Study Guide

A Step from Heaven Plot Analysis

By An Na

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Plot Analysis


What's Wrong With Korea?

Nothing, that's what… at least if you look at things from Young Ju's perspective. Korea is where home is, and it's also where her grandmother Halmoni is. So there's the set-up for you. You've got a little girl who's tight with her grandmother, and even though nothing's perfect (especially her father who's a mean alcoholic everyone's scared of—read: villain), she's got her family, her home, a dog, and a best friend… what more could a kid want? Turns out, it doesn't matter because it's her parents who decide everything, and when the parents are left in charge you can bet everything's going to be turned upside-down…

Rising Action

Welcome to America

And by welcome we mean welcome to a totally foreign language, being poor and dependent on an aunt, and fizzy pop drinks that hurt your mouth… It's safe to say that Young Ju isn't into any of these things, plus America isn't heaven like she thought it was going to be. Talk about deflated dreams. But it's not just Young Ju who's disappointed by America—her parents are too, which of course means there's a whole lot of fighting about to happen, especially with a new baby on the way…


Calling 9-1-1

This moment is kind of a long-time coming in the book, but when it happens, it's quick. Apa and Young Ju get into a fight because she's been hanging out with her American best friend even though he told her not to, but Apa doesn't let the situation slide and finally takes out all his anger on Young Ju (you knew it was going to happen eventually). But then Uhmma steps in to protect Young Ju, so he turns his fists on her. It's not easy, but Young Ju finally gets the guts up to call the cops on Apa. And you know once the police come calling, things are never going to be the same.

Falling Action

Fathers—Who Needs Them?

After Young Ju calls the cops on her dad, all sorts of crazy things just start snowballing. Even though Uhmma doesn't press charges against Apa, he leaves them for this girlfriend he's been hiding on the side. Uhmma's so pissed that she stops talking to Young Ju because she blames Young Ju for blowing the family apart, but Uhmma eventually gets over it and even decides to stay in America with the kids even though Apa is returning to Korea. It finally looks like things just might be okay after all.


Everyone's Got Some Good Inside

It's a year or so later and Young Ju, her mom, and her brother have finally moved into their own home. Young Ju's about to go to college, her brother's helping out at home, and their mother's finally able to rest a little. Things are good. Except for Apa—we don't know what happens to him, though Young Ju does find out from her mom that Apa was the one who taught her how to swim in the ocean waves when she was very young. It's not a lot, but to Young Ju, it's a major memory and a reminder that Apa wasn't always a total beast. So yeah—you've got your (kinda, sorta) happy ending.

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