Jin and her sister, Mei Yee, were taken and sold and then sent to the lawless Walled City to serve as prostitutes or slaves to anyone willing to pay. Jin managed to escape her captivity, but not the Walled City and she now lurks about, disguised as a boy and is trying to track down the brothel where her sister is still captive. Jin will work odd delivery jobs to earn a small bit of money and hopefully have a legitimate means of coming in contact with her sister’s captors. This is how she meets up with Dai, a mysterious boy who has somehow managed to avoid running with any of the gangs in the city but he seems to have his own unusual connections, which Jon could desperately use if she has any hope of finding Mei Yee. But Dai has his own desperate needs.
The story is told from the different perspectives of each character and we do bounce around quite a bit as the chapters are generally short. This never bothered me, which is slightly unusual as often I find this technique to be distracting. But it works here because author Graudin has done a wonderful job of creating these characters uniquely and distinctly. Getting a view of this unusual city from three different points of view is really quite interesting.
The ‘walled city’ is Kowloon, which, according to Wikipedia:
Kowloon Walled City was an ungoverned, densely populated settlement in Kowloon City, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to the UK by China in 1898. Its population increased dramatically following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II. By 1990, the walled city contained 50,000 residents within its 2.6-hectare (6.4-acre) borders. From the 1950s to the 1970s, it was controlled by local triads and had high rates of prostitution, gambling, and drug abuse.
But of course this is more than an observation about an unusual city – this is a story of ordinary individuals caught up in the ‘prostitution, gambling, and drug abuse’ mentioned in the Wikipedia article.
And what is most odd (and gratifying) here is that Graudin has managed to write an engaging, informative story for young (high school?) readers about some rather disturbing issues without getting too graphic and without sugar-coating anything. It’s a really fine line to toe, but Graudin has handled it skillfully.
I enjoyed this, and I would enjoy reading more by Ryan Graudin.
Looking for a good book? If you want a historical adventure, with plenty of interest and action, written for YA readers, then pick up Ryan Graudin’s The Walled City. You won’t be disappointed.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Walled City
author: Ryan Graudin
publisher: Little, Brown
hardcover, 424 pages