Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee book cover and review
Every Falling Star is a harrowing memoir about a young boy first fighting for his life and then escaping from North Korea.

Sungju lives a life of wealth and comfort in the capital city of Pyongyang.  His father is high up in the military fighting off the evil Americans and South Koreans.  His life drastically changes when his father falls out of favor with the government and he and his parents are sent to Gyeong-seong for a "holiday."  Sungju very slowly realizes that his family is now helpless.  They get nothing from the government, and even if his parents worked, they would not be paid.  He has led a very sheltered, brainwashed life and has difficulty adjusting to their abject poverty.  He can't let go of his loyalty to Joseon (the natives' name for North Korea.)

After both of his parents leave him to find food and don't return, Sungju must learn to survive on the streets.  He forms a gang and after struggling, starving, and being beaten, they become very adept at stealing to survive.

Every Falling Star is very difficult to read. There is so much heartbreak and suffering, it was hard for me to pick it up at times.  I did think the book was a bit long.  The trials Sungju and his "brothers" must go through become a bit repetitive.  I realize this is all true, but we know at the beginning that he is going to escape, so I just wanted to get to that part more quickly.

Ultimately this is a story about family and love.  Sungju's gang become his family, and even to this day he worries about them and is trying to help them, and many others, from afar.

This book, although set in a different country, had the same feel as McCormick's Never Fall Down, so if you have kids who liked that book or like stories about different cultures and survival, point them to Every Falling Star.

Published by Amulet, September 13, 2016
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
316 pages

Rating: 4/5

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