Find True North by Richard R. Li is an introspective novel about a young boy growing up in North Korea. Yungsang ‘s mother is arrested as a political threat. His own father turned her in to protect the family. Yungsang’s parents were affluent, his father a physics professor and mother a doctor. This status gave them some privileges such as his Itouch, guitar, and more exposure to the outside world than the average North Korean. As the story unfolds his life after his mother’s arrest becomes more and more chaotic and dangerous. There are those that feel he may be a political threat like his mother. With his life quickly unraveling before his eyes, he seeks assistance in leaving and getting safely to South Korea.
Li’s voice is that of a sarcastic teen who has been taught, ‘do what it takes to survive’. Within the story we see him change from an average teen who has much the same concerns and worries as any youth, his age, to a young man who has dreams and visions beyond the walls of his country. He begins to understand life in a new light, understanding that much of what he had been taught was based on lies. Inwardly he struggles with the loss of his mother, and the negative feelings he has towards his father for his actions. He witnesses his best friend, Woojin, get tormented and bullied by other youths he had thought were his friends. Kwon his 8 year old orphan side-kick takes a beating from the police in Yungsang’s honor while he is powerless to stop it. All he can do is watch. The feelings and raw emotions in him boil to the surface and lay naked and exposed on the pages of this novel.
Find True North written eloquently by Richard R. Li is a powerful and moving tale.