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Everything Belongs to Us

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  893 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Two young women of vastly different means each struggle to find her own way during the darkest hours of South Korea s economic miracle in a striking debut novel for readers of Anthony Marra and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

Seoul, 1978. At South Korea s top university, the nation s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success c
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published February 28th 2017 by Random House
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Yoojin Wuertz Thanks for the question. There are many relationships in the novel, and most characters are Korean, but there is one white American male character.

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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  893 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
ENGAGING!!!!! EXCELLENT!!!!!!! A wonderful surprise discovery!!

Yesterday I spent a full day - [so it felt] - traveling from California to Florida. I have several books I could have chosen for 'airport-emergency-comfort-reading'.
While 'test-reading' a few of my choices from my Kindle- I would never have believed THIS BOOK TOOK FIRST PLACE ... from my 5% 'emergency-testing'!
My game was ...."Read 5% of 3 books. The book with the most interesting 5% beginning is what I would read in the air. ( an
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seoul, 1978. A three day protest by women's textile workers is an outcry for basic labor rights. President Park Chung Hee's party slogan is "work cheerfully, courageously for a more prosperous nation". Attending university would mean the difference between working in a factory or steel mill as opposed to a cushy job, living in a high rise apartment, having indoor plumbing and owning a car. Three students at Seoul National University are among the few having the opportunity to live the dream of s ...more
2.5 Stars. This book wasn't what I expected at all! I really enjoyed the first third, but I was disinterested in the college drama and romantic escapades after that point. It became a story that I wouldn't be interested in, regardless of the setting. If you're looking for a story about college students navigating relationships during a tumultuous time in history or if you like Sunam's chapters, you’ll probably enjoy this one more than I did. Even though the story was just okay for me, I did appr ...more
Jan 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, arc, 2017

3.5 Stars

1978 Seoul, Korea is when and where this story begins, telling the stories of two men and two women, primarily. One of the women from a very wealthy family - Jisun, the other – Namin, the daughter of parents who operate a push food cart as many hours of the day as possible just to barely survive. At the start, Jisun seems a bit frivolous in her determination to avoid being a part of her father’s world, where power and money reign. She becomes involved with an activi
Dec 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
I really wanted to love Everything Belongs to Us, and perhaps that was my issue, going in with higher expectations than I should have. But I honestly felt like the characters and plot didn't start clicking with me until about halfway through, and though the second act was much stronger than the first, the ending itself was a definite let down and felt deeply unsatisfying just when I had started to care about most of the main characters. I would also say that from literary fiction, at this point ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☮Karen by: Jessica Bonet, Random House
Since I don't exactly keep abreast of what happens in South Korea, this story of student protests in the 70s was interesting at first. Halfway through, however, I felt a little lost and my interest waned. The two female friends Jisun, rich girl studying life, and Namin, poor girl studying medicine, were refreshingly independent and intelligent. The two rebellious male characters did not engage me in the least. By the end, I was skipping pages and cared only what happened to Namin. Her struggle t ...more
Joce (squibblesreads)
4.5 stars. Full review at this link:

Powerful as all hell. Images of hundreds and thousands of women in Seoul protesting grim working conditions in factories that barely meet basic needs. Two women - one well off and outspokenly activist but unaware of some aspects of the privilege that her wealth allows her, the other fighting for good grades while her parents work night and day in a small market. One misled boy trying to earn status in a university social group. All
Karen R
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Author Yooijin Grace Wuertz immigrated to the US from South Korea at the age of 6. In her beautifully crafted debut set in 1970’s Korea, a time of unrest and escalating turmoil, her characters come alive. It is told through intertwining character perspectives, friends who’s upbringing were vastly different. As the story progresses, lives diverge along different paths. I admired the author’s perspective on the highly charged historical events of Korea which I knew very little about. The disconten ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Set in South Korea in the 70's during cultural and political upheaval, Everything Belongs to Us follows three college students in a coming of age story about ambition, class, activism, and friendship. Namin lives in poverty, all the hopes of her family rest on her brilliance and she is their only hope for success and stability. Sunam is from a comfortable family but longs to be accepted by the elite Circle social club. Jisun is incredibly wealthy but longs to escape from her father's plans for h ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, fiction
This is not at all what I thought it would be, and while not all of the characters quite popped off the page into real people, I found it hard to put down. A full review to come.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is book of historical fiction, taking place during the 70s in South Korea. The country is run by a dictatorship. There are four principal characters, all college students:
Sunam--a charming man who becomes involved with two women
Jisun--spoiled daughter of a rich man
Namin--daughter of a poor family
Juno--mentor to Sunam
There are worker demonstrations/strikes, awkward/failed romances and an illegitimate child of an American soldier and a Korean woman. While I enjoyed reading this book, it drag
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The two main characters are quite different women. Jisun has had a privileged life, although not much of a loving family life. In rebellion against her father, she joins an underground activist group. Her best friend, Namin, comes from a poor, hard-working family and is struggling through college at the Seoul National University in the hope that she will be able to offer her family a better life. The two main male characters are Sunam, a student trying to join the prestigious Circle, and Juno, J ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I Received this ARC from in exchange for a review.

Jisun comes from a wealthy family and desperately wants to break away from them. Namin's parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. The book opens in the middle of a violent demonstration and just meanders and meanders and meanders. I'm sure the book has its merits, but I couldn't get into it and abandoned at 50%.

Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revolving around the lives of three college students in 1978 Seoul, Korea, Everything Belongs to Us paints a story that is just as much about the tumultuous, roiling political and activist climate as it is about the pains and responsibilities facing and burdening the three young adults trying to figure out who they intend to grow into. Jisun is a wild daughter of a wealthy and prominent father who is painfully naive as she believes herself to be firmly plugged into questions of class consciousne ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The story seems quite interesting, but the writing was not good enough for me to continue past around page 35.
A longer review is available on my blog:

The characters in this novel could have been a lot more developed. They were enjoyable but were also very one-dimensional, too. My favorite character was Namin. I wish that the background of the political climate in South Korea was less of a background and more of a main theme. There was one part where a political meeting was held in furious whispers that showed the frustration and the fear of the workers. It was so
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Two young women who come from opposite sides of the economic spectrum struggle to find their way in Seoul 1978. The pressure is on to succeed so that one can live a life of prestige, status, and wealth, because to fail means a life of poverty and being left in the dust.

Jisun and Namin are friends. Jimsun grew up wealthy. Her father is a successful business man and they live in a beautiful home and she is driven by a chauffeur. Namin grew up with parents who owned a food cart that they worked all
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I hate it when this happens!! I was very much looking forward to reading "Everything Belongs to Us" to improve my understanding of the on-going situation in Korea. It started off on a promising note, set in Seoul, South Korea starting in 1978, it begins with a 3 day protest by women textile workers. We meet two strong female characters who are diametrically opposite: Jisun, from a very wealthy family, and Namin, who is very poor and whose family has had to struggle for everything they have. Jisu ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Everything Belongs to Us is a debut novel by Yoojin Grace Wuertz. It is 1978 in Seoul, South Korea. Jisun, Namin, Juno and Sunam are all going to college, but each one of them is different. Jisun and Namin are friends, though, they are from very different backgrounds. Jisun is from a wealthy family and she protests every single thing her father believes in. She has joined the underground activist movement despite her father’s efforts to curtail her activities. Namin’s parents work hard running t ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In an age of rampaging hyperbole, it is probably best to cut to the chase: Yoojin Grace Wuertz has written the best debut novel of recent memory. The novel follows three university students through the fraught world of late 70’s South Korea, a society on the edge of upheaval. One, the daughter of a wealthy family, longs for a life among the workers in South Korea’s factories, where she hopes to help lead the brewing revolt (a surprisingly not uncommon choice of the time). The second, her childho ...more
An accessible and sometimes interesting read about college students in 1970s South Korea. The Marra and Adichie comparisons in the blurb do a disservice here; Wuertz's prose is far closer to average, and her characters, aside from Namin and Jisun, are maddeningly flat--and there was zero indication that the flatness was purposeful. In particular, Sunam's lack of depth meant that those supposedly animating relationships he had with the two women turned out to be the most tedious aspects of the bo ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: publisher, reviewed, dnf
Unfortunately, I didn't connect with this book at all. The writing felt wooden, I wasn't interested in the characters and I abandoned it after 50 pages. I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
At the start of the year, I mentioned that one of my blogging goals was to read more diverse books. Set in South Korea in 1978, Everything Belongs to Us is the first diverse book I've read this year.

I went into this book knowing very little about South Korea's history and culture, so I had no preconceived ideas about the location or how the characters might be portrayed in the story. I think this made the book more interesting to me, because I wasn't just reading a story; I was learning about a

Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Original review can be found at
2.5 stars

** I received an advanced readers copy from Random House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

This book centred around three college aged people living in South Korea in 1978. Jisun never wanted for anything and came from wealth but had no interest in it. She was wrapped up in the political underground. Her best friend Namin came from a family that worked hard but struggled for everything they had. Their ho
Kasa Cotugno
Korea in the 70's experienced a transformation that went virtually unnoticed in America. Several books have been published recently set during these times, the most revealing being Human Acts by Han Kang (author of the highly regarded, award-winning novel The Vegetarian). That book told of a senseless death of a young boy during riots and its ripple effects. This book, purporting to use the same material to springboard the coming of age of three people in Seoul at approximately the same time, is ...more
Margaret Fisk
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over

I’ve reviewed books that have uncommon narrative styles before, but this is the first time I found myself lost in cultural differences, not just between my culture and theirs but within their culture and the different social strata. No, this is not a criticism. It was fascinating to catch myself having expectations because of the seemingly traditional narrative approach only to have them turned upside down.

Basically, Everything Belongs to Us is a small
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though it starts out with a protest scene, this book is NOT about civil rights. Political unrest was a defining part of Korea in the 1970s, so Wuertz includes mentions to help characterize the heros/heroines and root you in their motivations. Instead, this book is about a female friendship, and the effect of class tension on their values and ability to relate to one another. One is the privileged daughter of a wealthy tycoon who wants to fight against current government policies - you get t ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely immersed in this book from the beginning: the history of a country at a crossroads, the saucy college romance storyline, the nuanced depiction of the inequality that Korea still faces today. It’s pace was steady and measured but the plot still moves along leaving the reader wanting more. Excited to see what comes next from this talented author.
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost half way through the year, and this book is a strong contender for my book of the year. It just touched me. Granted, I am half-Korean and have a complicated relationship with my Korean-side; so it's possible that the complex lives of the main characters meant more to me than say a non-affiliated reader. But I don't think so. The book is a shining of example of unique and universal. I think people from all backgrounds will relate to the characters, situations and relationships that ebb and ...more
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
3.5 stars. I've bumped it up to 4 because this is the author's debut novel, so kudos! Also, I lived in Korea for 3 and a half years (and married a Korean guy), so I am probably more interested in the history of Korea during the 70's than your average person. I liked the look into the very different lives of Namin and Jisun the most. However, Sunam, the other main character, was insipid and weak-willed and I kept wishing he would start playing a more active role in his own life! What I liked the ...more
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