I read quite a few reviews (of the book, not the movie), and most of them were negative. Well I suppose it would be cliché to write 120% positive reviews about a book that already has very high ratings. But hype does that to people: it makes them expect so much, and almost inevitably, they are disappointed. I try not to be swayed. A few comments I read and my response to them: [NOTE: these are greatly paraphrased.]
1. They diluted the ordeal of Nazi Germany and made it about some silly girl’s life.
My response: Dude, it’s a deep, Young Adult book that’s NOT centered around a teenage girl whose life begins to revolve around her boyfriend. What do you want children to read? Hopeless tales of suicide and murder? It’s YA fiction, not a history textbook.
2. I didn’t like any of the characters; they had no personality.
My response: rather unfortunate you see it that way. Rudy got spunk! Rosa got lip! Hans got heart! Liesel got all of the above. I’m sorry, were you searching for a Lord Voldemort? Or an appearance by Hitler himself?
3. The progression of time was so back-and-forth; I got confused.
My response: I’m very glad you did. Getting confused is good for the soul. You may first get confused about things you’re not used to. Heck, I got confused! But I loved it, because the chronology was unique and different. I’m all about nonconformity (to the most sensible degree, of course). And it wasn’t incomprehensible. If anything, it added to the mystery and heightened my curiousity. As Death said, even when you know the end, it’s the progression of events that makes the story.
So now, a few of my own thoughts:
Marcus Zusak is a good writer. I won’t lie and say that the book changed my life and go all OMG fangirl — but it was a very good read. Given that it was narrated from the perspective of Death — who is, by the way, a very melancholically amusing fellow — the narration was first and third person at the same time, and unique.
Besides, I learnt a dictionary-full of new words, AND how to swear in German.
I got attached to the characters, but I didn’t cry at anything. I cry more often from beauty and happiness than sadness, anyway —at least when it comes to fiction. My favourite was Rudy, just for his persistently volatile will and total boyishness. Yet, I feel like every character was as important as the others.
The thing about the plot is: it is winding in nature, even more so with the inconsistent chronology, and if you’re reading to look for rising action and a climax, you won’t find it. I suppose a lot of people would have a problem with this after being so used to so many conventionally-plotted books.
As for the subject matter, it’s philosophical and historically-based, unlike many modern YA books. It’s a book that isn’t just for teen-flick lovers, but for lovers of reading. Just don’t expect it to be more than it is.