THE BOOK THIEF has stolen the hearts and minds of many readers already. Last week, Marcus Zusack was interviewed by Charlie Gibson on GMA about this incredible book. Of course, no one at GMA thought it important to note that Zusack writes for YA readers, nor that he won a Printz Honor Medal this year for I AM THE MESSENGER. Rather, Charlie Gibson spent the interview time talking about how much he liked the book that was not yet published and how he longed to talk about it with someone who had. (Gee, that is important now that I think about it--he did not want to write a book report; he wanted to talk to another reader. Hmmmmmmmmmmm)
I will join this admiration of THE BOOK THIEF by saying I was totally absorbed by this piece of historical fiction set in Germany during WW II. The narrator is Death, and he speaks of how busy he is being kept by the world right now, especially in Germany by the Nazis. Through Death's narrative, we meet the true protagonist of the story: Leisel, the Book Thief. We watch as Liesel loses her brother and her mother. Eventually, Leisel will be stripped of all the people who mean the most to her in the frenzy of Munich and the Holocaust.
But books will save Leisel. Learning to read, reading in the basements while bombs are falling, and eventually writing her own book will be the one saving grace for Leisel.
The unusual choice of narrator, the unique style of unfolding the story (and not necessarily in a linear way), and the twists and turns of Leisel's life all make for a book that sets new standards in the field, that breaks previous boundaries and perhaps even taboos. There is much to mine in this book. We will need to bring readers to the book as the size (over 500 pp) and the cover (a set of dominoes) will do little to draw readers in on their own unless they already know Zusack's work. Reading aloud sections will also help attract readers.
I hope the PR stirred by Charlie Gibson will bring this book to a legion of adult readers so that they can see the value and significance of YA literature for themselves. I recommend giving this book to some of your pals outside the field without letting them know it is marketed YA and gauge the response.