26 September, 2014

Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin


There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.
Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there traffic drugs or work in brothels--or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.
Series: N/A
Release Date: 4 November, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN: 9780316405058
Edition: Advanced Reader eBook Edition
Review Written: 26 September, 2014

I caught this book on Netgalley as an Advanced Reader's Copy, open for everyone to read for the first 500 people. Intrigued by the idea of a 'Walled City', I picked it up after finishing my last book. This book took me less than a day to read, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

The Walled City tells the story of a young girl, Jin Ling, who's sister was sold into prostitution by their father. By an improbable amount of work, she manages to keep people from noticing her, or working out that she's female. Given that we don't know the time period this story is set in (except that it is the Year of the Dragon to start with and ends in the Year of the Snake), the setting seems even more far-fetched given that there are illusions to modern conveniences but they're guesswork. 

The story progresses from three separate points of view: Jin, Dai, and Mei Yee. While not hampered by this much, it was a mild inconvenience when some chapters were barely a page long before jumping to another character and back again. Many of these chapters contained some vital information, but the book was over halfway done before the motivations behind the main story-line came to light. After that, it's a whirlwind of action, moving quickly and skipping days or weeks within the character's timeline to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying ending of mostly happy endings. 

The story includes an author's note in the back, stating that the Walled City was real (it was located in Hong Kong) though if we're matching up the time frames, the Walled City in Hong Kong was evacuated in 1993-1994 (too late to be the year of the Snake as that was in 1989). She also states that the novel was never intended to be a historical fiction novel. Honestly, I'm glad because I saw nothing overly historical about it in there.

There's not a lot of redeeming hope for this book, the characters are mostly 2 dimensional, the setting while interesting falls flat without a proper explanation of how it grew up to be a den of thieves, and the ending is most unsatisfactory for me.

Read it if you're wanting a quick YA book to escape for a while, but don't expect much in terms of good characters.

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