101 pages 3 hours read

Sungju Lee, Susan Elizabeth McClelland

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

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | YA | Published in 2016

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


Every Falling Star

  • Genre: Nonfiction; young adult; memoir/autobiography
  • Originally Published: 2016
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 880L; grades 8-12
  • Structure/Length: 26 chapters; approx. 344 pages; 9 hours, 24 minutes on audio
  • Central Concern: Sungju Lee tells the story of his childhood in North Korea when he was forced to survive on the streets after being abandoned by his parents.  
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Poverty; homelessness; gang violence

Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland, Authors

  • Bio: Sungju Lee lives in South Korea and works as a consultant at NKHR: Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. He travels the world speaking about his experience defecting from North Korea. Susan McClelland is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in Toronto, Canada.
  • Other Works: The Bite of the Mango (McClelland, 2008)
  • Awards: Cybils Award (2016); Parents’ Choice Award (2016); Notable Books for a Global Society (2017)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Folk Stories and Propaganda Versus Traumatic Reality
  • Brotherhood and the Power of Chosen Family
  • Wealth Disparity and the “Haves” and “Have Nots” of Joseon
  • Hope and Disillusionment in Institutions

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Gain an understanding of the social, cultural, and historical contexts regarding the oppressive regime in North Korea from which the protagonist, Sungju, flees.