Escape Into Fiction: The Book Thief

Considering the movie for “The Book Thief” by Markus Zuzak is now out, I think it’s about time I do a review on the book.  If you’ve read it and/or watched the movie, be sure to comment below and let me know what you think!

First off, let me just say that I enjoyed the book.  It has such a different, captivating feel to it; it’s enchanting, even if the most important parts are relatively small, day-to-day details.  Perhaps that is why it is so enchanting – these day-to-day details are so played down in modern books and movies that we forget to look at them as miracles and blessings.  It took me two weeks to read this book, which, I think, is a pretty good time frame.  The book is long (about 530 pages, I think), but it didn’t feel long while I was reading it.  I’ll start off talking about what I liked about the book.

–It’s the book lover’s book lover’s book.  Seriously.  All throughout it is laced the importance of words, books, stories, and language.  After reading the book, I will never be able to look at books the same way again.  Honestly, I already loved books (obviously, since I’m an author), but…there’s just something so convincing in how this book is written.  I can’t imagine anyone coming away from it unchanged.  As Max Vandenburg says in the movie, “Words are life, Liesel.”

–The characters are incredible.  Every character in this book is so well developed, it was as if I was there with them.  For me, no matter how wonderful or suspenseful the plot is, a book is bland without character development.  Every character in this book has their own quirks, voice, habits, interests, passions, weaknesses, mistakes, and talents.  I love all the characters, though my favorites are Max, Hans, and Rosa. (Liesel’s Jewish friend, and foster parents.)


–Metaphors.  The way this book is written is different than anything I have ever read before.  It is, perhaps, the best example I have ever seen of “showing not telling.”  The metaphors are extravagant stretches, yet perfect at the same time.  When I began reading the book, I was surprised by the metaphors, and it took me a while to get used to it.  However, once I did, it was such a joy.  This book is filled to the brim with sparkling gems of words.

“Sky was the color of Jews,” for example.

–The narrator.  “The Book Thief” is narrated by Death.  It’s kind of funny, whenever I first mention that aspect of it, people look appalled and seem to automatically cast judgment that it must be a “bad” book.  I think that’s because death is so often viewed in a negative light.  However, this book changes that.  Death is a humorous, witty, ironic character.  As he states, “No matter how hard you try, you will, without any doubt, meet me eventually”; “Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die”, “It kills me sometimes, how people die”; “I am haunted by humans.”  I really enjoyed reading this book from the view point of Death…as with everything else in the story, it was different, yet enchanting.  Unfortunately, the movie did not have Death in it near as much as the book, but I think they still did a fairly good job.

Now, on to what I didn’t like about the book.

–The foul language.  This is the biggest offender, and this would be the reason why I’d be hesitant to recommend it to other people.  See, I wasn’t warned about the language, so it definitely caught me off guard.  I was eventually able to get to the point where I could skim over the profanity, but it still took the joy out of the rest of the book.  See, if it was “just” average foul words, it might not have bothered me so much.  However, I’m a Christian, and there was a lot of blasphemy in this book.  A LOT.  It was all taken so lightly – even the children cursed and blasphemed.  That is what bothered me.  As I said earlier, this book is full of sparkling gems; however, it is stained by the blood of profanity.

–Some of the descriptions.  There are some scenes in this book which are much more vivid than I would like, whether referring to the war, violence, human bodies, etc.  I understand that one of the main elements of this book is to portray it exactly as life is: a lot of the time, gritty, embarrassing, and dark.  That’s one of the reasons why it is so popular; it does not water down reality – which is refreshing considering that the majority of books do.  It does not sugarcoat life, which is in a way, good because it does not produce the false expectations created by so many books and movies today.  However, I could have done with a few less disturbing graphics and descriptions.

That was about all I disliked of the book.  However, those are big points with me – or rather, the foul language is a big point with me.  Whenever I think of “The Book Thief,” two main things always stick out to me: beauty, and blasphemy.  This book does have fabulous aspects to it – it is an incredibly endearing story…so much to the point that I sincerely wish the author hadn’t written in so much profanity.  However, because he did, I cannot recommend the book.  If it didn’t have the blasphemy and profanity, this book could very well be my new favorite.  Some people make excuses, saying, “It’s German profanity; it’s not bad.”  Um, well, when the author explains what each German curse word means, that kind of defeats the purpose.  Not only that, but all the blasphemy is in plain English.

Now, I CAN recommend the movie.  I have to say, I think the movie was fantastic, and I liked it more than the book – for the simple reasons that it REALLY toned down the profanity (it still has German curse words, but the audience is not told what the words mean, so they wouldn’t really know to what extent of a curse it is), and they took out the vivid descriptions.  I was able to breathe a sigh of relief after watching the movie, and without any hesitation declare that I loved it.  I will definitely be purchasing a copy when it comes out on DVD.

What did you think of the book?  Of the movie?  Be sure to comment below and let me know!  Click here to watch the trailer of the movie!


Tialla Rising is a homeschool graduate and a published author. She lives in the mountains of Arizona with her amazing husband, where she enjoys reading, Netflix, writing, and more! Visit her website at

Posted in Escape into Fiction, Homeschool High School, Homeschooling, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to Escape Into Fiction: The Book Thief

  1. learnerwithapassion says:

    I absolutely love this book and when finished the last line, literally didn’t move for a while, just sitting there in utter disbelief at how well a book could be written. It is by far my favorite book, and I feel like it’s one of the rare books where you could read any paragraph in the entire thing, and it would still make you sigh from the originality. I disagree with you on what you said about the foul language in one sense. While yes, I wouldn’t use it myself, I think it put a realistic touch on the characters, especially Rosa. But I definitely agree with you that the characters were ABSOLUTELY amazing. Ridiculously good. And the movie was exceptional as well. The casting was so well done, and it stayed so true to original story. 🙂 Overall, I loved both the book and the movie so much, and Markus Zusak truly inspires me. 🙂

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