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Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
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Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  4,293 ratings  ·  776 reviews
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 sto ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Harry N. Abrams
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JCL I'd say age 10+ because of the war themes, but a third grader could read it with a parental guidance or something like that.…moreI'd say age 10+ because of the war themes, but a third grader could read it with a parental guidance or something like that.(less)

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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  4,293 ratings  ·  776 reviews

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Sungju Lee
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dear friends,

if I summarize my book, Every Falling Star, there are three words for me to share with you.


You will figure out how these values made me strong on the street while you are reading it.

Hope is never lost.

Emily May
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
North Korea is indeed a Hermit Kingdon: a true-to-life dystopian nation.
It's against this backdrop that my story takes place.

This book really made me want to learn.

Before reading, I knew some things about North Korea. I had a vague understanding of how the North and South were split and how the communist North is one of the most restrictive countries in the world. I sort of knew something about the godlike worship of the Supreme Leader - Kim Jong-un. And that's... basically it.

This memoir, h
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
An incredibly insightful, heartbreaking and fascinating read. As someone who's not as educated on North Korea and it's history as they'd like, I found this to be such a brilliantly educational and page turning read. I loved the way it was somewhat simply written, meaning it was very easy to follow and understand, yet at moments it read almost like fiction and I had to keep reminding myself that, in fact, this is very much true life. I'd highly recommend this to any one who, like me, are looking ...more
Trigger warnings: Parental abandonment?? I guess?? Death of a friend, sexual abuse.

I was really really intrigued by this book after reading Yeonmi Park's In Order to Live last year. Both books tell the story of teenagers struggling to survive in North Korea and ultimately escaping. Both stories are autobiographies. Both stories are incredibly harrowing and full of horrifying events.

The difference is that this one? Yeah, this one is aimed at young adults.

So I was interested to read it and see
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
My grandfather told me that love burns brighter than any star, so bright that love can be seen and felt from one end to the other. One day, when those children on other planets see our dead earth, it will be your light they see, not Kim Il-sung's or Kim Jong-il's. But the light of people like you

I'm writing this review with tears streaming down my cheeks. This is the first book about North Korea that I've read. Sungju Lee's voice is so raw and emotionally charged as he relates the story of his
Aug 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is written through the eyes of a boy and a teenager. And it is too hard for me to describe the hardships of suffering from starvation, let alone the states of mind this 10 or 11 or 15 year old experienced. You'd have to read his voice yourself. Seeing friends die. Going to executions at lunch period during 3rd or 4th grade.

Starvation for people who have such "faith" or belief per se in the goodness of the leader? It's so hard for me to imagine their total knowledge or context mindset. But
Kris Mauna
"At twelve years old, I now had to look after myself. I had no one to rely on to guide me to make the best decisions for my life. I had no one to come home to who would hold me and make me feel the world was safe."

This is the most powerful book I have read this year.
It's full of hope, bravery, courage, and some brutal truth of how lucky we all are.
It's such a special story that I recommend this book to EVERYONE.. Even if you don't usually read memoirs, I promise you will enjoy this because i
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't know how to describe this book! I don't know where to even begin!

I hate auto-biographies. I find them then extremely boring and often-times long winded. Every Falling Star is a not your regular biography. The writing style, maybe because of the target audience, made it very easy to read. I found myself wanting to skip work and read this, I looked forward to reading it every day. I believe that this will be a very informative read for older readers, maybe about the same age as the author
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Terribly important book about a more-than terribly important subject, the brutal conditions and treatment that much of the citizens of North Korea are forced to endure. Sungju pulls no punches, is honest about himself, his country, what happened to him and how he finally was able to escape into South Korea.

That's all I have. Four stars.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
Mini Review: This memoir is undoubtedly a very important book. For me, this is only a three star read due to the simple yet somewhat sluggish writing style that made this a bit of a chore to push through. I would still recommend this, and I definitely feel like I want to learn more about North Korea now, seeing as I had virtually no knowledge of it before.
Erin Entrada Kelly
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
The things that people survive—and how they manage to turn those tragedies into something incredible—never ceases to astound me.
My knowledge of life in North Korea is that it is not enviable, and Lee's memoir shed even more light on what "not enviable" meant. Having been raised in the capital city the son of a member of the military, Sungju didn't know what the rest of his country looked like. Everything had been accounted for and life seemed great. But when his father insists they "go on vacation" to another part of the country, it's anything but the life he knew before. Soon, his father disappears, then his mother disa ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
Sungju’s story is incredibly heartbreaking. The author has done an incredible job of capturing Sungju’s experiences and retelling them as through a child’s eyes. It powerfully captures his confusion, terror, pain, fear, hate, suffering, despair, loss, sorrow, loyalty, and hope. He starts his story in Pyongyang so we understand the privilege and comfort he was born into. Then with the same abruptness he experienced, that section ends and we travel along with him as he struggles to adjust to a ne ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Morality is a great song a person sings when he or she has never been hungry."

