Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14 is a riveting, unbelievable story of survival that everyone should read.

The story of Shin Donghyuk may be familiar, but reading the details of his life in a North Korean camp for political prisoners, his escape, and his life after makes one realize that this is different.

One thing that is very hard to understand is that Shin was totally unaware, his entire life, of any world outside the camp. They didn't even bother to indoctrinate him into the  North Korean political system. Shin was born in the camp. His parents were prisoners, so Shin basically had no chance to ever be released. His heredity meant everything.

Also, Shin really had no ability to empathize. He was taught to look out for himself and turn in anyone who was doing anything against the rules. This included his mother and brother, who he witnessed being executed with very little emotion. Everything was about food. Shin spent his entire life hungry. Really, the only reason he wanted to escape was to not be hungry. He had no ideas about anything else he wanted to accomplish.

These facts make his escape all the more unbelievable and his indoctrination in to society all the more difficult.

Escape from Camp 14 is the story of Shin's life, but Harden inserts sections into the narrative about the history, economy, and political ideology of North Korea. These sections are necessary and interesting, but may pull some teens out of the story.

Escape from Camp 14 is a quick, compelling read. I would recommend it to everyone -- both teens and adults. It will open your eyes to a part of the world that we are uncomfortable thinking about. It's a story like no other.

Published by Viking Adult, 2012
Purchased eBook
224 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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4 comments:

  1. I read this biography and (as a teenager) am proud to say that the facts added in by the author did not turn me off the book- quite the contrary. It really was an eye- opener, I previously knew nothing about the situation in North Korea. Review on my blog-
    Esty @ Boarding with Books

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like a fascinating story! How sad to be raised without empathy and in such horrible conditions. Then to turn in his own mother and watch her execution? I can't even begin to imagine such a life! Thank you for a great review about such an intriguing book!

    Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Do you currently have this book in your library and how do students respond to it? It sounds very good. Who do you think is the target audience? Junior/YA/Adult?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an adult book, but appropriate for teens. I will purchase it because it's on our Abe Lincoln Award List for 2015 (islma.org). I don't have it -- but it will probably take some pushing to move it. Anyone who likes holocaust books should like this.

      Delete

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