Author: Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland
Publisher: Amulet Books
Published Date: September 13th 2016 by
Genre: YA, Non-Fiction, North Korea
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
"Freedom Isn't Free"
We follow Sunju Lee from his time in the capital city as a young child to his family being sent away due to something his father did. We never learned what his father did though because:
“You see, my father was in the military. He and his story are known by the regime. Disclosing the reason would identify him and put the few relatives of my family still in North Korea at risk. I will say that if he had done what he did in a free country, such as as the United States, his actions would be viewed as merely part of the democratic process. But in Pyongyang, they resulted in my family’s explosion from the capital city and eventual separation.”
Once they got to there new home they are able to survive somewhat like they had in Pyongyang with both parents going to work and putting good food on the table, to Sunju going to school and becoming a leader there. But it was also not like the capital at all. We see an execution happen, children dropping out of school because they don’t have parents anymore and most search for food and money instead. The factories don’t pay anything anymore and there is hardly any food for anyone. Then we see the family being torn apart because his parents went in search of food leaving Sunju alone and scared. He eventually has to rely on himself and his friends. The form a gang that end up stealing, performing, fighting, drinking,& smoking in order to survive.
"At twelve years old, I now had to look after myself. I had no one to rely on to guide me to make the best decisions for my life. I had no one to come home to who would hold me and make me feel the world was safe."
At the end we do get to see some some good things happening to Sunju. He finds some of his family, he gets a new start at life, and he gets to be a teenager. We also get to see a little bit of his new life in South Korea and how he adjusted.
"My grandfather told me that love burns brighter than any star, so bright that love can be seen and felt from one end to the other. One day, when those children on other planets see our dead earth, it will be your light they see, not Kim Il-sung's or Kim Jong-il's. But the light of people like you"While I was reading this book, I was constantly scared for Sunju and his friends. Not only were they barely surviving most of the time, but they were also taking part in extremely dangerous things that could kill them/ get them killed if they were caught. The life that Sunju has lived truly shows how strong of a person he is. I hope one day he is reunited with the rest of the people he loves and is able to help those still in North Korea.
Sunju Lee takes North Korea that we are hardly taught anything about because it is a hermit kingdom that is so secretive that it doesn’t let anything out, and makes it into understandable for the western world. This was what his real life was like while he lived there. Without him having stated that though you won’t believe this is real, because it’s a dystopian country that is happening in the 21st century. While I was reading this I kept thinking why is this allowed to be happening? Why aren’t all the other countries trying to stop this awful dictator from ruling? Well because he has a huge amount of nuclear power and it goes against agreements made by the UN (I think, I could be wrong on this and if I am please educate me on it.). Also because of how secretive North Korea is no other country know what is fully happening there, besides from accounts made by people escaping.
Plus we also have the fact that North Korea threatens to nuclear bomb us every year that is becoming a serious problem.
This book was so eye opening and terrifying that I couldn’t help, but go and look up more things about North Korea to see what other refugees that had escaped thought of it.
These are my favorite so far of what I foundTourists trip to North Korea - My Daily Life (Mysterious 7 day trip) I liked how before we saw what he was able to do, he talked about how this was what had been the controlled environment he was allowed to show.
The Author SungJu Lee Statement at the International Human Right Subcommittee This was before he had written this book and he talks mostly about what was in the book, but also about how he wants to change things in North Korea.
Life As A North Korean Defector This documentary talks to three different defectors and how they've managed to get to South Korea and how they've changed since then and how they want to help other North Koreans.
If you have any other that you think I should watch please leave the links down below, thank you.
Thank you to Netgalley and Amulet press for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.