Title: The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: November4, 2014
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley.
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.
Okay, disclaimer: when I first requested this, I thought it was a dystopian, which was why I requested it. The blurb does sound a bit dystopian. I was interested because it seemed like a dystopian set in an Asian-influenced future world.
The book reads like a dystopian — until the end. Ultimately, this is historically-based fiction, not a dystopian set in the future. The Walled City in the book has a real-life counterpart: the Kowloon Walled City, now demolished, but what happens in this book could actually have happened in real life.
And…that does not give me positive feelings for humanity, because I seriously thought it was a dystopian until it became clear to me that we were in an alternate Hong Kong or something.
Anyway. All that aside, this book is really good. Other than giving people a bit of a history lesson (seriously, I was in Kowloon shortly after the handover, and I had NO IDEA there was once a walled city there), it’s very well-written and gives us a fascinating glimpse at a possible seedy underbelly of a prosperous city. (I say possible because Hak Nam and Seng Ngoi are fictional. You know.) Also, the characters are fascinating. Even the secondary characters of street children-turned-gangsters. There are a lot of layers in this book, and I’d imagine that a lot of research went into writing it.
Overall, I loved it. It was a bit surprising to realize this was set in the past, not the future, but I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome it was. This is a book I’d let my kids read, for sure. I’ll be looking for more from this author!