Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on 9/30/14
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asia, Drugs Alcohol Substance Abuse, Family, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
My content rating: Very Mature YA (Drug use, Sex trafficking, Violence, etc).
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.
I have to say that I really sort of fell in love with this book. I went into it thinking that it was going to be a dystopian, and it really sort of is, except at the end, if you read the author’s notes, you’ll find that the book is based on a real life place – a place that actually existed. Make sure that you head over to this site to see pictures of Kowloon Walled City, and to find out more about it. There were once 33,000 people living within a one block radius – you honestly have to see the pictures to believe it.
At any rate, back to my review. I was actually forced to put this book down a few times because I had scheduled review books that I needed to read. Usually when that happens, I find myself having a difficult time getting sucked into the book that I had to put down, but this was not the case with this book. I couldn’t wait to get back to reading this book – I kept feeling drawn back to it. I wanted to immerse myself in this insane setting and get to know these characters and their secrets.
What I LOVED:
- The setting. Graudin really captured the gritty, dirty, painfully claustrophobic environment and made you feel like you were there with her characters. From the very start of the story, when Jin is running for her life through the city streets, you get a sense of the various horrors and dangers that lurk in this place. The Walled City is an incredible setting, and the fact that it’s based on a real place makes it that much more unbelievable (ironically). Graudin did a fantastic job of describing what it would be like to live in this kind of place, especially for the street vagrants – the people on the lowest of the low social strata. It was a dangerous and difficult life. I found myself drawn into this place almost immediately.
- The characters. I was completely invested in all three of the main characters and their individual plights. Their stories were often horrifying, but always captivating. These three people were all very different, so they saw the Walled City through different eyes, and reacted to their circumstances in their own unique ways. I loved seeing this world through each of their POVs.
- The mysteries and action. I was immediately pulled into the story, wondering why Dai only had 18 days to escape from the Walled City and what had happened to him to land him there. As the story unfolded, I found myself more and more intrigued, wondering how Dai would escape his fate and whether or not all of the characters I had grown to love would make it out alive. This book was full of danger – the characters never knew if they were going to live through the next day – survival was a constant battle.
- Beautiful writing. I was really drawn in by the poetic language that was used throughout the book (though this may not be as much as a plus for some people who don’t like this type of elevated writing). I loved the poignant moments and the elevated emotions – there were so many times when I found myself thinking, “That was just beautifully described!”
- Too much beauty in the ashes? Sometimes this book did actually feel a little bit too optimistic, considering its gritty setting and horrific subject matter. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens, but certain things were wrapped up a little too neatly and the book lost just a little bit of its realism.
Go now and read about Kowloon Walled City and then pick this book up. This is a book that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I read it. I easily give it 4.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***
About the Author
I was born and raised by the sea in Charleston, South Carolina. I grew up on a steady diet of fairytales, salt-marshes, music and brothers who would reenact Redwall battles with me in the backyard. I went to an artsy sort of high school that allowed cello recitals in the hallways and impromptu poetry slams in the cafeteria. It was there I decided that writing was what I wanted to do more than anything.
So I wrote. I went to the College of Charleston and graduated in 2009 with a degree in Creative Writing. I met the love of my life and got married at 21. We started traveling the world together and never really stopped. We’ve taught English in South Korea, farmed in New Zealand, hiked through Peru, spied on lions in Kenya. Country number 19 is next on the docket.
I still live close to the sea, with my husband and my wolf-dog. We try to grow gardens, but haven’t had much success. Sometimes I get bored and give myself dreadlocks or pierce my nose. One day I’ll be brave enough to commit to a tattoo.