Book Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

3/5 stars

In a real but an unreal city named the Hak Nam Walled City, there live three kids-Jin Lang, Mei Yee, and Dai-surviving in the worst possible situations to fulfill their missions before the Walled City is taken over by outside authorities. In this city, girls are sold into prostitution, crime is high, and cults are formed from the worst individuals. One guy named Longwai basically controls Hak Nam Walled City with his gang of ruthless killers while Jin Lang is on a quest to rescue her sister Mei Yee from the brothel that took her and Dai is finding a way out with the little time time he has left. Dai teams up with both Jin Lang and Mei Lee to get himself and others out of the place they have called home for years, but surviving is the hardest thing to do now that they have started their missions.


First, if you know me, you know I was never the biggest reader until a few years ago. I know. A world in which I am not crazy in love with books is crazy, right?! As the young adult genre was growing older and bigger each year, Ryan Graudin's The Walled City became one of the several books during the end of the dystopian craze that I missed. However, during the dystopian craze, I missed a lot of popular reads such as Shiver by Maggie Stievater, Legend by Marie Lu, Gone by Micheal Grant, and many more if to only name these few. I might as well write this review while I am here and go into my feelings of the characters and the story Graudin invented in her novel.

As it never happens very often(but probably does more than I think), I really liked all the characters. Although I really enjoyed reading about Jin Ling's, Dai's, and Mei Lee's separate and conjoined quests in Hak Nam Walled City, I felt as if I was reading about emotionless robots that were sent on a mission to save the world. I never felt as connected to them as I usually do when reading.

Here are the characters in more depth:

1. Jin Lang
Jin has to be the most relatable character in this book since she likes to run and she is quick and efficient on her feet, which I may not be, but I hopefully might. Although the similaries may end there, there are so many other unique qualities and quirks that make me enjoy reading her character all the same. The first glimpse the reader gets from Jin an her life on the run is that she cross-dresses as a boy to hide from perverted men and other fellows who may want to use her as a prostitute or for other reasons. Of course, no one wants to be treated like that in any circumstance, so Jin dresses as a boy to protect herself. Plus, it also gives her an advantage since she can surprise someone, such as when Dai finds out Jai is really a girl who is adaptable to her surroundings. I really enjoy how tough and curious, which are two traits that never seem to combine in young adult novels due to stupidity of a character or just because, she was. Like most of this book, it was really sad to read about her childhood with her abusive father who sold Mei Yee to the brothel for a few lousy bucks to dampen his soul with more alcohol. This book is not the happiest read if you are looking something to boost your mood after a bad time. Although there may be a lot of sad parts, there are some fun and nice occurrences in this book. One part I especially like is Jin's relationship with Chma, her cat she named after the sound of a cat's sneeze.(Cute, right?! I wish I had been as original as her when I was trying to come up with my two cats' names. Also, my cats are pictured above.) I am almost tempted to write a whole section for the sassy cat who loves to eat tons of pork buns and other types of food; but as I always do, I try to keep my reviews short and sweet(hehe). Getting back to Jin, she has been a wonderful character to get to know, but it is time to continue with the list of other characters included in this book.

2. Dai
Dai is the mysterious boy who somehow brings together two sisters and is one of the heroines of the story that all people should love and adore. However, there is a lot more to him than what meets the eye. For one reason, the boy, who nicely helps save about everyone in the Walled City, is a criminal on the loose due to having killed someone earlier in his life, and he is in dire need of rescuing himself from the Walled City. He is also a son of one of the richest men in China, which actually helps in some ways, especially when Jin needs help after she gets hurt. Even though Dai is a little hard to get to know, he opens up as the book goes on through his narration and his stories that were being told throughout the story. So, I think this how much I can talk about Dai before I discuss anything that includes spoilers(other than the section down below).

*Big Spoiler*(Hint: Do not read unless you want to be spoiled.)
One thing that happens near the end of the book is the almost death of Dai. I know! A main character who dies, and then ends up surviving through it! Very surprising! *claps slowly* I was very sad by the believed death of Dai; however, though I may have been upset over it, the outcome was very predictable. I knew that he was going to survive and there were no questions asked by me. Also, have I ever written that I ask a HUMONGOUS load of questions. I will always ask questions until the earth blows up or life just ceases to exist. Okay, so back to Dai, I do not know if I am glad that he survived since it was so predictable even though a lasting relationship came out of this novel. Maybe, this is the question that ends the world. Now, enough of spoilers, and time for other things to discuss.

