Hundreds of thousands of immigrants venture to the United States every year, each possessing his or her own life story, distinct talent, and cultural background. In A Step from Heaven, An Na captures the essence of immigrating to the United States through the eyes of a Korean family.
A Step from Heaven is about a Korean girl named Young Ju and the adversities she encounters as an immigrant. The story begins when Young Ju is four years old and follows her life until college. Young Ju’s family has just moved to the United States, where they seek economic stability and higher education for their children. As the story progresses, Young Ju and her brother, Joon, must cope with adapting to American customs and learning the English language. In addition, Young Ju’s father suffers from depression and resorts to self-destructive habits and abuse of his family. Thus, his children are faced with the challenges of a torn family.
An Na earns the hearts of her readers in this heartwarming story. When the family struggles to stay together, one experiences the urge to help Young Ju through the difficult times. Though many have never faced such hardships, the author makes the siblings’ struggles relatable in a way that one can empathize with Young Ju and Joon. In addition, An Na utilizes symbolism to communicate her characters’ feelings, as Young Ju dreams of climbing to a higher tree branch. The author’s writing becomes more sophisticated as the book progresses and as Young Ju matures.
A Step from Heaven is a moving novel about a young girl’s adaptation to a new culture and acceptance of the inevitability in life. An Na’s novel deserves a solid score of ten. The reader learns vital life lessons through Young Ju and her experiences in the United States, lessons not easily conveyed by most writers. An Na’s novel is recommended for those in eighth grade or older, as many younger students may not comprehend the thematic elements fully.
~ Maia Lee, A2