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The Walled City | Review


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live within the labyrinth of the towering buildings and lawless streets of The Walled City. Jin, a girl dressed as a boy, is the fastest runner and uses it to her advantage to stay alive, all the while searching for her long lost sister. Mei Yee, that very same sister, was sold at a young age and works in a brothel for the biggest druglord around. Dai is a boy with secrets of his own, secrets that could tear everything apart.

The Walled City is a story of friendship, family, survival, and learning when the survival of others is more important the survival of oneself. It’s about hope and a failure to give up, even when everything is at its bleakest.

It’s fantastic.

The three main characters are each central and integral to the story and the plot, to the development and understanding, to the themes and the unraveling. Each one brings a different personality, a different desire, a different secret. Each has their own story to tell.

The real Kowloon Walled City 

The setting, inside the walls of the Hak Nam Walled City – a place based on the very real Kowloon Walled City that used to exist outside of Hong Kong until the late 80s when it was torn down – is unique and desperate and richly layered. It’s a place of criminals, exiles, lawlessness, and savagery, but it’s also a place people cling to and call home. Not everyone is bad, some are there just trying to make an honest living in a dishonest city.

The plot is whirlwind. The first half I had no idea where the story was going, what the secrets were or how the story would end, just that I had a lot of pages left and no morsels of information to cling to and build theories off of. Then the secrets are revealed and the plot moves. Fast. The last 100 pages move in a blur, a race against time, a page turning dash to find out what happens, how it all comes together, how it ends.

It’s refreshing to read a Young Adult novel that doesn’t focus on the romance, that doesn’t fit into a clearly defined genre, that ends after just one book. And while there is romance, it’s not cheesy, it’s not defined, and there isn’t a love triangle; it’s there as a symbol of hope and escape. It’s not historical fiction, and it’s not a dystopian or a fantasy, but it includes elements of each.

And of course, there’s a cat. I love cats, and even more so when they’re as snarky and awesome as Chma. He stole the show, and his pain hurt me more than anything else I’ve read in awhile. Chma = my heart.

Finally, the fact that this book features Asian characters is another win.

All that being said, this book is not perfect. Some may find the writing style choppy, a problem I didn’t have but can see how others would. Parts of the plot are too convenient as well, and I wish more time could’ve been spent on some of the larger issues at hand: human trafficking, dehumanization, etc.

Overall, a really great, can’t-put-it-down read!

4.5/5 stars – the 1/2 star is for Chma!


As an Adult, I Wish More and More that Tom would Catch Jerry

This summer, I welcomed a new addition to my little family. NO! It’s not what you’re thinking. I’m not and have never been pregnant (despite what my Mass Comm students seem to think). There are no mini-me’s running around, and the Boy and I are perfectly happy keeping it that way for quite some time. No, no kiddos for this one just yet, just a soft, cuddly, evil little kitty.

Named after the evil firebending prodigy in Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV show, not the ghastly movie that should have earthbended M. Night Shymalon into a grave), Azula takes after her namesake. Oops. Maybe we should have thought of that and named her Soft Kitty instead. Or Pankcakes, to match Boy’s dog Waffles.

Our first night with orange and black Azula (or Stinky Butt, as we lovingly call her), she raised hell, and that first week very closely resembled having a child. The lack of sleep and level of commitment even had me second-guessing this whole thing. No more nights at the Boy’s, not when I have a 4-month old kitten at home.

That first night, after she got tired of attacking our feet nonstop, meowing, biting and scratching us, running around, and all other acts of mayhem, she decided to be useful. While waking, Boy and I noticed some gray fluff in Azula’s mouth. Hazy, exhausted, and foggy-eyed, and thinking it was a piece of fluff from under the bed, I asked Boy to hand the devil kitten to me. I immediately noticed it wasn’t just fluff, but believed the item in her mouth to be one of the mice toys I’d bought for her, so I reached in and grabbed it out.

Nope. Damn thing was an ACTUAL MOUSE!

I felt it squirming, freaked out, and tossed it half across the room, where it settled on its feet and scurried into my closet, where, I assume, it still is, 3 months later. I have more sympathy for Tom now.

Hunting for a Mouse at The Boy’s

Azula’s calmed down some now; she still runs around and flies from one piece of furniture to another, but she usually leaves us in peace at night. Her favorite thing now is to block our view of the TV, even sometimes attempting to scratch or climb it, but our squirt bottle solution seems to be working to unblock our view of Breaking Bad or Walking Dead. At the moment, she’s curled up on the couch next to me, being nice and a sweetheart, and reminding me why I wanted a cat in the first place.

The hardest part now is getting her and Waffles acquainted. Last night was their first night together, but we put a gate blocking them so there wouldn’t be any accidents in the middle of the night when we were too comfortable riding out Sandy’s wake on a heated Queen-sized mattress. They have some time before we force them together permanently, but every little step helps.