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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 463

Zusak's story takes place in Australia around the time of World War II, and it follows the lives of five brothers who raise themselves. After their mother dies and their father abandons the boys, the brothers raise each other in a home of chaos, fun, and drama.

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Zusak's style is unique, as he weaves many different elements of life together. The novel begins,

In the beginning there was one murderer, one mule and one boy, but this isn't the beginning.

He also provides strong descriptions of events, people, and places:

As it was . . . another blistering February evening: the day had cooked the concrete, the sun still high and aching.

Cars were stubbed out rather than parked, and the power lines dropped from the weight of mute, hot, and bothered pigeons.

During this era of war, the narrator (Matthew) describes a local town:

The town itself was a hard, distant storyland; you could see it from afar. There was all the straw-like landscape, and marathons of sky. Around it, a wilderness of low scrub and gum trees stood close by and it was true . . . the people sloped and slouched. The world had worn them down.

For the five boys, life was a constant adventure. Matthew states,

...who and why and what we are: A family of ramshackle tragedy. A comic book kapow of boys and blood and beasts.

Most considered us tearaways. Barbarians. Mostly they were right.

We swore like bastards, fought like contenders, and punished each other at pool, at table tennis...at Monopoly, darts, football, cards, at everything we could get our hands on.

The boys acted like most boys do:

Tommy, thoroughly thirteen, took a running jump and brought all...

(The entire section contains 463 words.)

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