Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

18196040
There are three rules of survival 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.
Published by Indigo in November 2014
Pages - 424
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-fuelled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.
******
What a stunning debut!
From the moment I started reading this book, I was entranced by the characters and their situation, not to mention the frightening, cramped walled city filled with the worst people you could imagine. To be totally honest, this book blew my mind. There was so much to take in and savour. I was sucked into a dangerous world where knives were your only best friend. The author really captured a time and place in history that I now find myself fascinated with. Although the Walled City is a fictional representation of Kowloon, it is extremely clear that the author researched it thoroughly to create an excellent replica. I can remember as a child, hearing about Kowloon, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I really understood the immenseness of the situation. I couldn’t believe how many properties were all crammed into such a tiny space and I am so glad that photos were included in the back of the book to give a realistic view of what the city was like.
The story is told from three points of view with each character searching for something – mainly freedom. I loved the way these seemingly unconnected teenagers find their lives entwining as they race against time to save themselves. The plot sets off at a fast pace as we count down the days until New Year when the walled city is due to be demolished. The writing in this book is extremely sensory – I  could almost taste the noodles cooking, not to mention, smelling the opium.  Out of the three main characters, Jin Ling was my favourite. She was feisty, fierce and fearless as she outmanoeuvred all the boys older than her, never once revealing that she was actually a girl. I also had a real soft spot for her cat, Chma, who has his own battle to deal with.
At times the story is brutal. The author tackles some very difficult subjects such as child abuse and human trafficking, yet writes about them with sensitivity, without shying away from them.
This story is different and really stands out within the YA market. It is  refreshing and captivating, yet gritty and realistic from start to finish. I loved learning about a completely different culture and I felt the author gave it a huge dose of accuracy. I can’t wait to see what Ryan writes next.

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