(Review) Every Falling Star
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee, Susan McClelland
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
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.
It's always hard going into a nonfiction book or memoir like this and expecting too much from it. Often times I think that we want some big. beautiful story that's going to inspire us to go out and save the world, but most of the time that doesn't happen.
This is a good book, I'll say that. It was definitely emotional reading about Sungju's life. Hearing it from his point of view, Sungju's childhood was pretty much perfect. He had a mother and father who loved him, a dog, a good school...he was safe and comfortable. Thing's changed, however, and Sungju and his family were moved out of their home and their town for reasons that Sungju didn't know as a child.
In this new place Sungju was different. He wasn't as worldly as the other boys and, it wasn't until both of his parents disappeared, did he fully know why.
Once his parents were gone Sungju had some hard decisions to make. He had to steal in order to survive and leave behind everything he knew. With his gang, he traveled through parts of North Korea stealing money, food, supplies. They fought other gangs for territories, they went to jail, and some of the lost their lives.
This was a great insight to things that we don't really even know exist, especially me. Sungju's tale is inspiring. Despite everything, he overcame the life that had been dealt to him and achieved things that some people who grow up under oppression never even dream about. He built a life that he can be proud of and, if you read this book, you'll understand why that's important.
So many things happened to Sungju when he was a child that would cause even the strongest person to give up, but he never did. It's beautiful when people are able to overcome so much pain and suffering. This is absolutely a story of that.
Thanks to NetGalley and Abrams kids for the ARC.