Before I begin you should know that I cannot now or ever do this book justice. Now, the bare bones of the plot...
The Book Thief is named for the lead character, Liesel, who earns this title for herself when she first encounters the narrator, Death. On a train whisking her away to a new life somewhere else in Nazi Germany, her little brother dies suddenly and must be buried by the snowy tracks in a hurry. "Somewhere in all the snow, she could see her broken heart, in two pieces. Each half was glowing, and beating under all that white." It is here that she snatches up a mislaid copy of The Grave Digger's Handbook, which marks both the traumatic moment and sets the stage for what will be an illustrious career in thievery. Not only does she lose a brother at this age, but her mother has sent her off to live with foster parents as she has Communist ties and living with her is no longer safe.
A brand new world full of changing tides and unfamiliarties opens wide to envelop Liesel whose nights are riddled with nightmares from that day forward. But her foster father is always there when she wakes from her bad dreams, waiting for her with smiling silver eyes and ready to defy his wife to play the girl a comforting tune on the accordion in the wee hours. And down the street lives a boy with lemon-colored hair, Rudy, who will soon become her adventure-seeking best friend. He's no stranger to being the odd one out after his infamous "Jesse Owens incident" when he smeared his face with charcoal and ran laps around the local track with a crowd of gaping onlookers. Together they challenge their war torn world with their rebellious natures. But there's one thing Liesel can't tell Rudy. A secret. A promise kept by her foster father. There's a Jew in her basement. Liesel's foster parents don't align with the Nazi party and despite everything the Hitler Youth tries to teach her, this young Jewish man in the basement becomes a part of their family. But when Max becomes deathly ill in the frozen environs of the basement, things begin to change for them even more.
The story is a love affair with words, with souls, and innocent requests for kisses from the boy next door. It's also a tale of nightmares strung through real lives. Is it too cheesy to say that The Book Thief stole my heart? Well, I don't care, because it did! I just wanted to crawl inside these pages and rejoice and grieve with the characters I came to love so much. Still do. I want to be Liesel, I want to be 13 so I can tell Rudy I love him and it won't be awkward (I LOVE YOU, RUDY!!!!!), I want to write with Max under the stairs, brandish wooden spoons with Rosa, and listen to Hans play the accordion. It's so artfully crafted and just... just... THE FEELINGS!!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure I've ever had so many feelings and, as you know, that is saying something. Death will spoil a few plot lines for you, but it won't prepare your heart for what's to come. This book left me in inconsolable tears. In-con-solable! Best book I've read all year and one of the best I've read period. These characters just did things to me. Like this weekend, I met a Rudy and almost started crying... again! And maybe I want to name my daughter Liesel. I'm telling you... Wow. The Book Thief for all the awards! Promise me you'll read it. Promise me now!