This book started out very slow. I was tempted to stop reading it a few chapters in because it dragged quite a bit. The opening is confusing and the story is rushed as the narrator, who happens to be death (and how cool is that?), tells the reader the three times he met the book thief. I found it very jumbled and unsure what the author was trying to get from this. Luckily things smoothed out more as death backtracked and went through each event with more detail that he has learned from reading the book thief's journal which he picked up during one event.
Ignoring the opening sequences of the book, I can safely say Markus Zusak is an extraordinary writer. His language and writing style far surpass many authors I have read. His grasp on characters is amazing. Zusak just doesn't write out the standard characters and fill their story, and back story, etc...he breathes life into them and let's them jump off the pages in leaps and bounds. I don't know if I have ever read such realistic characters. Every single character is easily distinguishable from each other...Rosa with her cardboard face, Papa with his silver eyes, Rudy with his yellow hair...no one character is muddled in with another.
The personalization of the characters is also very well done. We have a story set Germany in the the early years of WWII, thus the characters predominantly are German. Some readers might expect to be reading about the cruelness of the military presence that is known to have occurred during those years, and although we do see some of it (the story wouldn't be realistic without it) the majority of the story is based on a poor German family and how even though they are German and expected to hate the Jews and support everything their country tells them to support, they see how everything they are told is wrong. They go so far as to hide a Jew in their basement, even at great personal risk to themselves.
Parts of the story are so heartbreaking I thought I would be unable to continue reading past the tears that flowed from my eyes. The tragedies were often expected, people die during wars, but it didn't stop it from affecting me deeply when I read those sections. I can see now why my son cried while reading this book.
I think my favorite parts of the book are the chapter openings. Each one gives you a little brief peek into what the chapter will cover. It was a very unique way of introducing each chapter.
I really wanted to give this book a perfect 5 rating, but due to the slow and confusing start I just couldn't.