Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland
Published September 13, 2016 by Amulet Books, 336 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Honestly, other memoirs or accounts of people who have escaped North Korea read very academically. They describe the gulags, the bleakness of the places perfectly, but it all seems clinical. There is nothing wrong with this, and this does not diminish their ordeal in any way, just that for me as a reader, I tend to feel detached, and it’s like I see theories and numbers rather than people.