Published by Amulet Books on September 13, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Autobiography, Survival Stories
Format: E-book ARC
Source: Netgalley, Ebook ARC
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Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.
School has kept me so busy in the past few months that I forgot all about my ARCs from Netgalley. Back in May I’d received a copy of this book to review. I’m glad I finally remembered my Kindle books because this was an incredible read. I don’t read much nonfiction but I’m really glad I picked this one up.
Overall I’d give this a 4 out of 5. The only reason I didn’t give it a 5 is because I probably won’t end up re-reading it. It’s an amazing book but not 5 star material.
This is a unique book in the fact that it is meant for young adults. My coworker assured me that there are tons of books about surviving and escaping North Korea, but not many YA titles. I’m going to make sure my library gets a copy of this book because it was worth every word. It’s a slower read because of the addition of the Korean language and the fact that there’s so much going on. Despite English not being his first language, he was able to weave a pretty great story. It was a little different but he did really well despite the difference in language.
Sungju Lee’s story is incredible and heartbreaking. His story starts with his childhood in the heart of North Korea and takes him all the way until his eventual escape. It’s amazing to read because everything that he writes happened and it’s not a survival story from the world wars. The events in this book happened in the late 1990s to the early 2000s. I’m sure the conditions in which people live in North Korea are much the same even now. I feel like I now understand a large part of the North Korean population from this book.
His journey is one that weaves in hope, love, and courage. Sungju’s loss of innocence is heartbreaking to take, and the moment when he personally has to experience a death of a loved one is so hard. I had to read this book in small batches because some parts just had my mind racing at the implications of everything he was writing. There are so many people struggling to live. The feeling I got in that book was that it was back in the times of the 1940s, but I had to remind myself that it wasn’t. The events of this book happened about 20 years ago. I don’t think a lot of people like to acknowledge that things like this are still happening. This book makes you acknowledge it, but it doesn’t break you.
I finished this book with hope in my heart. I loved reading the epilogue where Sungu goes into what he did after escaping North Korea. His story is incredible afterwards. Once I finished it I had to tell my boyfriend about it because I was so impressed with the path his life ends up taking. This book is definitely worth reading.