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.
This affecting memoir starts slowly but gains momentum as it highlights a boy's survival and eventual escape from North Korea. The narrative begins with a brief history of 20th-century Korea that helps establish context. Lee enjoyed a privileged childhood in Pyongyang as the son of a respected military officer until his fate changed abruptly at age 10, when his family left for an extended "holiday" in a northern sea town where his parents were forced to work as laborers. Writing with McClelland (Stars Between the Sun and Moon), Lee effectively describes his own trusting ignorance and how he began to understand the dire state of their exile. The strongest section recounts Lee's harrowing life on the streets as he banded together with friends, stealing, begging, borrowing, and fighting to subsist ("Maybe everything had been taken from us, but we still had our word, and that meant something"); deadening their pain with alcohol, smoke, and opium; and mourning lost friends. A testament to resilience, Lee's story pulls back the curtain on life in North Korea. Ages 13 up.
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Very great book, loved every bit of it. Love to see them make a movie about this book! Absolutely amazing!