A Step from Heaven by An Na
Type: Contemporary, Immigrants, Korean
Basic Plot: Young Ju is a young Korean immigrant that moves to the USA with her family, but life in “heaven” isn’t what Ju was expecting.
Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The plot moved at a good pace and had good content, but it could have had more. The characters were dynamic and realistic, and the story and events are believable. I could see this story happening to an actual immigrant family.
Writing Style and Setup: 3½/5 Above Average: The author did a good job in dialogue and style. Since it was from Ju’s perspective, things are sometimes written in how they sound rather than how they are actually said. The only problem I had was that some of the Korean was not pronounced correctly, such as “Uhmma” for “mother” instead of “Ohmma.”
Moral: 2/5 A Good Moral and a Bad One: To be positive, let’s start with the main moral of the novel, which is the good one. One of the main themes in the book is how parents affect their children. Ju’s father’s abusive ways cause her brother to be an angry and rude boy and for Ju to be fearful. Neither child is obedient or loves their father, since his only response is to get angrier, his children move away from him emotionally even less. This moral is good for parents to observe, as they can consider how treating their children may cause their child to be respond in an inappropriate way.
The second, less pushed, moral was unfortunately bad. As a little girl, Ju trust God and prays to him to punish her Dad for being cruel to her family. As Ju gets older, she decides no longer to “wait for God” because she is no longer a child, but to deal with the problem herself. God is no longer mentioned after that, as if Ju has thrown God away and now has found a better solution. Now, when Ju decides to take action rather than cower and do nothing, that was good, because if there is an emergency we should act and not expect God to magically fix the problem, but God is not useless as the author makes him look.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: A Step from Heaven is recommendable in quality to people thirteen and older in interest. The story would also appeal to adults, especiall if they are Korean or immigrants.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Some Brief Inappropriate Content: When Ju’s brother is using the bathroom outside, the Korean word for a certain body part is used. Ju’s brother is mentioned to have a blue mark on his bottom.
Violence: 3½/5 Moderate Violence: Ju’s father is abusive. Throughout the book he slaps his wife and children and kicks his children in the stomach. Sometimes it is to the point of bleeding, and once the mother has to go to the hospital. In the end though, the problem is dealt with. Ju prays God will spank her father. A mother smacks her children on the head when they misbehave. It is suggested that Ju’s brother slapped her. Ju hoped her brother doesn’t bump into a wall.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2½/5 Some Swearing: The term for a female dog (though not in that context) is used four times. The “bastard” is misused once. “Damn” and “God” are misused once each.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3/5 Quite Emotioanl: Jus’s father is abusive to his family. See more in “Violence.” It describes the injuries that Ju’s family has from their father, especially for their mother. Ju lies to her class and teacher that her brother died. A woman actually does die, and a bird dies. A woman has a cut on her hand from a knife and there was blood when it happened. It mentions that sometimes Ju and her brother get hurt sometimes when playing with her father. Ju thinks a woman will eat her, because she thinks she is a witch.
Religious Issues: 1/5 Suggested Issues: God is hinted as being useless throughout the book. Ju’s grandma tells her that if you love God you will go to heaven. A Buddha statue is briefly mentioned. It is said that a boys hair looks like a “devil’s horn.”
Magic: ½/5 Suggested Content: The Korean word for “America” is called “magic” by Ju. Ju thinks a woman looks like a witch. There is mention of something looking like a ghost.
Others: Ju’s father gets drunk and smokes. A woman is said to have hair “short as a boy’s.” There is drinking throughout the book. Ju buys a lottery ticket once.
Overall: 3/5 Teenage Appropriate: I would recommend that this book not be read unless a person is sixteen because of the language and violence.