Earlier this month, I decided it was time to read The Book Thief. I’ve seen so many good reviews about The Book Thief, and I’ve seen it pop up on so many Top Ten Tuesdays that I finally starting reading it…only to not be able to get through it. It’s rare for me to not finish a book, and even rarer for me to talk about the books I don’t finish. But The Book Thief is such a big book in YA that I felt like I really needed to talk about why I had to not finish it.
I think I’d like to start off by saying that I got to page 155 in the Nook edition of the book. I know numbering can be a little weird depending on what edition you’re reading, but the best I can tell, I got about a third of the way through.
I think the biggest problem for me is that I went in with such high expectations of The Book Thief that it was likely not going to live up to. It definitely suffered from me really hyping it up. I’ve seen so many raves that I wanted to love it. And, of course, be able to finish it.
Here’s what it really comes down to. The Book Thief is just not the book for me. It definitely seems like it would be something I would like. In fact, let’s start off with what The Book Thief is about, since that is one of the reasons why I didn’t finish it.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.”
So, I honestly thought that books would have a much bigger role than they really did. Granted, I really didn’t look at the summary before I started reading. And all I knew was that it was set during World War Two. Keeping in mind I got through a third of the book before giving up, I really felt like books were much more important in the summary than they were in the part I read. I have no problem admitting that I put it down, and that book thievery played a bigger role later on in the book. But I really didn’t get a sense of a love affair with books.
Another thing that didn’t work for me was Death, who narrated the book. It’s definitely different and unique, but not a different and unique that worked for me. It felt like I was passively observing what was going on, instead of actively participating. And because I felt like I was casually observing, I felt very disconnected from what was going on…and something about it seemed a little clinical to me.
Death as a narrator wasn’t completely horrible, but I felt like he went off on some random tangents that had nothing to do with the story, and the random bolded headlines and lists throughout the novel broke up the flow of the novel for me. It was something I found really distracting.
When I was deciding whether or not I should DNF The Book Thief, I considered whether it was a book that I wasn’t reading at the right time. Because sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I’m totally reading it at the wrong time, and need to read it when I’m in the right frame of mind for it. And The Book Thief was not one of those books. I usually know when that happens- I don’t know how, but I just do.
And I also considered whether I was reading in the right format: sometimes, print books or e-books don’t work for me, but I’ll totally listen to something on audio book. However, The Book Thief was also not one of those books.
What I came to realize was that I was dreading having to read it and didn’t want to pick it up. I was also forcing myself to read something I wasn’t into because seemingly everyone under the sun seems to love this book. That was really when I knew I had to not finish it. Yes, everyone seems to love it, and that’s okay, because I don’t have to love something just because everyone else does, you know?
I will say that there are a couple things I appreciate about The Book Thief.
I really like that it’s actually SET IN GERMANY. I don’t read much historical fiction set during World War 2, but I feel like something set in Germany, about a German girl is rare. Then again, I’m not too familiar with that part of historical fiction so I could be wrong. I like that it focuses on what life was like in Germany during that time.
Overall, I did like the idea of Death narrating the novel- and especially narrating something during World War 2. While I didn’t like it in this case, it’s an interesting way to narrate the novel.
While it didn’t resonate with me at all, I’d definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.