Why I gave it 5 stars: Too many reasons to count really. Characters A plus. Dickens himself would call them well colorful and well drawn.
Originality. Just when you think that there can't be a new story about life in Nazi Germany this book comes along. I agree with what the reviewer Martin said that it is rare to read a book from the point of view of non-Jewish German citizens. It was heartening (and I am sure accurate) that many opposed Hitler's culture of hate.
Language. Wow. Markus Zusak sure can write. Reminded me of Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Beautiful prose. Poetic. I found myself re-reading particularly beautiful passages. The scenes were artistically drawn as well---they sort of created a motion picture in my mind.
The story. Heartbreaking yet hilarious at times. Beautiful fatalism.
Narration---the story is narrated by Death himself, who was obviously very busy at this time. Allowed Zusak to step back from the story and slice deeply into the problems with human nature.
Why did I toy with giving it 4 instead of 5 stars? I guess it was the pacing or the structure that I feel didn't propel the story along. I actually paused twice during the book to read other things and come back. I got impatient with the pacing even as I was enjoying the book. I would enjoy a section of chapters but then go off and read something else and come back to it. I am normally not this ADHD with books.
My opinion with regard to this book can be summed up as follows: (1) read it; it is a great and moving book, and (2) if you find yourself frustrated by the lack of pace, stick with it, because it is worth it.