Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

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I received this book for free from Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little Brown BfYR on November 4th 2014
Genres: Thriller, YA
Source: Hachette Book Group
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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.

“There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.”

I admit, this is all I read of the blurb before I dived into this book in line at BEA, so what I expected was some kind of dystopian. And in a way, it is a dystopian-like setting inside the city itself, but this book is not a dystopian/post-apocalyptic story at all. It’s a contemporary thriller. Outside the Walled City, the world is just like ours today, with modern civilization and normal people living normal lives. Inside this city, however, we’ve got another story. In a gist, this book is about the horrors of human trafficking in a city without laws, controlled by gangs and criminals, ruled by brothel owners and drug lords. THERE IS NO SCI-FI IN THIS NOVEL!

The Walled City was inspired by the very real, very intimidating Kowloon Walled City that existed in Hong Kong not so long ago. Knowing events in the book really happened in our own world made it all the more horrific. Hell, human trafficking is still happening today. From the author’s notes, in 2006, nearly 2 million children were trafficked into the sex trade. That is some scary ass statistics if you ask me. As expected, now that you know what this is about, parts of the story are quite disturbing, but it’s not overly gory for the fun of it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of bloodshed and violence, but it’s done in a way that’s made to show the grittiness that is life inside such a city. And let’s take a look at this for a moment (source: Mail Online’s “A Rare Insight Into Kowloon Walled City” which I urge everyone to read as it’s quite eye opening!):

After seeing this once I finished the book, I have to say that the author nailed the grim atmosphere and claustrophobic streets. She painted this exact picture in my mind of dirty, ominous streets that never see sunlight – it feels like a prison in itself.

This novel is narrated by 3 different characters who give us different perspectives of this city. One is inside the brothels, a girl sold to them by her alcoholic father. Another is a boy from a rich family who, after making a mistake, lives in fear of his days running out. The 3rd, and my personal favourite, is a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to survive the Walled City streets and save her sister. All three perspectives are closely tied together, unbeknownst to them at first. This made for a highly compelling story where you’re anxiously awaiting what seems like rather horrific outcomes, while wondering how badly they will become intertwined. What I also enjoyed was the romance. It’s kept light throughout, with only hints of a spark here and there, but most importantly it’s free of tropes like insta-love and love triangles. I especially appreciated how a boy-girl partnership between two of the narrators was kept totally platonic. How refreshing!

I did have one minor qualm. Whether it be ignorance or a simple lack of knowledge, before I read the author’s note at the end, I had no idea about Hong Kong’s Walled City and I kept waiting for some kind of explanation or “world building” (expecting a dystopian and all) that would tell me how the heck this city existed, exactly. Some explanations are given about how it came to be, but very briefly, as if we were expected to know already (I only clued in after reading the author’s note that, being based on the real-life thing and all, we probably were supposed to). Still, a quick history of how a city like this gets built would have been appreciated. Or at least a prologue explaining the origins of the real Walled City. Anyways, it was a complaint I had while reading that ended up being irrelevant.

What you should expect: Sex trafficking, brothels, drug lords, street gangs, hunger, poverty, claustrophobic living, dirt on top of dirt – Welcome to the Walled City! A place where criminals make the rules, and survival is a daily struggle.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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25 Responses to “Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin”

  1. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Woah….I had no idea this Walled City in Hong Kong used to exist, that is so incredibly disturbing and a violation of human rights. This book going into that would definitely be an interesting one, thanks for the review for shedding some light on it though. I thought it was a dystopian as well! Too bad there is a lack of explanation, but sounds like the rest of it was pretty intense. Great review Giselle!

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Those pictures you shared gave me chills, Giselle. We often take our lives for granted and then we see that there people who live like THAT and are reminded of how lucky we are.
    Anyways, I’m excited that you enjoyed this book so much, Giselle. I knew it would be a winner, but your review has gotten me even impatient. I should be reading it in a couple of weeks. I guess I better emotionally prepare myself.
    Beautiful review! πŸ™‚

  3. Danielle

    Oh I totally thought this was about a futuristic dystopia but what it is actually intrigues me more especially as it’s based in fact. I love different POVs and free from the usual tropes? Sold!:-)

  4. Michelle @ Book briefs

    I had no idea about the actual walled city either, so I think if I get around to reading this one that fact will really help. This book sounds terrifying. Even more so than horror books.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much Giselle.

    Great review!

  5. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    I wasn’t aware of Hong Kong’s Walled City either, so I would have appreciated if the author’s note had been included at the start rather than the end of this book. But, other than that, I find myself oddly drawn to this one considering it’s not my usual genre. Thanks for introducing me to this new-to-me author!

  6. Soma Rostam

    xD I have never heard of the real Walled City and this is the first review I read of this book. Quite interesting though
    GREAT review, deary, as always
    Gotta add to this to my TBR
    Your reader,
    Soma R.

  7. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    This was honestly one of my most anticipated reads for this fall, and I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it so much Giselle! I was under the misconception that it was a dystopian novel, but I think it sounds fabulous as a contemporary thriller too. It’s so interesting to find out this was set upon real events, and I’m curious to see how that ties into the story; as gruesome and terrifying as it may be. Thanks for sharing Giselle and, as always, FANTASTIC review! <3

  8. Christianna

    I have to admit that I skimmed over this review because I’m reading it right now, but I have to agree with you so far and I’m glad you gave it 4 stars! I’m really liking it, and I’m curious to see what happens.

  9. P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    I didn’t know about the Walled City either! Wow. It sounds like a really good setting for a story, although something horrible in real life. I’m super curious about this book now. I was also expecting sci-fi so your review was kind of a shock πŸ˜›

  10. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    ooh I am so curious about this one now! It’s been receiving mixed reviews according to GR, but I think I’ll need to try this one myself to know if I want to read it or now. Does seem quite promising.

    Lovely review, Giselle! <33

  11. JennRenee

    Wow my thoughts were along the same line as yours. I thought it was dystopian and had no idea about Hong Kong. That is why the beeks are so great. They open our eyes to the rest of the world. I really want to read this book now. I am sure It will be hard to get through but it feels as I should read it. great review.

  12. Megan McDade

    I just got this book for review and I am really intigued by the story it sounds like a really gritty read from your review. I am interested to see how the little bit of romance works in it.

  13. Jae @ The Fluttering Heart Book Nest

    I received a copy of this book from NG! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it πŸ˜€ I was so surprised to learn that the Walled City existed in real life. Wow. I love that there are different povs, like being able to look at the city at different angles. Wonderful review, Giselle.

  14. Kristie

    I think, like most people, I thought it was a dystopia book. With that thought, I was been there done that sorta ordeal. So, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I added this one because it was up for grabs off netgalley. But after reading this review and discovering that this wall existed has definitely given this book some priority.

    PS. Why did they change the cover? I liked the original one!

  15. Olgia

    I just read this one and LOVED it πŸ™‚
    The short explanation provided in the book was enough for me for the world building but then again, I did a little bit of research before the book.

  16. Jessica @ Strung Out On Books

    I also assumed it was a dystopian book, but honestly, both genres interest me about the same, especially considering the blurb. This sounds like a difficult book to read, with all of the issues it tackles, but it also sounds like one that does well with it. Lovely review!

  17. Laura Plus Books

    The Aussie publishers have been giving this books so much hype and now I can see why. It sounds absolutely amazing. I love books that have more than just one layer. Definitely my kind of read. Thank you for sharing!