Every Falling Star is such a powerful book. Sungju Lee’s survival of North Korea story is full of hope, courage, and bravery. This is a must-read for everyone!
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.
An author’s note along with a brief history of North Korea opens up the story. I appreciated this short section. As a younger audience, myself included, might not know all the history surrounding this country. All of the information allows for a better understanding from the readers.
As a child, Sungju’s “privileged” lifestyle shapes his thoughts, beliefs, and dreams. Kim II-sung, North Korea’s supreme leader at the time, paints himself as a sort of God-like creature. He is present in Sungju’s everyday thoughts, and everything that makes him an “individual” reflect off of who the supreme leader wishes everyone to be. The perfect citizen.
When Kim II-sung passes away, the tone of the story takes a complete turn. You immediately feel the weight of North Korea’s pain on your shoulders. Sungju’s life flips upside down as his family is forced to leave the capital and move up north where life is very different. With the help of Elizabeth McClelland, Sungju’s voice is perfectly written to capture his life during these tough times. The pain he feels, you feel along with him. I felt abandoned, scared, and hopeless. I felt all of his tears spilling down my own cheeks.
After his parents leave and never return, Sungju is forced to survive alone. He quickly pulls himself together though and forms a gang who quickly become his new family. These boys are all so special. You’ll easily fall in love with them and root for their survival. The way they continue to hope and dream while living under such harsh circumstances is so inspiring.
Every Falling Star is all of their story just as much as Sungju’s, and that is what I love most about this book. This story represents more than just one boy’s survival. I’m not going to spoil any more of this story for you, but it all wraps up beautifully. As a result of being a true story, not everything is sunshine and rainbows at the end. This book will leave you full of hope though.
This book is for every single person, not just a young audience. Also, if you don’t read memoirs you will still enjoy this one. It’s told as one long story and sometimes it’s hard to remember that all of it is true. We forget how lucky we are to be free and where we are in our own lives, and this book will hopefully make you a better person. Lastly, be aware that this book does contain uncomfortable situations dealing with drugs, thievery, and sexual content. Make sure to pick your copy up on September 13th, and let us know what your thoughts about the story afterwards!