Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#80: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

New York: Knopf, 2006. 506 pages

The Book Thief was given to me by a colleague. It is written for a high school audience, and I blew through it in about two days. It left me wondering several things:

1. Where the hell was this book when I was in high school? I would have read this cover to cover 57 times.

2. Don't like Slaughterhouse Five? Then give this one a wide berth. If you like Vonnegut, you will like this. The Book Thief centers on a period in the life of a young German girl, sent to Munich to live with foster parents during World War Two. The narrator, in an incredibly interesting twist, is Death. The Grim Reaper. Who? THE GRIM REAPER.  Some of this book is just downright hysterical, mixed with horror, sadness, disbelief. In other words, what good fiction should be. Along the way, the girl meets several people. all of whom will stay with you one way or another.

3. It is really NICE to see a book for high school readers that does not involve vampires, wizards, Greek Mythology and other assorted Bull Shit. This book is about, of all things, a teenager who likes to read. This is about the power of books to allow the escape from real monsters, not about the power of escapism from the awful pit of daily drudgery. Whining teens? Toss 'em this, and then say that in Caesar's day, children like them were left to die on windswept crags.

4. Going more on that theme, when I was younger I was reading Zelazny, know, honest to God high quality fantasy and science fiction. This book is excellent, with a great story that is compellingly written. Much more so than all but the last Potter books, and more than any of those abysmal Percy Jackson tomes. What happened to good authors? I know they are out there, and I do not read a lot of fiction. Partly because I was turned off from it over the last 10 years. Only Vonnegut or Isabel Allende could have turned out  book like this. Have a kid that likes Percy Jackson? Throw Jack of Shadows or Changeling at them for a real book.

5. Anyway, The Book Thief is about the love of reading. How could you argue with that?

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