We underestimate teenagers at our peril. Even the dismissive thing out on the street--look at what they're wearing. Then we'll hear stories about how a toddler fell on the tracks, and it's often a teenager who comes to the rescue and walks away because he or she doesn't want any credit. I recognize it because I've written books for teenagers--it's basically that they feel things more than adults do. They want things more than you think. They want things with greater depth than you think they do. Teenagers have got a lot of soul that adults have forgotten they have within themselves.
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My friends ... they usually rib me about how I just sleep in and watch Oprah and that I don't really have a proper job. I've given up arguing now, so I just agree with them, even though half the time I realise I've started work before they have. Still, it's best to keep the romantic idea alive. If they call around midday and ask if they woke me, I always say yes.
Finally, in October 1945, a man with swampy eyes, feathers of hair, and a clean-shaven face walked into the shop. He approached the counter. "Is there someone here by the name of Leisel Meminger?" "Yes, she's in the back," said Alex. He was hopeful, but he wanted to be sure. "May I ask who is calling on her?" Leisel came out. They hugged and cried and fell to the floor.
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I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.
Summer came. For the book thief, everything was going nicely. For me, the sky was the color of Jews. When their bodies had finished scouring for gaps in the door, their souls rose up. When their fingernails had scratched at the wood and in some cases were nailed into it by the sheer force of desperation, their spirits came toward me, into my arms, and we climbed out of those shower facilities, onto the roof and up, into eternity's certain breadth. They just kept feeding me. Minute after minute. Shower after shower.
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I carried [Rudy] softly through the broken street...with him I tried a little harder [at comforting]. I watched the contents of his soul for a moment and saw a black-painted boy calling the name Jesse Owens as he ran through an imaginary tape. I saw him hip-deep in some icy water, chasing a book, and I saw a boy lying in bed, imagining how a kiss would taste from his glorious next-door neighbor. He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It's his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.
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His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.
As she watched all of this, Liesel was certain that these were the poorest souls alive. That's what she wrote about them . . . Some looked appealingly at those who had come to observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths. Others pleaded for someone, anyone to step forward and catch them in their arms. No one did.
After another ten minutes, the gates of thievery would open just a crack, and Liesel Meminger would widen them a little further and squeeze through. ***TWO QUESTIONS*** Would the gates shut behind her? Or would they have the goodwill to let her back out? As Liesel would discover, a good thief requires many things. Stealth. Nerve. Speed. More important than any of those things, however, was one final requirement. Luck. Actually. Forget the ten minutes. The gates open now.
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There was once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life: 1. He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else. 2. He would make himself a small, strange mustache. 3. He would one day rule the world. ...Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words.
I carried [Rudy] softly through the broken street... with him I tried a little harder [at comforting]. I watched the contents of his soul for a moment and saw a black-painted boy calling the name Jesse Owens as he ran through an imaginary tape. I saw him hip-deep in some icy water, chasing a book, and I saw a boy lying in bed, imagining how a kiss would taste from his glorious next-door neighbor. He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It's his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.
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On many counts, taking a boy like Rudy Steiner was robbery-so much life, so much to live for-yet somehow, I'm certain he would have loved to see the frightening rubble and the swelling of the sky on the night he passed away. He'd have cried and turned and smiled if only he could have seen the book thief on her hands and knees, next to his decimated body. He'd have been glad to witness her kissing his dusty, bomb-hit lips. Yes, I know it. In the darkness of my dark-beating heart, I know. He'd have loved it all right. You see? Even death has a heart.
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A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold. And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I'll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.
A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.
Death's Diary: 1942 - It was a year for the ages, like 79, like 1346, to just name a few. Forget the scythe, God damn it, I needed a broom or a mop. And I needed a holiday. (...) They say that war is death's best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly. 'Get it done, get it done'. So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss however, does not thank you. He asks for more.
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And I can promise you something, because it was a thing I saw many years later - a vision in the book thief herself - that as she knelt next to Hans Hubermann, she watched him stand and play the accordion. He stood and strapped it on in the alps of broken houses and played the accordion with kindness silver eyes and even a cigarette slouched on his lips. The bellows breathed and the tall man played for Liesel Meminger one last time as the sky was slowly taken away from her.
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She looks at the swings, and I can see she's imagining what they'd look like if the kids weren't there. The guilt of this holds her down momentarily. It appears to be there constantly. Never far away, despite her love for them. I realize that nothing belongs to her anymore and she belongs to everything.
Personally, I like a chocolate-covered sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see - the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.
Steadily, the room shrank, till the book thief could touch the shelves within a few small steps. She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like an instrument, or the notes of running feet. She used both hands. She raced them. One shelf against the other. And she laughed. Her voice was sprawled out, high in her throat, and when she eventually stopped and stood in the middle of the room, she spent many minutes looking from the shelves to her fingers and back again. How many books had she touched? How many had she felt? She walked over and did it again, this time much slower, with her hand facing forward, allowing the dough of her palm to feel the small hurdle of each book. It felt like magic, like beauty, as bright lines of light shone down from a chandelier. Several times, she almost pulled a title from its place but didn't dare disturb them. They were too perfect.
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And you're Cameron Wolfe. That' gotta start meaning somethin' boy. That's gotta start churnin' inside us, making us wanna be someone for those names, and not just another couple of guys who amounted to nothin' but what people said we would. No way. We're getting' out of that. We have to. We're gonna crawl and moan and fight and bite and bark at anything that gets in our way or tries to hunt us down and shoot us. All right?
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The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it's stretched out, like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole... " Max, at that moment, knew that only a child could have given him a weather report like that. On the wall, he painted a long, tightly knotted rope with a dripping yellow sun at the end of it, as if you could dive right into it. On the ropy cloud, he drew two figures-a thin girl and a withering Jew-and they were walking, arms balanced, toward that dripping sun.
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She stood up and took the book from him, and as he smiled over his shoulder at some other kids, she threw it away and kicked him as hard as she could in the vicinity of the groin. Well, as you might imagine, Ludwig Schmeikl certainly buckled, and on the way down, he was punched in the ear. When he landed, he was set upon. When he was set upon, he was slapped and clawed and obliterated by a girl who was utterly consumed with rage. His skin was so warm and soft. Her knuckles and fingernails were so frighteningly tough, despite their smallness. You Saukerl." Her voice, too, was able to scratch him. "You Arschloch. Can you spell Arschloch for me?
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Why do they have windows? Is it to let a glimpse of the world in? Or for us to see out? Our own place is small perhaps, but when your old man is eaten up by his own shadow, you realize maybe that in every house, something so savage and sad and brilliant is standing up, without the world even seeing it. Maybe that's what these pages of words are about. Bringing the world to the window.