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A Step From Heaven by An Na

When four-year old Korean, Young Ju, boards the plane to America, she is sure that she is going to heaven. But upon arriving, Young Ju discovers that this is not the case at all. Young Ju speaks no english, knows no one other than her extended family and lives in what can only be described as the ghetto and it only gets harder from there. With a new baby, an alcoholic and abusive father and loads of pressure to fit in, Young Ju is very much afraid. But unless Young Ju can conquer her fears it may cost her both her and her mother’s life.

What I Thought of A Step From Heaven

Don’t get me wrong, this novel was cleverly written, well-thought out and realistic. However, A Step From Heaven does not deserve a five-star rating for a few important reasons. But first I’d like to detail what was good in the book.

An Na chose to write this book uniquely through vignettes and with much success, if you ask me. The vignettes gave the author the ability to cover a lot of ground in not very many pages and to focus on only the important details of story. Additionally, vignettes provided an even more realistic plot, making the readers feel as if Young Ju herself was recalling her memories to weave together a story. That’s another major strength this book has: relatability. Most likely anyone who has gone through abuse, immigration or possibly both could easily relate to this story. Even I, who has gone through neither abuse or immigration can sympathize and understand Young Ju’s feelings and actions. This is what probably made Young Ju such a great character. Her voice is authentic and strikingly lifelike, she is perfectly understandable and it is hard not to feel her suffering. Unfortunately, other aspects of the book were not quite as satisfactory as I could have hoped.

What was most frustrating about this book were the other characters’ lack of depth. No elaboration was made for any of the characters other than Young Ju. This means no backstories, no explanation for their actions; nothing. They were just…there. Call me crazy, but I wanted to know more about Young Ju’s family and friends! It would’ve given the book four, no five times as much depth, which according to me is very valuable in a novel. Speaking of, another valuable thing is the plot, which in this case, was completely predictable! From almost the very beginning of the book I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I was right! This made me bored through most of the book, and that’s why it received only three and a half stars. Nevertheless, I will give A Step From Heaven some credit, it’s an eye-opening read that’s both unique and true to life; and that’s saying something.

A memorable moment is the climax where Young Ju calls 911. I won’t say what for (because that will spoil the book) but I will say it was a suspenseful and exciting scene in the book.

Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars