On a Rooftop in Beijing
Muse Literary (2022)
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (03/2023)
For years seventeen-year-old Sloane has trained for this moment—swimming for the US Olympic team. The 2008 games are being held in Beijing, and she is over the moon to travel and put a little space between her and her parents, who like to control every aspect of her life. But, despite the excitement of being in another country, Sloane won’t let anything distract her from keeping her eyes on the prize—the gold medal. That is, of course, until she locks eyes with a handsome North Korean swimmer, Jae Sung.
Jae Sung must placate the Supreme Leader of North Korea by bringing home the gold. There is no other way. If his team falters, each athlete will likely suffer extreme punishment and possibly death upon returning home. He’s been given strict orders not to associate with anyone outside his team. Still, as soon as he notices the beautiful American swimmer with the alluring smile, he knows that will be impossible.
As the two meet for secret rendezvous on the rooftop each night, they fall deeply in love. But this is dangerous for them, especially Jae Sung, who could be killed just for speaking to Sloane. Will love prevail for the couple, or is a future relationship doomed?
“On a Rooftop in Beijing” by Maggie Paredes is an enthralling coming-of-age book about overcoming insurmountable odds for love. It is told from the first-person perspective and alternates between Sloane and Jae Sung. The story explores the young, effervescent love budding between the couple and the plight of one’s destiny being controlled by a ruthless dictator.
The best part of the book was, by far, the burgeoning relationship between Sloane and Jae Sung. The author did an excellent job of developing their relationship quickly and deftly illustrated the immediacy and recklessness of first love. Jae Sung’s decision to throw caution to the wind to be with Sloane reminded me of the invincibility we have when we are young. I enjoyed watching their relationship evolve.
Beyond the sweet relationship between Jae Sung and Sloane, I gleaned information about living in North Korea that was previously unknown to me. This book does an excellent job of comparing the disparity to the freedoms we take for granted in North America. For instance, I had no idea that the government prohibited the use of social media and only allowed its citizens access to a heavily controlled intranet run by the country. Further, the people are restricted from leaving their homeland. It was saddening to discover that Jae Sung could end up dead for following his heart.
Overall, I enjoyed this immersive story that prompted readers to question if love was enough; could it truly conquer all? The character development was spot on, and I finished the book with a greater understanding of North Korean policies. You do not want to miss out on this book!
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