Published by Little on November 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
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.
This was my first ever Ryan Graudin book, and the first thing I discovered was that Ryan wasn’t a dude. Hence, I had an interesting start with this book 😉
The Walled City was inspired by Hong Kong’s historical Kowloon Walled City, and its general atmosphere was therefore inherently dark. Very dark. Which made this dystopian tough to rate because, though I enjoyed the gloomy setting and strong female lead, the read was slow-going at times and I couldn’t get on board with the romance.
But let’s dissect this book one step at a time. Firstly, if you are wondering why I’m referring to this book as a dystopian, albeit being based on a real place: The names of the places in this book are fictional, which is why – in my humble opinion – The Walled City does not classify as historical fiction. But feel free to enlighten me on the matter, if you have a different opinion.
☀ Told from three points of view, The Walled City dives into the heart of a gated city where organized crime, prostitution, and drug trafficking rule daily life. Where survival determines people’s actions. Though the world-building could have been more extensive, it was sufficient to make this “world” of struggle and hardship come to life.
☀ The fact that one of the female protagonists was disguised as a boy (yes, one of my favourite book elements) already had me starting off on the right foot with Jin Ling. I was a fan of this main character either way, though, because she was a caring yet hardened soul. She was tough and suspicious and stubborn; a lone fighter really, but she squashed her fears because her love for her sister was greater than any obstacle thrown into her path. She also showed an interest in general knowledge, which made me appreciate her for both her bravery and her brains.
☀ The sisterhood bond is strong in this one. If you know anything about me, then you’ll know how much I adore the focus on sibling dynamics. Even apart, these two sisters were fuelled by their love for each other, finding the necessary courage to pull off their risky plans in the other’s strength. Though I didn’t like Mei Yee quite as much as Jin Ling, perhaps also because she didn’t have the same depth to her, she was an enjoyable character. The opposite of her younger sister, Meyi Yee was a shy girl who sought protection in her spitfire of a sister.
☀Graudin broaches many serious topics such as domestic abuse and human trafficking and basically every crime against humanity that crawls out of a dirthole like the Walled City.
☁ Dai and Mei Yee were enjoyable but lacked the depth I needed for them to be memorable. Though I’d say the concept will not be something I’ll forget so quickly, because Graudin put a lot of thought into it, the characters were fillers rather than pillars of a marvellous story idea.
☁ The plot was interesting, even gripping at times, but could also be very slow-going. The uneven pacing of the storyline disrupted the flow of the plot a bit. I wish the pacing would’ve been smoother and less disruptive of the build of tension.
☁ The romance was based on no foundation whatsoever. I dare call it insta-love because I couldn’t fathom what was happening before my eyes, and it just left me confused and bitter instead of having me ship them. View Spoiler »I don’t care that Dai and Jin Ling didn’t end up together. They had a bit of chemistry but it wasn’t overwhelming. But whereas Dai and Jin Ling developped a friendship based on mutual trust, what Dai and Mei Yee had couldn’t even compare to that. She was pretty, he was pretty, so the pretty people developped a crush??? GET THE FUCK OUT. « Hide Spoiler
All in all, I’d refer to The Walled City as your average dystopian which delivers a ton of entertainment but just doesn’t offer the kind of depth I search for in novels these days. Dystopian isn’t my go-to genre for well crafted worlds and multi-layered characters, but I expected a little more from this one, I’d say.