Friday, 7 November 2014
Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little Brown
Publication Date: November 4th, 2014
Source: Publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a honest review**
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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'd heard some pre-release buzz for The Walled City. The few reviews trickling in were pretty positive. So when I had the chance to request it for review, why wouldn't I? The blurb makes the book seem like an action packed dystopian. Well I was very surprised when it turned out not to be a dystopian at all. Not that that changed my opinion. It just turns out that The Walled City is loosely based on a real events. Which would make it a contemporary. That's pretty cool. A kind of unique in today's YA market. Being a contemporary in no way takes away from the action and thriller aspect to the book. It is a lot of go go go. Which is great, because it makes it extremely hard to set the book down for any long period of time. Annnd even better is that The Walled City is a stand alone. What are those, you say? Well they are a book that has a complete story arc within said one book. Shocking, I know.
The Walled City is told in three alternating POV's. Dai is a drug trafficker. Jin is an under the radar thief. And Mei Yee is "working" in a brothel run by the cities biggest crime lord. All three have secrets. All three have desires. All three want to break out. This is where Dai, Jin and Mei Yee's stories start to entwine. They need to work together to escape the city in one piece.
The Walled City has no limits when it comes to crime and prostitution. There are no laws within its walls. Which makes it pretty terrifying to live in. You can't trust anyone. You always have to watch your back. And you better be able to run pretty fast. It's a dirty city in more ways than one.
Obviously with my above rating I thoroughly enjoyed The Walled City. But I think Graudin somethings extremely well. The first one being the atmosphere and culture throughout the book. Although we are never told where the city is located it's clearly in China. Graudin does a fantastic job of bringing Chinese culture into the setting. As we all know it's hard to come across diverse books in YA. Everything is very white washed. We just need more books like this.
The Walled City is also a fully formed character. Graudin did a fantastic job bringing this very dark and seedy city to life. She describes all aspects of the city so thoroughly that it was extremely easy for me to imagine how horrifying it would for me to by stuck in there. All three characters brought a different view of the city and none of them were pretty. Just the brothel alone makes me shiver. Drugs and prostitution run rampant. Everyone carries a weapon or two. No hidey hole is safe. Not everyone in the city is terrible. As Dai showed us when he was buying food or whatever, vendors he had no attachment to would show worry over his bruises. Or Jin and her cat. Or Mei Yee and the other girls at the brothel. They had to look out for one another. But none of that takes away from the dark hole that is the Walled City.
I can't go to much into the plot without giving away spoilers. The Walled City is also told in a countdown. It starts at 18 days and not until over half-way through the book was it revealed what was being counted down to. And at that point you also start to get some back story on the city. How it's able to function outside of the laws of the country it resides in. How it was formed. It's a pretty interesting reveal.
I also don't want to get to much into the 3 MC's. Obviously there secrets are revealed throughout the story. All three story lines were great and intriguing. Sometimes when there's more than one POV it's hard to connect with each separate POV. Sometimes you're reading one just because you have to. You have to read it to get to the ones you actually care about. Not the case here. Each character brought a different voice. A different reason for why they're trapped inside the wall. And a different reason for wanting to break out. Graudin weaves their stories together so seamlessly. Jin and Dai accidentally fall upon each other. When they both realize they can work together to achieve what they need so much faster than if they were to try and do it alone. Dai happens at Mei Yee's window. And until that moment Mei Yee was just trying to survive the brothel life without drugs and beatings. She hadn't thought about escape until Dai needs her help to infiltrate the brotherhood and the crime lord that runs the brothel. The characters were just well developed and I connected to all 3 of them. I needed each one to succeed and make it safely beyond the wall.
Needless to say that The Walled City is a fantastic stand alone contemporary thriller. The atmosphere and culture was on point. My adrenaline was running high. I was flipping pages at high speeds. Seriously guys, if you're looking for a unique and thrilling read that might make you a little scared to venture down sketchy side streets than you need to pick up The Walled City ASAP. It does its job and it does it extremely well.