" It makes you think, it makes you cry, but it does not make you desperately want to turn the page."


Sungju Lee was born and raised in Pyongyang, North Korea. He believed that “Joseon,” the North Korean name for the nation, was the greatest country in the world. Then something (unnamed) changed. His family was kicked out of the capital city and his family began to fall apart. His father went to China to find work and never returned. His mother disappeared in search of his aunt. He was witness to an execution. He dropped out of school and learned to be a pickpocket. All that Lee could do was fend for himself on the streets of rural villages. The streets are not a very forgiving place for a child. 

BTSYA / Teen Reader (14):
Every Falling Star is typical of a biography. There is no real climax, but a resolution is definitely there. The book paints a picture of desperation that reminds me of war novels that seem bleak and hopeless. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is very depressing, with lots of heavy material, but we know it ends well. I suppose it is hard to write about North Korea without a lot of heavy material. This is for mature readers of at least 14 years old or older. It is not a pageturner and is somewhere between an entertaining novel and school-assigned reading. It makes you think and it makes you cry, but it does not make you desperately want to turn the page

Parent Perspective:
According to the description provided by Accelerated Reader Bookfinder, this is a "middle grade" novel. Given the heaviness of the subject matter and some of the topics discussed, we concur with our teen reviewer: this is for older audiences.  

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers interested in North Korea and/or Asian history will be moved by reading this story. It is an autobiography that while enlightening, may not be for all readers.

Content Awareness Factors:

Every Falling Star offers a true story of life in North Korea and includes the author's experiences/observations of death, parental loss, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, and sexual assault. Our teen reviewer notes that the descriptions are very detailed and, in the case of illnesses, "gory." 

Type of Book:
This is the true story of a young man's life in and his escape from North Korea.
Educational Themes:

This is an autobiography which offers lots of personal experience. Beyond Sungju's own life, the book has lots of history about North Korea, as well as information about its cultural norms.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
14 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 14
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow. This is a powerful book with a story that will stay with you for a long time, but it is not a book you're likely to read again.

Title Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Author Sungju Lee, Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Publisher Amulet Books, Imprint Abrams Books © 2016
ISBN 9781419721328
Material Hard Cover
Cost $16.95
Genres Biography, History, Social Issues, Asia | Asian People
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Other Reviews:

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