I couldn't connect with The Book Thief the way I was supposed to, the way everyone else has. It has some great moments, especially toward the end. I loved the way Liesel saw the world and I certainly felt her emotions coming through the page. Also, I loved the character of Rudy. For me, the crux of the book was nestled in that kiss between Liesel and Rudy. The book swung back and forth on the hinge that was that eventual kiss. I loved it. And the language: sure, sometimes it was saturated with a bit too much effort on the author's part, but largely it was beautiful and very poetic. So I sort of liked this book, and wished I could've given it more than three stars, but it just didn't move me in a way that felt natural.
Largely, I think this was the fault of Death. Writing from the perspective of “Death” is something I believe only a very talented and experienced author can pull off without sounding like a first-year MFA student hoping to impress his classmates. An author who wants to write from such a unique vantage point needs to write flawlessly in a voice that doesn't fall back too often on obvious human thoughts and emotion. It can be done, but it's something that should be left to the masters. Zusak does an admirable job, but not well enough that the voice was not an almost constant question of validity. Death sounds more like a poetic overgrown child than something outside of our grasp. The entity that carries away thousands of dead a day snatches away the “bad guys” without a care, but stops to smell the roses and cries when the “good guys” die. Death reads books, and walks, and breathes, believes in luck and God. Death was all too familiar. In fact, I found Liesel with her unique perspective and experience to be more mysterious, yet believable than Death. In my opinion, she would've made a more impressive and convincing narrator. With a different narrator, I might have loved this book, but Death and I just weren't meant to be.