Book Review

Every Falling Star – Sungju Lee & Susan McCelland

Book Review spoiler free

18th September to 25th September ~ Physical Copy ~ Link to Goodreads



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.

Pre-read thoughts:

The cover caught my eye while browsing my local Waterstones. The stunning orange sunset and barbed wire had me intrigued. After reading the blurb and seeing it wasn’t a novel but a true account of a boy’s struggle while living in North Korea I knew this was a book I needed to read.

The Good:

I know very little about North Korea but this didn’t matter going into the book as it is written so simply yet effectively! Everything is explained throughout so I never felt like I was lost and didn’t know what was going on. As simply as this book was written I could really see what he was describing clearly in my mind which really helped me feel connected to the experience.

This book had my feelings up in the air from the beginning. From the start we get a brilliant idea of what Sanju’s life was like before his hardship. He was initially living a very privileged all be it sheltered life, he didn’t really have an idea what was going on around him but unlike most he always had food and shelter and safety. So when things take a turn for his family it really hits you as the reader to see his transition from this life where he believes in everything to having this belief completely swept from under him. He struggles from time to time with keeping faith and hope but overall he stays very grounded and out of him and his brothers he is usually the most level headed (with a few understandable exceptions). I loved the relationship between him and his “brothers” and even though it was built on a foundation of such great losses and heartbreak for each boy I think this made their bond even stronger.

This book provided a brilliant first hand account of what life is like in a country that is almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Because of the different stages Sungju goes through in life we are able to see just how extreme the differences are between the people who live in the capital and the people who live elsewhere. It is incredibly interesting to see his growth in each of the situations he is in and it really makes you feel for all people who are incredibly stuck in the country starving to death or forced to steal just to steal a morsel of food.

The Bad:

I don’t think “bad” is the right word for this section as I didn’t actually dislike anything. In fact the only negative for me is that I wanted more. I found it so interesting seeing how he adapted to his situations and surroundings that I would have loved a little bit more information about how he adjusted to life outside of North Korea.


I think this book has a lot to give to people in terms of a better understanding of how things are over there. This country is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world and the people who live there are in short completely stuck which makes this story even more unique and special. I have recommended this to so many people already and I think anyone and everyone should go out and buy the book because it saddens me that I haven’t seen this book around and that it only has 110 ratings on goodreads!

paw heart paw heart paw heart paw heart



4 thoughts on “Every Falling Star – Sungju Lee & Susan McCelland

  1. I’ve been seeing reviews for this book around the blogisphere. I think the general consensus is fairly positive. The premise of this book is fascinating as we (the rest of the world) know little about the daily lives of those living in South Korea. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is a YA book right? I think there needs to be more nonfiction within the YA genre in general, so I am all for this! Great review Kirsty!

    Liked by 1 person

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