In The Book Thief, how does Liesel and Rudy's friendship change throughout the book? What does Rudy want from Liesel?

Rudy and Liesel's relationship changes as they get older due to Rudy's growing feelings for Liesel. He wants a kiss from her, which she playfully refuses him. Despite this tension, they remain close friends who are protective of each other and help each other survive through the chaos of war.

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Rudy is Liesel's first friend on Himmler Street and remains her closest friend throughout their childhood. Though he is seen as "a little crazy" by their neighbors, he and Liesel form a fierce bond and protective instinct for each other after they meet at a soccer game, when Liesel is the first to successfully keep Rudy from scoring on his penalty kick. From this point on, their relationship is marked by intense competition. They are constantly daring each other into dangerous acts or placing bets on who can outdo the other.

At the beginning of Rudy and Liesel's friendship, their lives revolve around each other. They are schoolmates, playmates, neighbors, and best friends. However, as they grow up, their lives begin to diverge. Though they continue to spend time together, often stealing food and supplies to feed themselves, there are things they no longer share with each other. Rudy is enlisted in the Hitler Youth, an organization solely for boys, the details of which he doesn't always reveal to Liesel, and Liesel hides the existence of Max Vanderman from Rudy. Their friendship is also complicated by Rudy's growing feelings for Liesel.

In their first bet over who is fastest at a hundred meter dash, Rudy asks Liesel for a kiss if he wins. However, the race is a draw.

Rudy looked over, all sharp teeth and gangly blue eyes. His face was painted with mud. "If it's a draw, do I still get my kiss?"

"Not in a million years." Liesel stood up and flicked some mud off her jacket.

"I'll get you out of goalie."

"Stick your goalie."

As they walked back to Himmel Street, Rudy forewarned her. "One day, Liesel," he said, "you'll be dying to kiss me."

Throughout their childhood, Rudy frequently asks Liesel for a kiss and is denied. At first, it starts a playful game, but as they get older it is clear that Rudy's feelings for Liesel are stronger. He often puts himself at risk to help her, such as by helping her steal books or by jumping into a freezing river to rescue one of her books. Though books are not important to him, he recognizes their importance to Liesel and risks arrest and even freezing to death in order to obtain them.

Though Liesel cares deeply for Rudy, she never reveals her affection to him. She spends most of their childhood convinced that she both hates and loves him. When she finally shows Rudy The Word Shaker and tells him about Max, she realizes how much she cares for him.

At first, Liesel could not talk. Perhaps it was the sudden bumpiness of love she felt for him. Or had she always loved him? It's likely. Restricted as she was from speaking, she wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to drag her hand across and pull her over. It didn't matter where. Her mouth, her neck, her cheek. Her skin was empty for it, waiting.

Unfortunately, her realization only comes a month before the bombing of Himmel Street. When Liesel finds Rudy's body in the debris, she shakes him and confesses that she loves him, begging him to wake up. When he does not, she finally grants him the kiss she always denied him in life.

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At first, Liesel and Rudy are just mere acquaintances, neighbors at the most.  They live down the street from each other, and occasionally cross paths at school and in the streets, especially playing soccer and other games outside.  But then, when Liesel takes down the neighborhood bully, a true friendship is formed.  For Rudy, it is love at first sight.  He is "wow'ed" by Liesel and her strength, and the two of them become friends and start hanging out together quite a bit.  At first it is just occasionally, but after a while, they end up doing almost everything together, including thieving for local gangs, and stealing books.  When they aren't at their individual homes, they are together.  They are hungry together, tired together, in trouble together, stealing together, scheming together, being happy and carefree together, and even rebelling against the local service requirements together.

For Rudy, it's more than friendship; given their pretty young age though, it stays friendly, with Rudy teasing Liesel about getting a kiss.  Liesel's feelings for Rudy are more ambiguous; we know that she cares for him, but it isn't until later in the novel when tragedy occurs, that we realize to what extent.  Their affection for each other is strong; they would do anything for each other.  Rudy even jumped into a frozen river to snatch Liesel's book for her, risking freezing to death.  They have each other's backs and are the best of friends with a very strong bond.  It's a great relationship, one that grabs the reader and helps them to want to keep reading right on through to the end.  I hope that those thought helped; good luck!

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