Once I watched I video about movies in North Korea, and how people designed special devices to sell illegally to Koreans for them to follow the world's movies. It was funny(in a sad way) until I read this book. People don't even have the right to watch normal movies like we do, they don't have opportunities for knowledge like we do.
Before you read this book, know that it contains abuse in any way.
I did not know North
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a portrayal of Sungju Lee's life in contemporary North Korea as a teenager. Having grown up in an elite family, one day his family was expelled from Pyongyang for reasons that are not disclosed, but in exile Sungju's parents both disappeared, leaving him in the streets. The rest of the story I will not spoil for you, but it is a narration of his life so far, and it will definitely tug on you
Aja: The Narcoleptic Ninja
This book took me a little longer to read than I thought it would. The pace was a little bit sluggish at times and it was harder for me to pick it up and want to go back to reading it. Overall, the story was fascinating and I'm glad that I read it, but I'm not sure this would be on the top of my recommendations list for people who are looking to learn more about North Korea and its people. ...more
Huda Fel
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a story of survival and hope.. It tells you that "you can't jus wait for hope to come for you, you have to go out and find it".
I feel humbled, and really privileged to read this book, without being a part of it.
So much to learn, so much to feel and so much to explore.
Aimal (The Devils We Find)
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much to the publisher and the website for granting me the opportunity to read an ARC of this.

Sungju Lee’s Every Falling Star is a true story; not only that, but it is a memoir. And reviewing memoirs is always tricky- you are not afforded the luxury of judging plot and characters as if they are fictional people. You are not given the comfort of saying “this was too much to handle” because the truth is, it isn’t too muc
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: acad-interests, 2016
Yeeeesss thank you Abrams and Amulet Books! Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, other memoirs or accounts of people who have escaped North Korea read very academically. They describe the gulags, the bleakness of the places perfectly, but it all seems clinical. There is nothing wrong with this, and this does not diminish their ordeal in any way, just that for me as a reader, I tend to feel detached, and it’s like I see theories and numbers rather th
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it
A powerful and moving story, one I'm very glad I read, even given the occasionally sluggish writing style and pacing. ...more
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
**Thank you to Amulet Books and ABRAMS Kids for providing me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**


“If [spoiler] were still alive, he might say, Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked in his boots.”

If I hadn’t been aware that this book was, indeed, a true story of one boy’s experiences in North Korea, I might have told you this was a dystopian novel. It reads just like one, and that these instances are true, that the people — despite name-changes — lived and existed
Gabi Leoncini
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the greatest books I have ever read- I have never been so affected by a story as I was by this one. Not only was the writing gripping and there was never a dull moment; but Sungju's life literally brought me to tears. I cannot say how many times I started crying and I cannot say how many times I felt sick to my stomach. I also cannot say how many times I laughed nor how many times I felt ridiculously giddy- but I do know that these emotions were all as frequent as each other. This ...more
4.5 stars.

“You see, my father was in the military. He and his story are known by the regime. Disclosing the reason would identify him and put the few relatives of my family still in North Korea at risk. I will say that if he had done what he did in a free country, such as as the United States, his actions would be viewed as merely part of the democratic process. But in Pyongyang, they resulted in my family’s explosion from the capital city and eventual separation.”

I read Every Falling Star: The
Sep 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
“You taught me that we can only give hope away. No one can take it. And you also taught me that hope is what makes us human. That, and love.”

4/5 stars

Trigger warnings: child abandonment, prostitution, alcohol and drugs.

Human rights (or at least, their starting point) have been with us ever since the "Cyrus Cylinder" made an appearance around 539 BC. Still, you´ve got to wonder how, even though they have been with us for such a long time, severe human rights violations still happen. Take a look
RS Rook
Dec 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I get the feeling some of this story was simplified and restructured so that it would make sense narratively. There are a few very expository conversations that I believe were probably fabricated to provide the young target audience with necessary context while not breaking the flow of the story. It seems likely these details were more likely picked up in various pieces by experience. Also, it is clear that some details were muddied or left out as a means of protecting people still living in Nor ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leigh Collazo
More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.

REVIEW: Just this week, the US banned all American travel to North Korea due to safety concerns for American citizens. This decision came after 22-year old American college student Otto Warmbier died last month after being released from a 17-month stint in a North Korean hard labor prison. His crime? He allegedly stole a propaganda poster from a wall in his hotel. Stories like Otto's are difficult for most of the world to comprehend. What did this healthy young m
Erin Krajenke
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, such an incredible story. I decided to read this since I recently finished "The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korea Defector's Story" by Lee Hyeon-seo (An INCREADIBLE read and HIGHLY recommended).

(view spoiler)
Megan  (thebookishtwins)
I received this free from the publishers via NetGalley

Every Falling Star is an intense and harrowing memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju whose father made a political mistake which led to them being banished from Pyongyang. Forced to live on the streets at a young age, Sungji creates a street gang who become ‘brothers’ to him. They survive by begging, stealing, and fighting. Sungju’s powerful memoir is one I highly recommend and it gives an insight into contemporary North Korea.

Every Falli
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