A Dream of Lights by Kerry Drewery

Yoora is a teenage girl living in North Korea, dreaming of the lights of foreign cities while eking out a miserable existence in a rural northern village. But then she makes a mistake: she falls in love. With someone far removed from her social class. Someone dangerous to know. When tongues start to wag, her father is executed and she is taken to a prison camp in the mountains. There, escape seems even further from her grasp. But Yoora is about to learn an important lesson: love can surprise you, and it can come in many forms…

Other books by the author

A Brighter Fear

Author website


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32 thoughts on “A Dream of Lights by Kerry Drewery

  1. A Dream of Lights is an incredibly sad story set in the awful conditions of North Korea. It is a tale of great resilience and bravery, and keeping a fighting spirit even when there is little hope of escaping. It shows how Yoora, the main character, survives terrible circumstances by keeping hope and managing not to give up trying to survive, despite how dreadful life is in the prison camp she is trapped in. It depicts terrible undeserved suffering, utter desolation, and living with the fear and suspicion of punishment looming at all times; a place where there is great injustice, where the regime makes them think their suffering is their own fault and punishes three generations of a family for one small “mistake”. The book makes you feel extremely frustrated and saddened when in the beginning Yoora is convinced her life and leader is better than other countries when they are really in terrible conditions as she is brainwashed into believing this. It showed me the extent of human cruelty when people have power and do awful deeds, just because they can. When Yoora says she is lucky in a moment where she has escaped and is temporarily out of danger, after suffering all these terrible circumstances, it makes me appreciate just how incredibly lucky I am, and realise I have been so fortunate in my life. It made me aware of how sheltered I am, and feel guilty that while I am in comfort, many people, like her, are living in such terrible circumstances, through absolutely no fault of their own. It also has the message that love, such as Yoora has towards her grandfather and her baby, can help you to survive facing difficulties, and that facing adversity one step at a time, will get you through any circumstances, no matter how great. It is an amazing tale that opened my eyes to the suffering that happens around the world, and though it made me feel incredibly sad, I am really glad I have read this book, as otherwise I would not have any idea of these terrible events that are happening, and I would readily recommend it.

  2. I think this book was great. The characters were likable and you felt sympathy for them. The story itself was depressing but very real. I really liked it but I thought that the story was too sad for it to be totally enjoyable. Altogether I would give it a 8/10 and recommend it too people who can handle a depressing story.
    Charles Thorp
    Millennium RIOT Readers

  3. A remarkable piece of literature, A Dream of Lights is a book I would heartily recommend to anyone. The element of suspense keeps you reading even when you feel you can guess what will happen and you’re always surprised by the quality of the twists, though to call them good would not do the people this book deals with justice.

  4. It was a very moving book and it was very interesting. We weren’t too keen on the ending as a lot of things were left untold.Yoora had a hard life keeping herself happy by dreaming of foreign lights. We hope there is a sequel as we would love to read it.

  5. I hadn’t heard very many great things about this book. Therefore, I have to admit that I rushed through it and don’t feel I took much of it in. The plot captured me, making me think about the world we still live in, but it didn’t display much that made it something for me. In all honesty, I am going to read this book again, however I hope this time I will be able to absorb more, lose myself in the characters and not focus on getting through it. For this reason, I don’t have too many nice things to say about it, but I count this as my own fault and don’t deny the author has a compelling style of writing.

  6. I liked this book as it was quite easy to read even though it was very grim at times. You feel sorry for the people brought up in this isolated existence being forced to live their lives under a a strict dictatorship, where nothing can be questioned or challenged and the children are brought up to think that their lives are good and are made to be thankful for living in poverty and under cruelty. I did however think that the ending was rather convienient and it felt a little rushed to me. That Yoora just happened to come across Sook out of all of the people who lived in the town and that the “happy” bit of the story was only a couple of chapters long then just stops. I did find it a little repetitive at times although I quite liked her writing style and descriptions of the setting.
    I would like to try another book by this author

  7. A Dream of Lights was an emotional and extremely touching journey through the life of a young, North Korean, teenage girl named Yoora. The book was beautifully written, and left me in tears at several points throughout the book. The protagonist, Yoora is born within the ‘oppressive realm’ of North Korea. She is exceptionally naïve, and has a blunt outlook on her life although when the time arrives she tries to act as a backbone for her family. She clings onto even a sliver of hope even in the very hardest of times. As the book progresses we delve deeper into Yoora and her family’s lives, we uncover the hardships and struggles they have to put up with everyday. We realise the high stakes involved, and just taking a single wrong step could have killed them. A Dream of Lights is an adventure filled with raw emotion. It is frightfully honest and makes you feel appalled reading about the dreadful conditions and the struggles that families in North Korea have to face daily. Overall, A Dream of Lights was worth the read, and has completely changed my outlook towards life. I would definitely recommend it to all teenagers.

