Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

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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…..

Though not using the name, this book is based on the very real Kowloon City, once the most densely populated place on Earth before being razed and the inhabitants being displaced. A place so a world unto its own that it really did seem like a dystopia set in a movie, Kowloon City was a labyrinth of buildings stacked on top of each other, some not seeing the light of day. In the unnamed version of Kowloon City, Dai is desperate to bring down a drug and prostitution king pin that will provide his way out of exile in the city. He crosses paths with Jin, a street child, and Mei Yee, a young prostitute kept in a brothel owned by the king pin. Mei Yee’s situation is sympathetically and delicately handled and her plight is shown as how tragic and truly bleak child trafficking is. While the plot is a little too “happy coincidence” to really be believed in how everyone’s stories keep intersecting, the upbeat ending is probably the best choice as a welcome relief from how dark the novel actually is. Murder, violence, drug addiction, and prostitution are all real parts of these teenagers’ lives.

4 out of 5

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