I fell in love with Mr. Zusak's style last spring (when the trees were in bloom), when I read my first novel by him, The Book Thief.
I can't even begin to describe this novel's influence over me and my overall idea of what constitutes "young adult" literature. His writing style disabled me from continuing reading during a few delicious moments because I could hardly believe what he was accomplishing with black and white script. His metaphors were utterly mind-blowing, and his descriptions were nothing short of extraordinary and deeply insightful. There were a few pages that I wanted so badly to crawl into his head to try to get a glimpse of his view of this world we live in.
The plot alone would set this book apart from the thousands of other WWII era YA novels, both in character choice and setting. Not to be insensitive to this category, but many of the novels start to blend together. Not this one. Written from the view point of Death, who is imbued with human emotion and unfailing compassion, this story progresses slowly when looking at the actual time span. Yet, the richness and potency of each seemingly insignificant moment in the young girl's (main character) life pulls the reader along hypnotically.
Don't be misled by this first post, I am an avid reader. This book still took me by surprise, and I was glad to be shocked by the quality and originality this author displayed with every one of the 300-400 pages.
He joined the ranks of my current favorite writing voices, Kate DiCamillo and Neil Gaiman.
HOWEVER, I just finished I Am The Messenger, another Zusak creation, and found it ordinary in comparison to the previous. I believe it was one of his earlier works, and there are definitely moments of his unique writing flavor, but they are much more rare. Whereas The Book Thief is a collection of intriguing figurative moments, I found I Am The Messenger to drag on a bit.
Both novels are highly awarded and reviewed, and I Am The Messenger is used in classrooms around the country.
On its own, I would have found this novel to be interesting and unique. Interesting plot, resolved ending, good writing style. Period. Maybe even almost extraordinary. But it sadly pales in comparison to The Book Thief, which I would label Zusak's masterpiece thus far. If you haven't read either, go to the library.
I could write a thesis on The Book Thief and still barely touch the depth of Zusak's artistry. Perhaps I'll try eventually. This novel just asks to be poured over, dissected, pinned, and studied.
Currently reading The Book of Three, the first of The Chronicles of Prydain. Slow start on that one, but it's highly recommended.
Also, I am reading V for Vendetta (Graphic novel, and not necessarily YAL) and listening to The Golden Compass on audio book, narrated by Phillip Pullman himself. Excellent car entertainment. Highly recommend for car trips-but only if you've already read the novel.