Publication: November 4, 2014, by Little Brown Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical, Romance
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.
Before truly beginning, can I just say that I never even saw the true image of the book cover before I picked it up and began to read it? I've seen this book for ages and it's been on every wish-list of mine, and I saw mountains in the background. MOUNTAINS, I TELL YOU! Now this is a gorgeous cover, before I get to anything else.
The Walled City was what you've heard it was. I agree with the other Goodreads reviewers, and all of the average ratings that you see and the reviews will tell you the truth. This was a great novel, but it first started off horribly. It was slow and boring to the point where I began to wonder if I should DNF this. In the end, I saw the concept as something wonderful and I loved the idea on how the real Walled City is a real city that's found in China and people have actually lived in it. It's wonderful to read a fictional novel thats base is from a real place. Yes, this does introduce some dystopia into it, but it was mostly historical with romance and a heart-racing story.
"I was invisible a lot when I was younger. There were only three years between me and my older sister, but Mei Yee was the one people noticed. Her face was round and soft. Like a moon. Her hair hung straight, sleek as midnight."
If you're planning on reading a novel and you have it right beside your hands, then I recommend not reading the summary. I seriously didn't really pay much attention to the concept and what this story will hold before reading it, just trusting the reviewers with their high ratings and all, and I never ended up thoroughly going through it and trying to see if it'll interest me or not. Then, the huge plot twist came, and I barely saw it coming. If you don't pay attention, then authors can really whack your mind. Hah. I was such a loser, but it brought me closer to the book and at that moment, I actually began to enjoy it more and I gave up on the DNFing thoughts that circled my mind.
This book features a wicked plot where there are three sets of protagonists: Dai, Jin and Mei Yee, and you guessed it—they'll all end up knowing each other and forming some kind of relationship by the end of the book. They're all trying to hide a secret, or are trying to run away from something that's fixating their lives, where Dai has been homeless and wants to traffic drugs for kingpins in the city. He hasn't had any contact with his dad for years, and until he meets Jin, his life has been a wreck. Jin is a girl who's reenacting herself as a boy to make things safer for her, and she's trying to find her younger sister who's gone to a brothel and is living there, and Mei Yee is that sister.
In dystopian novels, everyone always has something in their life that they need to run away from. These characters already are living in the worst possible conditions of the city where everyone's either rich or homeless, and it's all about the wealth that one has. The concept that I kept on seeing was survival and friendship, since Dai and Jin wouldn't be anywhere without each other and readers probably would be able to picture them both dead on the side of the road and robbed by a drug lord in a few days. They trusted each other, but not enough until the end of the book where Jin revealed her secret, and sh-- really got real.
"Everyone in the Walled City has secrets. I might want the truth, but I need my sister more. I can't risk losing my only way into Longwai's brothel. Not over this."
From all of the three protagonists, I felt connected to Jin's the most. There was so much pathos and guilt in her situation, and I just wanted to shed some tears for her. From the looks of it, Graudin made it look like Jin cared so much for her sister, but her sister instead was a snob who made it into the brothel on her own fault and she's just stupid. But of course, whoever is older usually knows best, and they'll always go running after the younger ones, helping them even if they don't feel like they need it. Jin was afraid with her own situation as pretending to be a boy, and she needed a friend of Dai.
I started off reading with high expectations, of course. What can you possibly expect when all you see are 5 star reviews on Goodreads? It took me a whole day of reading to get through this, a few different sittings, and I finally got through it. Again, the beginning was horrible, and the only way that one can possibly get through this is with complete and utter patience. If you don't have any of that, then I'm afraid that you're going to be completely lost with this story.
After that, things got really good. If we just take the first 120 pages out of the book, the rest is a definite 5 star rating in plot and pacing. I finished this very quickly afterwards, and found myself captivated. Thank goodness I didn't put this down earlier or I surely would've missed out on quite a lot of plot and wonderful characters. Now as I'm looking through the author's other novels, I'm not sure if I'll go for them, especially All That Glows, but I can tell you that I'll always keep an eye out for her other novels as this really impressed me and left a great remark on me that I'll always keep with me when thinking about a book based on a true story.
"It's because I'm a girl. But they don't know this. No one here does. To be a girl in the city—without a roof or family—is a sentence. An automatic ticket to one of the many brothels that line the street."
Another tiny complaint that is stuck on to me and I admit I'll have to tell everyone here is the world-building. Yes, I'm absolutely in love with the world and the concept of the Walled City itself, but I actually didn't find out much about it until I googled it afterwards. The characters hadn't really given us the best mental picture that is possible, and I probably would've enjoyed this book much more if I knew where this was taking place beforehand and that this was a true-ish story going on here. Huh.
Ryan Graudin has delivered a fantastic novel with heart-racing moments and absolute shocks and plot twists that will leave readers breathless until they have a good night's sleep. When you wake up, you'll feel that the Walled City itself is right outside your window, and you'll want to go explore the unknown world with the wild characters of Dai, Jin, and Mei Yee. Adding some light romance and great action in the end, I can tell you that this was one of the best historical-reads that I've gone through for a while. Have patience for the beginning and research your stuff, and you'll really enjoy this to the fullest extent possible.