“The Book Thief” is like “Harry Potter and the Holocaust.” Like other books its resembles other, better novels that have been widely popular.
Its roundabout approach to the Holocaust suggests “Everything Is Illuminated” Lite. Its embattled, feisty young heroine has a Potterish appeal as she makes her way through a mystifying adult world.
There is a Vonnegut whimsy to the mordant turns of fate here. And Mr. Zusak’s narrator offers constant manipulative asides, as in the clever Lemony Snicket books, although in this case wit is not much of an option. The narrator is Death.
How can a tale told by Death be mistaken for young-adult storytelling? Easily: because this book’s narrator is sorry for what he has to do.
Markus Zusak the writter said, “To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible,” he confides, on one of many occasions when he campaigns to win readers’ approval. “You see?” he says, about the demise of one of the book’s best-liked characters. “Even death has a heart.”