It began with something so simple.
Of a city, like no cit I could I had ever seen before, no city I could possibly have imagined.
Yoora is a teenage girl living in North Korea, dreaming of the lights of foreign cities while eking out a miserable existence in a rural northern village. But then she makes a mistake: she falls in love. With someone far removed from her social class. Someone dangerous to know. When tongues start to wag, her father is executed and she is taken to a prison camp in the mountains. There, escape seems even further from her grasp. But Yoora is about to learn an important lesson: love can surprise you, and it can come in many forms…
What I thought:
Drewery’s other book was scary because it was it was about the power of the media and you could see the manipulations that were happening and the power of the words they so carefully used. But it was set in an alternate universe so there was a level of separation. This one is different. This one is scary because it’s in our world. In a country that is known for being a dictatorship, you can’t put the book down and be away from that world. The book gets put down the world is real. North Korea exists and people are running from it in fear. People are only just surviving in work camps. You can’t ignore that this is other people’s reality and not just words on a page. Which made it even worse, it has the feel of a ‘normal’ dystopia YA and yet it isn’t because this is our world. It’s the small things that hit home, the compulsory listening to the radio about how brilliant their leader of Kim Jong Il is, and not only is there no way of turning the radio off there is also no volume control, it’s fixed at the highest level to force them to listen to it. And this is normal it happens every day, twice a day.
Yoora loves her country and her leader, why wouldn’t she? So it’s not just scary seeing the world she lives in but it’s scary seeing how normal and right it all is for her. At no point in the first 16 years of her life does she criticise her leader, he’s a great man. During the book she grows to be scared and to hate him but it takes a long time for that hatred to grow. For her to turn against everything she has ever known. It starts with her falling in love with the wrong person but grows from there as she starts to gently question it, to probe at the propaganda until at the end she’s desperate to leave no matter how much she loves her country.
The imagery and language used in this book is beautiful and grows with Yoora as she starts to accept that the regime she lives under is an oppressive one. It’s well written and an easy read as well as being a difficult one because of the subject matter.
Why I read it:
Because of who it was written by. As I said in my review of Final 7 I fell in love with Drewery as an author. So after finishing that trilogy and from talking to her on twitter I decided to pick up her other two books. I’m glad that I did and I’ve also bought her other one which is set in Baghdad in 2003.
I loved this one and I’m glad I got it, I’m not sure I would have read it if I hadn’t read the ‘Cell 7’ trilogy and my life would have been less for it. Its not that I didn’t know about the regime in North Korea but reading this book made me look for some true first hand stories of people who have fled and learn more about their experiences. It’s one thing knowing about it in general terms but learning individual stories makes more of an impact.
Would I recommend: Definitely. It’s a scary heartwarming story. The love of Yoora’s family keeps her going but there is no getting round the fact that it is scary because it is realistic. I would definitely suggest that you go seek this one out.
Popsugar: Set in a country that fascinates you. Favourite Prompt from previous challenge (Book you haven’t read from an author you love)
Please let me know if this review makes you want to read the book, or if you’ve read any other books set in North Korea. I’d be really interested to read more.
As always I’d love it if you could leave a comment.