Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Sunju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Available: September 13, 2016
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.
Intense is a great word for this book. I’ve seen a couple of documentaries about North Korea, but nothing is more personal and moving than the story of someone who lived there. Sungju describes his early life in Pyongyang and the fierce national pride he felt for his country. His beliefs are challenged when his family is forced to leave the capital for a small impoverished city where food shortages cause many people to risk trips into China—an offense punishable by execution if they’re caught.
While Every Falling Star is a difficult story, Sungju shares so much hope. Ultimately it’s a story about the bonds of love, both within family and between close friends, and redemption. To read the end of the tale and learn what the author has accomplished can’t help but be inspiring, and to make us grateful for the freedoms we have, and the ability to share them with others.
I highly recommend this book. Every Falling Star was so good, would read it again. It would make a great resource for a current events class or a world cultures class.
Most characters are North Korean.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
At one point, the boys work as runners for a brothel, helping recruit customers.
A few references to Chilseong, a deity and shan-shin-ryong-nim, good spirits thought to live in rocks and mountains. Sungju’s family shared these beliefs with him and they bring him comfort during his life as a street boy.
Sungju and his schoolmates have to attend public executions. Sungju describes them briefly. Later, his gang must battle other street boys for the right to stay in a particular city.
The boys in the street gang drink alcohol and smoke.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.