Novel: Press & Reviews

A Young Reader Responds

Posted by on Nov 26, 2017 in Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on A Young Reader Responds

Thanks to Jade, who sent me this note:

In the Shadow of the Sun is a really good book. One of my favorites. I think the fact that this book takes place in North Korea is one reason why it makes the book good and mysterious in a way. I’m reading your book again! … I know people say never to judge a book by its cover, but I think the cover of your book explains the story pretty well! I like this book because of how you make the girl interested in Korea and the boy is more eh about going to Korea. North Korea! I think this book is suspenseful, sad, and in the end happy.

Read More

“A nail-biter of an adventure”

Posted by on Nov 14, 2017 in Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on “A nail-biter of an adventure”

Thanks to reviewer and middle school librarian Lynn Rutan, in The Booklist Reader:

Looking for a heart-thumping thriller? Anne Sibley O’Brien’s In the Shadow of the Sun (2017) was already a great choice, but then the political situation with North Korea got even worse, heightening its timeliness and intensity.


Twelve-year-old Mia Andrews and her surly older brother Simon—who we learn has been “mad since August”—are touring North Korea with their aid-worker father, who wants the family to see where he works and share some quality time. Mia and Simon find this a very odd vacation destination, and their father is soon arrested. Tension mounts when Mia discovers that a package she received contains a phone with extremely dangerous photographs stored in it.


The siblings set about to save their father and themselves by getting the phone across the Chinese border. Somehow, these teenagers will have to traverse one of the most repressive countries in the world with little money, no allies, and a scant understanding of the language. Throw in Simon’s all-American looks, and this proves an almost-impossible undertaking.


Life-or-death adventure and a nothing-is-as-it-seems plot would be enough to make this a promising read for middle-schoolers. O’Brien, however, supplies a lot more to take away. She juxtaposes Mia’s experiences as a South Korean adoptee in a largely white Connecticut town against her trip experience where she looks like everyone else. She depicts Mia and Simon’s sibling relationship wonderfully: Mia feels, rightly, that Simon dismisses her abilities, thoughts, and potential contributions, so watching Mia’s personal growth and increasing self-confidence becomes all the more satisfying. Interspersed throughout the adventure are the reflections of various North Korean citizens, which help provide a greater understanding of the country and its suffering people.


O’Brien, who grew up in South Korea, has delivered a nail-biter of an adventure that is also outstandingly researched and packed with fascinating information and insights. Buckle your seat belts, this one’s a wild ride!


Read More

Review from a Young Reader

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Novel: In the Shadow of the Sun, Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on Review from a Young Reader

Thanks to Amanda Kang, who wrote this review:

In The Shadow Of The Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am 13 years old going into the 8th grade, and felt that it was a good fit (part of that may have come from the fact that Mia’s character and I have a lot of similarities, being Korean-American, about the same age, having to go to Korean school/한글학교, etc).  In general, I enjoy these kinds of books about semi-hardcore survival (like The Boxcar Children) because it’s exciting to read about people my age staying alive due to their own resourcefulness.


I myself have only ever been to South Korea, although my grandpa was born in Pyongyang and my dad has been on the other side of the border twice.  I learned some valuable information by reading this book, whether it’s how heavily a family’s fate depends on the time that one of their children flips her card at a performance, how accidentally dropping an important person’s portrait could send you to reeducation camp, or simply how dangerous it is to be associated with someone/something that the North Korean officials do not approve of.  It’s scary, especially at this time.  On the bright side, it’s helpful to know that I could change the meaning of my middle name if I wanted to.  That’s not something many of my friends can do.


Of course, there is also the element of Simon and Mia’s relationship.  I liked how the whole experience of being stuck there brought them closer together, the way they should be as siblings (but who am I kidding?  I never get along with my sister).  It was nice to see how their working together was what saved them in the end.


