The Book Thief reminded me of long-lost, beloved books from my childhood. If you need any more of a recommendation than that, you are obviously not my people, but I will continue. We meet Liesel (the titular character) through the eyes of a personified Death, who follows her escapades closely through its own routine of retrieving the souls of the recently deceased (of which there are many, as Liesel is living in Germany during the Third Reich). First of all, I love it when an author makes good use of personification. I’m drawn to this kind of characterization. Having Death as a narrator makes for some interesting storytelling, as Death is able to see backwards and forwards in any narrative. We get glimpses of each character’s future, while still having to follow along to see how each of those futures is achieved. I had to fight the inclination to look up spoilers along the way (I haven’t seen the movie yet either), as I wanted to be there, in the moment, as each of these lives unfolded. And when each transitional moment hit, it was beautiful.
Afterwards, while reading reviews, I was surprised to learn that the book was considered YA. It doesn’t read like a YA novel to me. It is about young people (Liesel is 9 at the beginning of the book), but its language and concerns and approach vary widely from what I consider typically YA. I think this book can speak to anyone. One quibble I have (and it’s not a big one) is the use of German profanity while still using the English translation almost immediately afterward. I don’t mind multilingual books, but that gave me a strong whiff of when movies set in non-English speaking countries have their characters speak heavily accented English. I don’t care for that. Maybe you won’t mind it. Obviously, it didn’t turn me off the book entirely. I love The Book Thief, and wholeheartedly recommend it.