Nobody needs a review from me of a book that's been around forever, but I was so affected by this one that I feel a need to at least commemorate that much. I read it a few weeks ago, and the characters are still with me. I'm still affected by this book, and I'm sure I will be for a very long time.
I can't believe it was only intended for kids/young adults. I also think - after rereading books I read when I was far too young, that it's almost silly to have younger kids read books with such subtle nuances. Just because you can read something doesn't mean you will fully absorb what the book has to offer -- and that's true at any age.
It says ages 12 and up. Maybe, I guess. I don't really know a lot about kids, so perhaps I'm way off, but I'm finding that a lot of the books I was given in school were just a touch beyond where I was as a human being when I read them. I loved books. I loved reading. I'm thrilled I read The Catcher in the Rye back then since I didn't like it nearly as much as an adult, and I credit Holden Caulfield with saving my young life.
“Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.” -- Holden, Catcher in the Rye
I think that's actually what I should have done with that book! Anyway...
This one is a bit different. I think it has a lot to say about what is often painted as pure evil: Germany during the Holocaust and the subtleties included in a situation like PaPa fighting for the Third Reich. As an American 12 year old, would I know that invasive poverty and love/ wanting to protect your family would conflict with your own moral imperatives? Would I understand the self-sacrifice involved in something like that? I honestly don't know. I suppose if I had a great teacher, maybe I would. On my own, I'm not so sure.
As an adult though, I loved this book. It's a terrific lesson on why nobody should count out any genre or classification: you could miss an awesome book! I tend to avoid super-hyped books if I haven't read them before the hype, so that's probably what put me off this one.
In January 2018 though, I cried SO hard during parts that I just gave in to it at one point and doubled over sobbing in my kitchen with the water running. I went through an entire box of tissues. I loved these characters more than my own family. I want to read it again already.
It's really good at showing the humanity and the ease with which good people can find themselves caught up in a morally perilous situation that is, on the other side, a life-threatening situation. Every character in this book is fully realized and so real, they come off the pages. I will never forget Rudy and PaPa, Max and Liesel, and the relationships between them all especially caught my heart. Liesel's a tough little girl who is so very vulnerable and only feels safe enough to express that at the height of the second world war in a horrendously awful situation, but to her: it's the best her life has ever been. It's really very very tragic. I'm tearing up right now!
To top the whole thing off, we have Death as narrator. I know some people in my book club hated this. I adored him. He was so kind and gentle, so genuine and wise. He was also dangerously seductive, and most of all, he felt like a dear old grandpa to me. While humans may break his heart, he broke mine. I honestly loved this book, and I'm guessing that waiting a decade plus after the hype helped me get to it in an unfettered way.
Oh, PS, I loved the book so much, I decided to rent the movie, and BOY was that a huge let-down. I didn't even cry any tears until the very end, and that may have just been relief that the film was ending. It wasn't horrible, but in comparison to the book: no comparison.