    I don’t think I have ever read such a heartbreaking book.
    However, it didn’t make me cry, or wail, or dissolve into tears. Instead it induced a kind of quiet sadness, because it is beyond human sadness levels.
    I don’t consider myself as someone who cries over books for days, but this book really moved me. I think it is the fact that this REALLY HAPPENED that makes it so upsetting to read. I simply couldn’t believe that things like the events of A Dream of Lights really did happen in North Korea, and in the recent past. Yoora went through so much and as readers, we feel her pain every step of the way.
    I personally felt irrationally guilty. We, in our cosy lives here in the UK, stood by while such atrocities took place. Why wasn’t something done about it? Why didn’t someone help Yoora?
    But, as the blurb reads, it is also an epic story of hope in the worst circumstances, of light in the darkness, and of one girl who wouldn’t accept her fate. It is truly inspirational.
    Though it started out slow, I really did like this book. It really made me realise that we’re all human, and no matter what happens we have to keep going ‘one step at a time’.

  8. This is an incredibly moving story which left me in tears at several points. What makes it all the more poignant is that this book is set in the 21st century, ending in 2011. We have all heard of such prison camps in the past such as concentration camps in WW2, however to find out that such treatment is still allowed by some countries such as North Korea where the hardships face by their prisoners are truly shocking in the modern world. Although this story is not true it is based on accounts from people who have managed to escape such a secretive and closed country, this book and their stories are truly inspiring and give you a new perspective on life, it does make me think how we live in such a consumer based society and what we honestly need as the bare essentials to life. It reminded me of a similar book I had read, The Hiding Place. Which if you liked this I suggest you read.

    My fellow NETBA readers warned me about the unpleasantness of A Dream of Lights, and naïvely I thought myself prepared. Truthfully nothing can prepare you for this book. It can be very depressing and I had to read it with a more light hearted title on the side. But saying that, it is the reality of North Korea, it is horrible but we need to know about it and I am glad that I now do. It was only the Author’s note that assured me of its reliability. A Dream of Lights is an adventure that you could hardly imagine and taught me that sometimes fiction can creep into real life without us knowing. I didn’t enjoy it, I don’t think you really can, but I took a lot from it and I hope that it finds success in the reading community whether it be in YA or among older readers.

  9. I found this a pleasant surprise. I loved the harrowing storyline and the way there was an air of romance yet it didn’t overpower the story. This book enlightened me on the wider world and scared me to think the kind of topics mentioned in the book still occur in parts of the world. Would definitely recommend it!

  10. A Dream of Lights is an excellent read from beginning to end. I would definitely recommend it to anyone 🙂

  11. I would highly recommend this book. It is very well written and is very gripping. It is a great read but it is very moving and sad. It makes you realise how hard it is to live in countries like Korea. If you are prepared to cry then you should read it 🙂

  12. I thought this book was realy good and moving. The story of Yoora was touching and reading about her made me feel her pain.

  13. A Dream of Lights is a very moving and emotional novel about a young teenage girl, Yoora, who lives in North Korea and faces the daily struggles of life in a prison camp.
    It is beautifully written and is very raw with emotion. Yoora has a very blunt outlook on life but carries on in hope of her eventually leaving the camp. At points you feel appalled at aspects of life in North Korea which to them is very normal. It is brutal at describing the deaths of the characters but the worst part is, that is actually how they kill people in North Korea.
    I have only a few gripes with the book. The constant use of rhetorical questions can get boring real fast with at least one on every page and sometimes whole paragraphs of them. I would have liked more dialogue between the family in the evenings talking about their days and what their jobs are like in more detail. At the end of the book I didn’t feel like there was much closure and I wasn’t fully satisfied. An epilogue which was set in the future would have been a nice addition.
    A Dream of Lights is a book I would highly recommend to anyone but don’t expect a romance novel. I would give this novel a 4/5.

  14. Compelling from start to end, “A Dream of Lights” immersed me with intense emotions of sadness and anxiety. The book painted a vivid image of life in North Korea with it’s excellent description and content. I’ve already recommended it to my 18yr old sister and seems to have enriched my life. Now I feel more grateful for the small things I take for granted in life, such as a warm home and food. Although I really enjoyed the book, the ending did slightly disappoint me; there is definitely space for a sequel which I would read straight away.

