I can tell you the exact moment, at least in my mind, that Clare and I became best friends. We were sophomores in high school. I had read (and sobbed) my way through Markus Zusak’s beautiful, haunting, and lyrical The Book Thief. It was a book that was just begging to be discussed, and I desperately needed to talk to someone about the prose, the characters, the themes. And so I begged Clare to read the book. And she did. And then she called me, sobbing.
In that moment, I realized that I had found someone who feels books and stories as deeply as I do. And I realized that A.) Clare is a wonderful human being and an awesome friend, and B.) I really wanted to read every Markus Zusak book I could get my hands on.
The Book Thief, for me, is the book equivalent of a soul mate. It is a book that has stayed with me, and has changed the way that I view the world. And, as I said in a recent blog post, Markus Zusak has changed and shaped the way that I write now.
One thing that I have grown to love about Markus Zusak is his versatility. He can write a gorgeous and ambitious work like The Book Thief, which takes place in Nazi Germany and is narrated by the personification of Death.
But he can also write books like I Am the Messenger, which is set in modern day Sydney. The book is irreverent and raucously funny. It is also a book in which the characters slowly unfold and reveal hidden depths that both warm and break your heart.
Markus Zusak recently won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for a lifetime of contributing to the young adult literary genre. The Margaret A. Edwards Award is given annually by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) to an author who has made a lasting contribution to the genre. The award honors the author and also highlights a portion of his or her work that helps “adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world”. Other beloved authors who received the award in the past are Susan Cooper, S.E. Hinton, Walter Dean Myers, and Gary Paulsen.
If you want to celebrate Markus Zusak before then, and if you want to read more of the author’s work, I would highly recommend reading his four books that are being honored this summer. They are all incredible books, and I love them all. Happy reading, fellow reader!
And thank you, Markus Zusak, for touching the lives of so many readers and aspiring authors.