Every Falling Star - Lee, Sungju

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee is the true story of how a boy escaped North Korea.

Sungju was living a comfortable and happy life when everything he had ever known was taken away from him. They were going on a ‘vacation’ but the tiny house in Gyeong-seong doesn’t seem like a holiday place. Amidst the beggars, public executions, and mass famines, Sungju is horrified by his new home. At first, he refuses to believe anything his classmates tell him, but little by little, he realizes they are telling the truth; his parents have been kicked out of Pyeongyang and he has been lied to his entire life. Soon, the little food and money his father had managed to bring with them is finished and his father tries to smuggle himself into China in order to find food. He promises to return, but when he doesn’t, and all they have had to eat for days is salt and water, Sungju’s mother decides to leave and find her way to Sungju’s aunt. She doesn’t dare bring him with her for fear of being caught and executed. At twelve years old, Sungju is left to find for himself.

Soon, though, he finds other street boys, kotjebi as they are called in Korean. With his newfound brothers, Sungju learns the power of teamwork, the love of friendship, and the strength of a brotherhood. But even with a team of kotjebi, can Sungju learn to survive on the streets? And will he ever see his parents again?

This story is horrifyingly real, well written, and brutally straightforward. The characters grew on me, and every little detail that the author gave made me feel like I was there. The plot, however was a bit slow at times, and I wasn’t too eager to pick up the book after I’d put it down. The ending, however (no spoilers, don’t worry!) wasn’t entirely expected, and I enjoyed it. Every Falling Star gets 8/10.