by Ryan Graudin
Read: October 29 - November 3, 2014
Published: November 4, 2014 by Little Brown BYR
Source: BEA (THANK YOU, LB BYR!)
Tags: Kowloon Walled City
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.
DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....
JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....
MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....
In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.
A girl pretending to be a boy, determined to rescue her sister, if she can find her first - and keep outrunning the vicious street gangs. A boy with secrets, a gun and 18 days to complete an impossible task. A girl sold into prostitution, who is not sure she'll ever be free. All three are living in the Walled City, where their lives are about to converge.
Jin, Dai and Mei Yee do not have an easy journey through this book. They are constantly surrounded by dangerous people and very real threats. I admired their fierce determination, will to survive and the way they all came to care about and fight for each other - as well as themselves. Trust is a rare commodity in their world, and fatal if given to the wrong person, but these three need each other if they're going to make it out alive.
Four elements I want to highlight about The Walled City:
1) Tension. The Walled City kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly looking over my shoulder and worried about what - or whom - would be coming next. The author did an excellent job building tension in the story through Jin, Dai and Mei Yee's three narratives. They are all in very different places when the story begins, but the closer I got to the end and the more their lives converged, the faster I was turning the pages. The cover copy calls this an "adrenaline-fuled novel," a very fitting phrase.
2) Setting. I was completely fascinated by the setting of the book. In many ways it is its own character: Hak Nam, Walled City, or 33,000 people crammed into a 6.5 acre space, built up, instead of out. Gritty, lawless, run by gangs, filled with drugs, prostitution, hoards of vagrants, and very little sunlight. All set right on the edge of a major, modern metropolis. It's a place I could not fathom existing - or existing in, and yet, a version of it was real less than 25 years ago. Now I'm pretty much obsessed with the real Walled City.
|Kowloon Walled City ariel view (source)|
3) Voice. This book is written in first person, though as I was reading, I kept forgetting that and thinking it was in third person. I enjoyed this story so much, but I agree with fellow blogger Nikki's comments that I actually wish it had been in third person. I got wrapped up in all three of these characters' stories: their secrets, the impossible things they had to do, the pain they suffered, and the ways they grew up and found inner strength and resolve. However, the tones of their voices were all similar. I was never confused whose head I was in, but the individual character voices didn't stand out to me as much as the fast paced way the story fit together and the fascinating setting, both of which made this tale shine.
4) Romance. The romance in this story is not the main focus, but it is important and something that stood out to me. First, because its players were a little unexpected for a YA book, but that is what I really liked about it. The gently budding love story is sweet and innocent first love, but it is also forbidden and incredibly dangerous, as is pretty much any major attachment in this world. The romance highlights how well this book balances its light and dark elements.
The Walled City is a rush from start to finish. I couldn't stop reading this book or freaking out for the characters. The stakes are high and nothing is guaranteed, but human trafficking is real, redemption can be found in the darkest places, and if all else fails, RUN.
Love triangle factor: None
Cliffhanger scale: standalone