Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Anne Sibley O'Brien
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Mia Andrews and her brother, Simon, were not planning on vacationing in North Korea. Mia and Simon’s father has used his humanitarian aid connections to help North Korea’s starving citizens and now he is taking his kids there for an unexpected trip. During their vacation, a political group gives Mia’s father an iPhone, which is an illegal item. Mia turns on the phone and sees horrifying pictures of North Koreans imprisoned in concentration camps. Mia tells Simon about the phone and during a planned excursion, the North Korean police arrest their dad. The two siblings escape heading towards North Korea’s border with China. After several harrowing adventures and experiencing the courageous kindness of the local people, the two make it across the border with the phone. With no evidence to hold their father, the North Korean’s eventually release him.
In the Shadow of the Sun is the real-life version of The Hunger Games. Spectacle and propaganda abound in a country where the elite thrive while the common people starve to death. A country where one ill word about present or past dictators can send a person and their entire family to a concentration camp. This is the shaky reality where O’Brien begins Mia, Simon, and their father’s story. But O’Brien does not just focus on an American’s perspective of the secretive state. She also includes several short stories showing the thoughts and actions of North Koreans who either love their country or who risk everything for a better life. Some of the pictures Mia and Simon see are of executions in the concentration camps. O'Brien doesn't go into major detail regarding the pictures, but it is still shocking and stark, making this book not appropriate for readers younger than twelve. A nail-biting, thought-provoking read for ages twelve and up.
*Contains moderate violence.