In the Shadow of the Sun
In the Shadow of the Sun

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Annotation: After their father is arrested while providing aid in North Korea, Mia and her older brother, Simon need to flee the country after they find themselves in possession of photographs that can expose atrocities about the country's labor camps.
Catalog Number: #161533
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 303 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-545-90574-5 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-1364-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-545-90574-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-1364-1
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016032888
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Mia and her brother, Simon, are on the run in North Korea. That's dangerous enough on its own, but they're also in possession of a cell phone containing pictures of atrocities in a North Korean labor camp. They're not sure where it came from, or why their father was taken by North Korean police, but they know they must get out of the country, fast. Relying on their own quick thinking, Mia's knowledge of Korean language and culture, and a handful of kind strangers, they embark on a harrowing journey from Pyongyang through the mountainous forests to the China border. O'Brien weaves plenty of information about the country through the story, and interspersed sections describing the experiences of some of the North Koreans they meet on their trip add depth. Mia, who was adopted from South Korea by a white American family, offers some thought-provoking insight into the experience of interracial adoption. This fast-paced and tense survivalist thriller, made all the more compelling for its fascinating setting, should find broad appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
A family holiday goes badly awry, leaving two siblings racing for freedom in a totalitarian nation armed with little more than an outdated guidebook and a few packets of airline peanuts. Adopted from South Korea as an infant by a white Connecticut family, 12-year-old Mia has grown up feeling conspicuously different from her family and peers. To help heal the rift from a serious fight with her older brother, Simon, and to encourage Mia to connect with her cultural roots, the teens travel with their father to North Korea, a country he knows well as a foreign aid worker. Mundane sightseeing gives way to danger following Mia's discovery of a cellphone containing shocking photos from a prison camp and her father's abduction by authorities. Simon and Mia embark on a daring cross-country journey in an effort to reach safety and alert authorities to their father's plight. The action is punctuated by short profiles of individual (fictional) North Koreans, tantalizingly pulling back the veil of secrecy, but readers are soon plunged back into a thrilling and immersive experience reminiscent of the best spy and wilderness adventure stories. Character development is not sacrificed to action, as the siblings mature in their relationship, gaining insight into family and racial dynamics, culture, and identity. Opening information from the fictional tour agency gives readers enough background about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to fully understand the peril the family is in. An author's note illuminates O'Brien's strong personal ties to Korea and gives suggestions for further reading. A riveting work that will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Thriller. 9-13)
Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year old Mia, adopted from South Korea and raised in Connecticut, has mixed feelings about her aid-worker father-s decision to take her and her older brother, Simon, on a tour of North Korea. After arriving there, she further questions the reasons behind the trip after witnessing her father attend late-night rendezvous and discovering an illegal cell phone containing shocking photographs of conditions in the political prisons. When her father is arrested and held by the government, Mia and Simon must find a way to escape to China. Though Mia is initially unobtrusive and meek, she proves to be resourceful and determined under pressure, taking charge, navigating, scouting for sustenance, and using her knowledge of Korean language and culture. In her first novel, picture book author O-Brien (I-m New Here) presents a nuanced portrayal of North Korea; the government is restrictive and the police force divided, but the citizens- complex perspectives and attitudes are revealed in thoughtful, interspersed dispatches. Mia-s reflections about being Korean in Connecticut versus in Korea are powerful, as is her assertion that she is -growing into both her names.- Ages 8-12. Agent: Lara Perkins, Andrea Brown Literary. (June)

School Library Journal
Gr 46Mia Andrews doesn't know a lot about North Korea. She's heard that it's controlled by a dictator, that there's an ongoing famine, and that people who break laws are sent to harsh labor camps as punishment. It doesn't sound like the best place for a family to visit on vacation, and when Mia's aid worker father takes her and her brother Simon there, she gets more than she bargained for. Her father is arrested for spying, and illegal photographs fall into Mia's possession. Suddenly, Mia and Simon are on the run from soldiers as they try to flee to safety in a country where they do not speak the language and have no access to food, transportation, money, or the Internet. This is an intriguing read, driven by plot and characters. Mia is a likable and smart protagonist who grapples with her identity as a South Korean girl adopted into a white family, while Simon is a typical angry teenager. The tension of their escape, however, is rather lacking. For example, the description of Simon's leg injury should be harrowing but isn't. It is obvious that O'Brien did her research on North Korean life. Peppered throughout are segments written from the points of view of characters the Andrews siblings encounter, offering different perspectives. Overall, the book is well researched, but despite the engaging premise, it's hardly an astounding thriller. VERDICT Suitable for readers on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum or collections where novels set in North Korea are in demand.Paige Garrison, The Davis Academy, Sandy Springs, GA
Voice of Youth Advocates
Twelve-year-old, Korean-American Mia and her Caucasian older brother, Simon, are on a highly regulated tour of North Korea with their father, a famine-relief worker. At a lunch early in their trip, their father gets two black-suited visitors, one of whom gives Mia and Simon a gift box, suggesting that they wait until they return to America to open it. Curiosity, however, causes Mia to open the gift that night. She finds nested boxes, the smallest of which contains a cell phone, which is illegal for foreigners to have. Scrolling through the phone, she happens upon photos of dead and dying prisoners in rehabilitation camps, situations that the North Korean government claims do not exist. When their father is arrested the next day, Mia and Simon surmise it relates to the photos and, realizing they too might be in danger, they flee. The next eight days are a test of their abilities to survive in remote North Korean countryside, knowing that the Korean Secret Police are on their trail. O’Brien’s debut novel is an adventure story (a la Will Hobbs) with political overtones. Unable to speak the language and unable to blend into society due to Simon’s appearance, the duo must stay hidden in the forest, making their way to the Chinese border where help may exist. The action, tension, and suspense are compelling. The thoughts of several North Koreans they meet along the way are sprinkled throughout the story, allowing readers a glimpse inside the minds of a population living in the most repressive country on the planet. O’Brien includes a brief “tour book” history of North Korea, its customs, and its government. Additionally, an appendix includes sources for more information on North Korea. This is a gripping book on a rarely discussed subject.—Ed Goldberg. In the Shadow of the Sun is a brilliant story about a family trip gone terribly wrong. Mia and her brother Simon travel with their father to North Korea, a country that arrests their father during their trip. Struggling to get to China and contact America, Simon and Mia bravely scavenge for food, care for wounds, and travel one hundred and twenty miles to safety. They then reveal the human rights violations of North Korea and save their father. 4Q, 5P.—Shirley Yan, Teen Reviewer.
Word Count: 83,892
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 13.0 / quiz: 189249 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.3 / points:17.0 / quiz:Q70912
Lexile: 700L

North Korea is known as the most repressive country on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet that's exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she really belongs. Then her dad is arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia's hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison -- or worse.

An exciting adventure that offers a rare glimpse into a compelling, complicated nation, In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable novel of courage and survival.

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