Has anyone read "The Book Thief"? [open spoilers]

The Book Thief is our book club book this month and speaking of bleak, it is one of the saddest, most depressing books I’ve ever read. According to my kindle, I’m 56% of the way through, and I may bail. It takes place in Germany during the rise of Hitler. The story is narrated by Death, if that gives you a clue. It opens with the title character witnessing her toddler brother’s death and being delivered to foster parents and gets bleaker from there. (However, the foster parents are okay, which is an unexpected mercy.) The family winds up hiding a Jewish man in their basement.

I can’t believe this is billed as YA-Young Adult and suggested for readers age 12 and up. I would not want a 12-year old to read this.

It has over 7,000 reviews on amazon, and 5,000+ are 5-star. Is this a case of no one wanting to point out the emperor’s nakedness?

I understand the movie is a little better than the book (whatever “better” means).

If someone has read it all the way through, please tell me what happens in the second half. Thank you.

The movie made me sob aloud.


Read the entire book. It’ll get more depressing, but I found solace in how the main character endures her troubles.

Nein yourself. I have enough sadness in my life at the moment. Not looking for more.

My grandson, who is 12, was assigned the book last year for required reading for school. I read it with him. He gained a lot of valuable insights into how the world is good and evil at the same time, and asked a lot of the right questions. It isn’t as bleak as Anne Frank’s Diary by any means.

I just went back to my book journal to check out my reaction upon first read – I LOVED this book, I really thought it was terrific. It was also got a lot of love it or hate it reactions from my book circle folks, some people who generally have tastes very similar to mine HATED it.

Why I love it - I think it’s so well written, I like that Liesel isn’t a terribly likeable protagonist, yet over the course of the book I ended up becoming extremely empathetic toward her. I was impressed with the narrative device of having Death as a character, and one that manages to be funny without taking away from the horror of what is going on. I ugly-cried through the entire last 1/3, for sure, but I thought the book came by that honestly. It is about the Holocaust. If it had gone for uplifting, it would have seemed trite and manipulative. I have seen it criticized for being sentimental, which I can see but don’t completely agree with. It’s sad because it’s sad; I did not find it to be mawkish.

Should it be YA - I’m not even sure why this was marketed as YA, other than the fact that I think kids 12 and up would be fine reading it – hey, we read The Diary of Anne Frank in 8th grade, and were shown Shoah and Nuit Et Brouillard in high school. My biggest issue with this trending to YA is that I think having a more sophisticated context for the Holocaust and WWII shores up a lot of emotional impact of this novel. Probably the biggest “fit” for the YA category is the ongoing presentation of people managing to find small ways to take stands, so you can see that being a good essay question for 8th graders. I’m not saying it takes it out of the running for mainstream (adult) fiction, but it’s a very, very entrenched theme in YA these days.

I have not seen the movie.

I hate it when people won’t spoil things when I ask them to, so here is a very basic gist of where the book ends up – with the caveat that I read this when it first came out and the details aren’t very fresh in my mind.

Liesel survives, and it’s briefly mentioned she goes on to have emigrate out of Germany and have a more normal life. There’s very little detail, basically the book just ends with a mention that she goes on.

Max does end up in the camps, but survives and manages to find Liesel after the war.

Rudy does NOT survive, and it is awful and I thought I was going to choke to death on my own snot while reading, yet it was one of those extremely satisfying fiction-inspired cry fests, for me at least. OMG.

The audiobook was extremely well done. Allen Corduner did a wonderful job reading it. I have to be cautious about WWII books and movies due to my family history, but I was glad I listened to this (though I will be skipping the movie).

You can listen to a sample at the BPL site.

Delphica, thanks for the spoiler. :slight_smile: Re the one who died, that was foreshadowed over and over.

You said: “My biggest issue with this trending to YA is that I think having a more sophisticated context for the Holocaust and WWII shores up a lot of emotional impact of this novel.”

That was my main quibble about suggesting it for 12-year olds. They don’t have a Big Historical Picture to plug this into.

Also, I don’t think one can compare the reading experiences between this and The Diary of Anne Frank. For one thing, the latter was actually written BY a young girl. It’s not a bleak book, and the horror came after the book, not during it.

The Book Thief is my stepdaughter’s favorite book. Her class read in in the 8th. grade, so I assumed it was a dressed up childeren’s book. We saw the movie, and when she mentioned that the book was better, I asked if I could read her copy. This ain’t no childeren’s “see spot run” book.
Thelma Lou, don’t quit on the book, especially if you’re halfway through. The movie sanitized much of the Nazi brutality, and also

What becomes of Max

Yes, it’s bleak.

I gave The Book Thief to my Mom as a gift years ago. She read it and didn’t like it at all.
Then just a few weeks ago she told me that, on a whim, she had read the book a second time - and this time it just clicked and she loved it.

I didn’t even know there was a film - apparently it starts in Germany in about six weeks. I will have to watch the original version though, no way I’m missing Roger Allam as Death!

Hated it…absolutely hated it and I can’t really remember why. Perhaps I should revisit it and take into consideration that it is a “YA” novel.

A friend gave it to me saying that it was the book she was giving to all her friends for the year.

Just did not see the appeal and I don’t mind dark, dreary and depressing. I just didn’t get anything out of this one.

I found it on our library used book fundraiser table one year, and grabbed it just because of the irony of buying a book titled “book thief” from the library. Had no idea what it was going to be about, and wound up utterly absorbed and loved it.