Okay, I knew An Na was a great author. After reading Wait for Me, I couldn’t remember why I had gone into that book with such high expectations. I decided to take a break in my growing pile of teen books to reread her first book, A Step from Heaven. The Printz award winner for 2002, A Step from Heaven is incredible, as I am now reminded and now remind you.
It begins as Young Ju is four years old, in Korea, with the language and observations of a little girl. She knows things are bad in the house, then all of a sudden there is talk of Mi Gook and everyone seems happy. Then they are going to Mi Gook (New York) by plane, and Young Ju is sure they are going to heaven. When they arrive, her American Uncle Tim tells her it’s not heaven here, but is a step from heaven. And so begins her new American life.
As Young Ju grows up during the course of the book, the language and writing change accordingly. We witness her growth and the changes in the family. As the father grows more powerless in the new country, he becomes more abusive to them all. This isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s powerful. Ultimately it’s about strength, not despair, even when everything seems bleak. A Step from Heaven is a fantastic book about the struggles of being an immigrant in a new country.