Anyhow, I am glad that I read this book and will give it four or five stars on goodreads as soon as it’s published (I also don’t think I mentioned that I have never read an advance uncorrected proof before, so this is a first for me).  I believe that it’s really important, especially for people who assume ideas based only on what they hear in the news about places like North Korea (a kid asked me on the playground “why are you reading a communist book?  That’s where Kim Jong-un is from, and we don’t like him”), to read this book and books like it, because then they’ll have a better idea of why these things happen while still reading from an outsider’s perspective.  Speaking of perspectives, I really appreciated those grey sections in between the different chapters, because it is always better to have multiple viewpoints in a complicated story.  I am also glad that those parts–while short–connected to the main story, because otherwise you would just have random parts mixed in with the plot and you wouldn’t get the background of the tertiary/secondary characters that you meet briefly in the narrative.


Because of this book, I now have a better understanding of the more misunderstood side of the country that my family is from, and for that I am grateful.

Read More

“Cultural Accuracy and Historical Veracity”

Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Novel: In the Shadow of the Sun, Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on “Cultural Accuracy and Historical Veracity”


Thank you to Korean American Readings for this review of In The Shadow of the Sun.

“It’s been a while since I read a book, YA or adult, that captured me so thoroughly that I didn’t want to stop reading, and that I couldn’t stop thinking about until I finished reading it. IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN was such a book. It follows Korean adoptee Mia Andrews and her brother Simon on a tour gone terribly wrong that devolves into a frightening and thrilling journey in one of the most closed countries on earth, North Korea. The author, who grew up in South Korea, has done thorough homework—the story feels authentic and the details ring with the truth of cultural accuracy and historical veracity. The book has a unique structure that includes a smart introduction to North Korea via a “travel guide,” and short interludes of voices of certain North Korean characters whom the youth encounter, if only briefly, on their harrowing journey. This combination brings a wider perspective on Mia and Simon’s dilemma, and gives valuable glimpses of a varied and complex North Korean society and daily life. While the action is a page-turner, Mia’s inner journey of identity and courage, as well as Simon’s, and the shift in their brother-and-sister relationship is equally authentic and compelling. Mirroring today’s political dilemma with issues of trust with North Korea, Mia and Simon are constantly confronted with questions about who to trust, and their instincts and choices are a lesson for us all. A terrific book about how a girl’s daunting journey enriches her inner journey, and a story and setting that expands one’s understanding of this country that is often in the news, and about which little is known.”

—Eugenia Kim, Korean American Readings

Read More

“A thrilling and immersive experience”

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on “A thrilling and immersive experience”

Thank you to Kirkus!

A family holiday goes badly awry, leaving two siblings racing for freedom in a totalitarian nation armed with little more than an outdated guidebook and a few packets of airline peanuts.
Adopted from South Korea as an infant by a white Connecticut family, 12-year-old Mia has grown up feeling conspicuously different from her family and peers. To help heal the rift from a serious fight with her older brother, Simon, and to encourage Mia to connect with her cultural roots, the teens travel with their father to North Korea, a country he knows well as a foreign aid worker. Mundane sightseeing gives way to danger following Mia’s discovery of a cellphone containing shocking photos from a prison camp and her father’s abduction by authorities. Simon and Mia embark on a daring cross-country journey in an effort to reach safety and alert authorities to their father’s plight. The action is punctuated by short profiles of individual (fictional) North Koreans, tantalizingly pulling back the veil of secrecy, but readers are soon plunged back into a thrilling and immersive experience reminiscent of the best spy and wilderness adventure stories. Character development is not sacrificed to action, as the siblings mature in their relationship, gaining insight into family and racial dynamics, culture, and identity. Opening information from the fictional tour agency gives readers enough background about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully understand the peril the family is in. An author’s note illuminates O’Brien’s strong personal ties to Korea and gives suggestions for further reading.
A riveting work that will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Thriller. 9-13)

Read More

Entertainment Weekly Runs Excerpt of Novel

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in Novel: Press & Reviews | Comments Off on Entertainment Weekly Runs Excerpt of Novel

Honored to have Entertainment Weekly share a selection of In the Shadow of the Sun on their website!

Read the Excerpt!

Read More