Title: Brother’s Keeper
Author: Julie Lee
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Publisher: Holiday House
Thank you to the publisher for the arc in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
“Can two children escape North Korea on their own?
North Korea. December, 1950.
Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos–and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation.” (Goodreads)
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I knew that it would emotionally be a hard read because earlier this year I read Book Review: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park and it reminded me of events from that book.
Brother’s Keeper is written in the time period of the early 1950’s and correlates with The Korean War. I haven’t read any books about it (non-fiction or fiction) and so I was very curious to get my hands on it.
Sora wants nothing more than to be able to go to school and have her dreams come true. This is hard to do when her mother wants her to become the perfect wife and learn to take care of a household. She is pushed around a lot and it’s really sad to read about. I can’t imagine what it would be like to constantly have a mother talk about her sons and never about her only daughter. Not only does Sora have to try and live up to her mother’s expectations but she also has to find a way to survive with her brother.
The book is split into parts and also chapters. In each chapter there is usually a scene that takes place in the past. I liked those because it helped round out the story and give more details about the other characters that are introduced and the family dynamic before everything starts to unfold.
As for the plot, it is hard to read at times but its one that is also hard to look away from. I found myself not wanting to put it down because I needed to know what would happen next. Will they make it? What will happen to her family? Will there eventually be a happy ending? All of these questions and more would circle in my head and I would just get so anxious reading it. There are many issues presented like war, family, and even the role as a daughter. Each one is well done and definitely make the book a real tearjerker.
Overall, this was a very well written book. I liked reading the author note at the end where it talked about getting research and some of it coming from the author’s own mother who lived through it. This may be fictional but it’s easy to see how real many of these events could be. If you are interested in books like this/ historical fiction, I’d highly suggest checking this one out. It may be an emotional ride but I think it’s one that’s worth taking.