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.
The walled city of Hak Nam is "a place so ruthless even the sunlight won't enter," a festering cesspool in which children and teenagers are forced to murder, steal, and become prostitutes to survive. Dai Shing, trying to escape the city for reasons of his own, is ticking off the 18 days until the New Year when he partners up with Jin Ling, who is posing as a street boy in an effort to find her sister, Mei Yee. Now Jin must rescue Mei from a brothel under the control of the nefarious Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, with Dai's unwitting assistance. Graudin (All That Glows) is gifted at employing simile and other literary devices to describe the gritty surroundings and Hak Nam's criminal inhabitants, including one man with a voice "like a junkyard dog." The result is three stories deftly entwined into a fast-paced, striking tale partly inspired by the now-destroyed Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong as Dai and Jin learn to trust one another with their lives. Ages 15 up.
Exhilerating, heart-wrenching, and scream-worthy
A friend lent me this book at 4:00 PM, and I stayed awake until 11:30 to finish it. I could not put it out of my mind!
Ryan Graudin writes with the intensity of someone who is actually running through alleys for their life, or trapped inside a single building for years, or planning a risky escape from "this cesspool of humanity".
The Walled City is so vividly written, and combines the utmost perfect amount of answers and cliffhangers. The characters are lovable or hatable or pitiable—overall, a roller coaster of emotions. The plot is as twisted as a braid of Twizzlers. And the setting might be one of the darkest I've ever read about.
This book is something that deserves more readers. Make yourself one of them.
Should Be Required Reading in ALL High Schools
I would like to thank NetGalley & Little, Brown Book for Young Readers for granting me a copy of this e-ARC to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.
"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 run 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."
A compelling work of fictionalized reality, this book will enrage you, enrage you, break your heart, and make you believe that sometimes, just sometimes, dreams really can come true. Graudin has taken a terrible reality and woven it into something that most of us can just begin to grasp/stomach under the guise of fiction, yet the truth behind this fiction is so much worse than anyone who hasn't lived it can imagine. Human trafficking is alive and well, both inside the Walled City and out. Most young women end up in brothels or as prostitues, while the young men run drugs and join gangs for there is more safety in numbers than facing this world on your own.
Mei Yee was sold to the Reapers by her abusive father, not because she did anything wrong, simply because he had a thirst and could profit off his own flesh and blood. In turn the Reapers sold her into a brothel. Not just any brothel, but the brothel of the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon; the highest power within the Walled City, the Brotherhood is the most powerful gang there is. No one tangles with them and comes out unscathed, if they are lucky enough to come out at all.
Jin Ling, Mei Yee's younger sister, followed the van that stole her sister away. She knowingly followed it right into Hak Nam, the Walled City - a city where the only law is survival of the fittest. Jin is determined to find her sister and get her back. She knows that she'll have to be smart, fast, and most important of all, not a girl, if she's going to have any chance of surviving long enough to rescue her sister.
Dai lives in the Walled City now, but he didn't grow up here. Trapped and haunted by his past, he has a limited amount of time in which to save himself. But what began as a quest to return home somehow turned into something far more important. It became his chance at redemption.
These three young people eventually come together, all working toward the same goal, just from different angles. Initially their goals might not look the same, but their need to escape is a universal truth. Yet Jin won't leave without her sister, Mei Yee can't leave until she discovers if she has the courage to act, and Dai discovers he can no longer continue to look the other way on his path to freedom. Even before they all start working in concert, before they figure out their own tangled connection, somehow these three manage to give each other the only thing that will get them through the nightmare and safely out the other end - hope.
This is a haunting story, beautifully told, with enough details to feel as if you are down in the squalor and dank depression with all those who were used, sold, stolen, or just too weak to get away. While Graudin manages to clearly convey the grinding poverty and stink of desperation, as well as the hopeless horror of being forced into prostitution, he doesn't go into graphic detail to get the skin-crawling sensation of this world across. But for all those feelings, even with the nuanced emotions Graudin infused his characters with, reading about it just can't begin to convey the horror of living without hope. Survival is hard enough, but without hope it becomes well neigh impossible. This book brings a crucial issue of social justice into the light, but in a way that is palatable enough for the young adult audience to comfortably investigate. That alone makes this something that should be mandatory and available in all high schools.
THE WALLED CITY is a fascinating tale of hope, survival, and love.
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Well. That was FUN! Enjoyed it just as much as I hoped I would.
THE WALLED CITY is a fascinating tale of hope, survival, and love. I adored the way Ryan Graudin wove three different character perspectives together to unveil the events of the story. The pacing was perfect and the world building and characterizations were handled masterfully.
So many recent dystopian YA books are either unoriginal or tend to fall short–this one did not. It was unique and totally exciting. Yes, this was certainly influenced by other popular dystopian reads (Maze Runner & Running Man in particular)–but it didn’t feel like a carbon copy. The author was able to bring something new to a story we’ve encountered in one form or another before.
I was also fascinated to learn this was partially inspired by the real events of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong.
Definitely worth a read!