I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on November 4th 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asia, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Social Issues, Young Adult
Amazon // 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.
the walled city is a dystopian novel, that actually could be real. what makes it “dystopian” is the amount of gangs and banned-book-type of vibe it gives, but government falling apart? not really. at the end of the book, the author’s note said (semi-not-really-spoiler? just be aware.) such a place had existed! she’d just made it more dystopian-like. although there were some differences, the book was based on this place in hong kong, china. there were even pictures. i think she should’ve included some of this stuff at the front of the novel. after seeing the pictures of the actual location (which was basically the premise of the book!), it was much easier to picture everything. even after finishing the entire book, i couldn’t see the setting.. like at all. so, you should look for the pictures in the author’s note before you start this book.
the story is told from three main characters: a runaway with a mysterious past (dai), a girl who’s been sold to be a prostitute (mei yee), and said girl’s sister, who is trying to save her (jin). the character were not very relatable and a bit dull. some of their thoughts and actions seemed extremely petty and overall they were mediocre.
there were fairly strong topics discussed in this book, so i wouldn’t recommend it younger readers or those who prefer lighter reads. i knew the story was going to be dark, but it was much more than i’d expected. there were drugs, prostitutes, murder.. everything. although it had intimidated me at first, i appreciated it later because it was a nice insight of the awful truth. you see the character(s) who were traumatized by the events and makes me think about humanity and what we’re doing.
the writing was extremely poetic and beautiful. there were many metaphors, but it got to the point of confusion. i still found it hard to visualize. it was as if she used the most beautiful colors to paint a picture, but the details are missing and you’re not entirely sure what it is. in a way, it reminded me of a decorated sugar-free cake: beautifully executed on the outside, but the inside (world building, character development, relationships, etc.) was mediocre and bland.
the romance of this book came out of nowhere. maybe it was because i was in denial, but still, it came out of nowhere. the two characters meet and are instantly in love. it bothered me especially because for the girl, it was basically the first considerable male she met, and for the guy, he just thought she was pretty. they knew nothing about each other and there was no build-up. absolutely no chemistry, and somehow, was simultaneously a minor and major part of the story.
to be honest, i was mainly interested in this book because it had an asian setting. i come from a chinese background, so naturally, asian culture appeals me. i learned things i didn’t know about my own culture, and there were references to things i’m familiar with (for example: they would eat baozi every morning, and i knew exactly what they were talking about). for some reason, that made me especially happy.
there were many fun plot twists, but the climax of the story was not very climactic. also, i would’ve liked more closure. i was still left with “what happens now?” questions. overall, the plot and actuality of the book was meh, but the writing style was beautiful. in a nutshell: i liked… the asian references, writing style, and heavy topics, but i didn’t like… the characters, relationships, and visualization.