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Monday, December 1, 2014

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Release Date - November 2014

Ryan Graudin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Walled City is a place where drug lords and brothel owners rule the land. It's a hopeless wasteland where young girls are sold into prostitution and young boys learn quickly to take work where you can, even if that means running drugs, and one where committing crimes is the norm and can also put you in jeopardy.

It's a land that Dai desperately wants to escape. One where Jin poses as a boy to avoid being forced into prostitution while searching for her sister, Mei Yee. And, one where Mei Yee is forced to work as a prostitute in a brothel after her father sold her to the brothel's owner.

Once you're introduced to the main characters, you'll begin to learn of Dai's plan to escape the city and start a new life outside the walls. After noticing Jin, he offers her job, one that puts her in easy reach of the brothel where she believes her abusive father sold her sister to. Meanwhile, Mei Yee meets Dai and also begins to dream of having a life outside the Walled City. Can this trio pull off the impossible and escape?

While The Walled City is gripping, it's also a book that I struggled with at first. The story is told from all three perspectives, and the change from one character to another often comes suddenly. If you're not paying attention, it can be difficult to figure out who is narrating. It took a number of chapters before I could settle in and immediately know who was talking. Once I had that down, I fell into a rhythm with this dark tale that is based on a district within Hong Kong.

As a note for parents who do try to monitor what their kids read, the scenes within the brothel are not overly graphic, so parents need not worry about graphic sex scenes. I actually thought they were tastefully done. You get Mei Yee's displeasure and desperation to escape without feeling uncomfortable.

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