  15. I loved reading A Dream of Lights. It’s a great book but also reveals the truth of what happens to people like Yoora in that country. This is a sad book 😦

  16. An educational and gripping read. ‘A Dream Of Lights’ certainly left me asking questions and wondering about the wider world. I would recommend this book as it was a great story as well as an educational piece of literature. I appreciate how difficult it was to extract the information shared in this book because of the secretiveness of North Korea. For me, this made the book all the more rare and exciting.

  17. ‘A Dream of Lights’ left me overwhelmed; I couldn’t begin to imagine the sadness Yoora must have been through. Although I don’t usually become so emotional over books, this one I could really feel myself connecting to, and, I feel this was down to the writer’s style. Throughout the whole read, I thought Yoora was telling me her story, with me laughing and crying by her side. I would recommend this book to ANYONE because of the insight it gives you to today’s problems in such a worthwhile manner.

  18. Regardless of the heartache and the sorrow, it is a good book worth its attention. Showing the real story behind the people, it holds a theme about the extent of cruelty and evil, but most importantly of all, hope.
    Overall, it had a really interesting atmosphere which made me feel really intrigued. It was written in such a way that made it seem simple, yet powerful.

  19. By far my favourite book. The way its written is so effective and just made me want to cry when I found out that that is what really happens in north Korea. I think that we all forget how lucky we are to live in a country like the UK. This book just brings that idea forward to help the reader appreciate what we actually have to be thankful for.

  20. I really loved this bbok and found I was drawn into the storylinne feeling each emotion that the characters felt. I couldn’t put the book down, reading it in one day! I would recommend this book to anyone as it has so many different emotions in which you can pick from within the book.

  21. I found this book took a long time to get into although it does educate you on the fears about living in North Korea.

  22. A Dream of Lights gives the view of a young girl, who unlocks secrets and falls in love with someone forbidden and by doing so she slowly creeps into terrible danger, ending up in a prison camp. The book shows the importance of love and how it can affect you for life, but it also displays never ending loss.
    I found the Dream of Lights exceptionally sad, however I couldn’t seem to put the book down as I was eager to know what happened next. The book touched me throughout as it reminded me that hope is everywhere is you don’t give up.

  23. I think this book was very interesting about what life is like in North Korea. But personally, I found the book very hard to get into.

  24. This isn’t the type of book that I tend to read normally but I was pleasantly surprised by it in the end. I enjoyed the small aspect of romance but that it didn’t in any way take over the story line. The ending was unexpected and I thought it was a great ending to such a sad book. The book was informative but it was very interesting at the same time. Although I didn’t like the start of the book because I felt it lacked subtlety in revealing information and didn’t appear to have much of a lead up to the story, it didn’t actually bother me after I’d finished the book. The idea behind the book was really interesting and I personally found it compelling and hard to put down. The story was sad but beautiful and I would definitely recommend it to all sorts of people because it’s really interesting and well-written.

  25. ‘A Dream of Lights’ by Kerry Drewery is a thrilling read. I would recommend this book to anyone of any age- the reality of Yoora’s stories are heartbreaking for anybody. The messages in ‘A Dream of Lights’ are very inspirational, whilst the book is slightly disturbing at times. The fact that Yoora’s life is the life of many in North Korea really made me connect with the book. Main themes in this gripping story are companionship, guilt and loss. No matter what type of book you think is your ‘type’, you will love this book.

  26. A Dream of Lights was amazing! I loved how there were twists in the book as you went along which kept you gripped from beginning to end! I would recommend it to both adults and teenagers as it is a brilliant book!

  27. This book was incredible, it was so sad in parts but also so full of hope. The ending was perfect and I adored the message that the story told; that there is hope everywhere.
    Lizzie Dillon x

  28. A Dream Of Lights was definitely a very interesting book which I couldn’t seem to put down! I loved reading this story because of the danger and unpredictable turn of events in each chapter. I especially liked finding out about the hopeful ‘dream of lights’ and the many plot twists, which I found at the turn of every page, leaving me shocked.

  29. I really enjoyed reading ‘A Dream of Lights’ because I found that as the story progressed and developed it became more gripping and suspenseful. I thought that it provided me with more of an understanding to North Korean life and culture because I knew very little about the horrendous rules, punishments and strict way of life. I would highly recommend this book because I found it gripping and very memorable. When reading the book I felt as though I was being taken on an extraordinary journey.

  30. This book was a great read. I found the whole idea behind it interesting. The factual history and the story line was fascinating making you want to read on. I loved the fact that the story was from the point of view of a child whose ideas on the world were limited. I couldn’t put the book down as each chapter made you question what may happen in the next chapter. The ending was good, but left you wanting more, I wished that there was a second book. Over all I enjoyed this book and would advise males and females, teenagers and adults to read it.

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