3. Mei Lee
Next, Mei Yee is very optimistic for everything and everyone surrounding her. She believes she will overcome the life she is living to see her sister, but she knows she can never do as she wishes until the one day when Dai first comes into her life. She is very trusting of others and does not seem to know when to stop, especially when she puts her trust in the girls she has called her friends for the past couple of years under Longwai's control. Mei has a tragic life throughout The Walled City due to her being enslaved to be a prostitute under Longwai's control, and before that, she had seen her younger sister being beaten by their abusive father. She has always been ordinary compared to any of other characters, and if I may write, a little bland in the beginning. Jin is curious and extremely gifted at surviving, Dai is an intelligent, mysterious boy who has a worse past than anyone could imagine, and Mei is a sweet girl who is very submissive and just wants her freedom. She does go through a big character development from the small girl who would not hurt a fly into a tough girl who will not let anyone harm her nor the ones whom she loves. She gets braver as the book moves along, which I am very happy about. Even though each of the characters had their own unique style, Mei may have been the subdued one of the group, but it was nice to see a simple, but still a fully-developed character.

If you are going to have multiple characters who somehow find a way to each other, there are going to be two characters who find a way into each other's hearts. For this story, other than the friendship the three main characters created together, Mei and Dai were the romantic couple that could withstand imprisonment and time. I was not a big fan of Mei and Dai's romance since I just wanted action and the assurance that everyone would be okay. Instead of having a friendship or a developing romance, the reader is pushed right into the romantic relationship when Dai first gives Mei a seashell for his second visit. This is sweet and all since the seashell and the various gifts given to her by Dai symbolize her want for freedom but this is very much alike to Osamu's relationship with her excluding the rape and the force and pressure that is pushed onto her by Osamu. Maybe, Dai really cares for her, but I found the romance to be a little materialistic and was there to only fill a gap in an already full space.

In addition to the characters and conflicts, this story told by Graudin would never have been possible without the quick action that flashed before the reader's eyes after all the thorough planning that happened to get the finished product, which is the ending. From Jin running away from a gang of boys who hate her to Dai risking his life to get out of the Walled City, the action scenes were very fast-paced and left me wanting more of them. Sadly, there were not a lot due to the book mostly discussing the plans Jai, Mei, and Dai had for themselves before everything gets destroyed due to Jai's injury and Dai getting captured and almost died. However, I was never disappointed with the scenes that were full of action, except that they were not long enough to satisfy my violence-loving self.

Also, I enjoyed reading a more diverse book than I usually read. I experienced reading a new and different culture that I have not read much about. The story takes place in Hong Kong, China, where most young adult and dystopian novels do not take place. These books usually take place in the United States or a romantic vacation spot that is visited by many each year. Graudin's book is definitely not the most diverse book, but compared to a lot of novels, this book does take a tiny piece of that small but ever growing cake due to Jin's cross-dressing and the setting in a country that is sparsely discussed of in books.

I also like the author's note from Ryan Graudin at the end. It discusses how the Walled City is a real and unreal place in the China, which I find exciting and intriguing, and how human trafficking is a real thing that should be discussed openly and not hidden in the shadows or thrown under the table. It is really an important topic that is discussed throughout the book in Mei Yee's and her friends' lives in the brothel Longwai runs. Every girl under Longwai's control gets several men who treat them badly, which is described of in the scenes with the brothel. Along with sexual abuse, child abuse, homelessness, and many other situations people are concerned about are discussed several times in this book. Even though this book may be under the genre of dystopian, many events occurring in the pages of this book happen today.

In conclusion, I have discussed all my feelings in this pretty long blog post for The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. I do not know why I need to attach a conclusion to this already extensive post since
I pretty much just said everything I needed to say. Well, until the next book review, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Also, before you leave, share this post 'cause it's caring, follow 'cause it's holo(-graphic, or 'cause it's not), and comment 'cause it's like writing a sonnet(I know that does not rhyme, but it just sounded nice).




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