s best friend in the army years before. Throughout the story, things happen to him that keep the reader waiting. There is this constant need to know how he’s doing and know that he’s alive.

It is even easy to know Death. The idea is one most people fear every day of their lives, but by the end, it is easy to be empathetic and really understand that the job of the Grim Reaper is one that not even he wants. The most interesting thing to look for is the color in the sky every time he takes a life from earth. And yes, he will note it every single time.

Not only is the character development unbelievable, but the writing style is also excellent. The whole story just flows. There are no hiccups or bumps in the road where Zusak has confused the reader. It is just there, laid out for everyone to read. The story is broken up by little chapters that make it easy to keep reading. The “I’ll just read one more chapter” mentality leads the reader to the end much more quickly than imagined.

“The Book Thief” is the new definition for thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. The terms may be over-used in general, but they are the best ways to describe the tale. Yes, most everyone believes that time was a horrible one, but there is no way to understand how it felt to be involved.

However, if there is one book to get us one step closer, it is this one. At the end, you find yourself in the middle of it all, and when it’s over, you don’t really know how or when you got there, but feel one step closer to understanding the horror that occurred to Liesel and those around her.

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