ARC Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled CityTitle: The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Published: November 4th 2014 (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Pages: 448
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Action, Thriller, Social Issues, Human Trafficking
Format: E-ARC
Source: I received an ARC via Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: Five Stars
Goodreads Summary:
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.
Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon
Cover Thoughts: I love the maze look of the cover. The font is unique too and gives it a fast-paced feeling. I love how it lists the three rules of survival.
First Line: There are three rules of survival in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.
~First Thoughts~
How could I not be interested with a beginning like that?
Oh, The Walled City. I adored this book. I loved this book. This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s perfect. Perfect for me. For the longest time, i didn’t read it although I’m not sure why. It didn’t initially stand out to me, which is insane now that I think about it. i read The Walled City relatively quickly, over a period five days. In those five days, I made 19 Goodreads statuses, ten tweets, four Disney references and highlighted half the book (no worries! In my Kindle). So, as I said, I LOVED it. I can’t remember the last time I felt so passionate about this book.
What stuck out to me is the diversity there is. The Walled City takes place in China, with a unique setting, has an all Chinese cast of characters and is told during an interesting time. The Walled City is a small sectioned area with a great density of people. There are buildings stacked on top of buildings.
In The Walled City, there are three teenagers each struggling with different obstacles. Each of these characters has a secret(s) that don’t get revealed to the others. The story is told by alternating all three points of views. Alternate perspectives are one of my favorite storytelling formulas. I love getting inside different characters’ heads and seeing what other characters don’t know. I thought Graudin did a great job at differentiating the three perspectives.
Jin Ling is determined to find her sister no matter what it takes.
Dai is a guy with many secrets who’s regretful over his brother’s death.
Mei Lee is a girl who has been in a brothel since the Reapers van came.
I found each of these characters to be so refreshing to read about. They had such different lives and struggles. It was interesting to see how they viewed the city they lived in and how it impacted them. Jin is pretending to be a guy so she can find her sister. This immediately made me think of Mulan, of course. This was my first Disney reference. I have a weakness for girls disguising themselves as guys for one reason or another. It added the interesting aspect of Dai finding out, which I was dying for so much.
Jin was my favorite character along with Dai.  I loved how independent she was in the beginning. She was fierce and very headstrong. I loved how  quick thinking and resourceful she was too. Her dedication to finding her sister was admirable since she went to lengths that could kill her. Given Jin’s circumstances, it’s no wonder she doesn’t immediately trust Dai. I liked this. I like that she was always a bit distrustful and willing to run if she needed to.
“This is it. And we do what we can. We keep going. We survive.”
Dai was everything i want in a main character, depth, well written, strong, determined, smart and kind. He is also brooding, very brooding. I find brooding to be a weakness when it’s done as well as Dai. Dai was also a bit self-loathing as well. I’m generally the person to get annoyed with this, but given Dai’s circumstances, I understood it all. I loved reading his perspective in The Walled City. He has a secret past that we don’t find out until later in the story. I loved the mystery of it. He’s also just a bit of a hero. Did I mention he’s a hero? Because he totally is!  I adored him. When we first meet him, he’s a bit empathetic.
Dai’s one focus is to complete his goal in the eighteen days he has. Of course, working in drug trafficking will do that to a person, especially in a city as grim as The Walled City. Dai sees himself as lowly because of this along with his secrets. He doesn’t think he’s a good person at all because of past regrets. I loved Dai and Jin’s relationship, how they gradually grew closer and trusted each other. It was so great to see. They were such a pair together. Definitely the highlight.
I can’t save them all. And if I don’t keep my head down, do what needs to be done in eighteen days, I won’t even be able to save myself.
Mei was my least favorite character. This isn’t to say I didn’t like her because I did. I thought her perspective was unique. I definitely felt sympathetic towards her situation, I thought it was sad and I wanted her reunited with Jin. Unfortunately, with characters like Dai and Jin, she fell into the background. I did find her circumstances interesting though. I liked seeing her life in the brothel and how that affected her. I liked that she had relationships with the girls stuck in the brothel. When Dai first meets Mei, I was a bit hesitant of what was going to happen. Fortunately, I think it was done well. Although The Walled City takes place in a very limited time span (18 days), I found everything to be pretty enjoyable. Mei has a middle in the ground feeling when it comes to her situation. She doesn’t like it, but she’s not sure how she’ll get out of it. It’s sad to see her in this situation because we know there’s a hope for her out there, but don’t know if it’s enough to save her.
Dying petals, withered leaves: the only things that ever change.
The Walled City was fast paced and kept me wondering where it would all end up. This is why I had so many Goodreads statuses to begin with, my freaking out over what in the world was going to happen. The countdown was really interesting because I didn’t know what it was counting down to or why Dai was so worried about it. The answer definitely didn’t let me down though. I thought the pacing was done really well. I couldn’t stand to put the book down except to run downstairs and tell my mom “Oh my gosh, this book! This book!”. That’s a good thing, if you couldn’t tell. : )
I loved reading how Jin, Dai and Mei each grew throughout The Walled City. In the beginning, all three of them are dealing with their own struggles from living in The Walled City. In the end, each of the characters end up stronger than they were before.
The darkness of The Walled City was shown throughout the novel great. There was drug trafficking, human trafficking, and starvation. There were no real laws or protection for anyone. 
I really liked the trafficking aspects of the novel. They’re not commonly seen in Young Adult fiction and I thought it was done well. Neither of them were glamorized or sugarcoated. One of the most haunting scenes in The Walled City is the punishment of a girl who tries to escape from her human trafficking life. She ends up getting actually injected with drugs. 
What is interesting about the darkness is all of the metaphors and poetic prose Graudin uses to tell the story. Some people might find the prose to be a bit too purple, but I really liked it. I don’t know if it’s because this took place in China, but the poetic language just really fit for me. There were a few times when I was like “What is this?” though while reading. I also had a problem with Mei’s perspective after a certain point in the story. I found it to be uninteresting and didn’t care for it very much. I had a small problem with her relationship with Dai as I found it a little unbelievable for her to place her hope in this guy that she’s only met, given her background. However, this is a minor thing and I place it aside because there’s so much good in The Walled City.
Be sure to read the author’s note for this one, it’s certainly interesting.
~Final Thoughts~
I love that The Walled City is a standalone and it wraps everything up. There are so many Young Adult dystopian and fantasy type series and I’m glad this one didn’t follow that route. I loved all of the action scenes, the intensity of the whole situation and seeing how the characters lives collided. The setting for The Walled City was such a fantastic choice, I loved that it was based in realism. I will be  reading The Walled City over and over again. I would recommend this book to every single person.
~Do I Recommend?~
~Recommended For~
Besides everyone?
Fans of Dystopians
Fans of action novels
Fans of diverse characters
Fans of alliterating points of views
Fans of darker toned stories
~Will I Re-Read It?~
~Memorable Quotes~
(All from the ARC, some may be changed in final copy)
Even when I was a young boy, trouble latched onto me like a magnet.
I do everything alone: eat, sleep, run, steal, talk, cry. It’s the curse of the second rule: Trust no one. The cost of staying alive.
You never know what a fragile thing a name is until it’s used as a weapon, screamed like a curse.
The lights of City Beyond shine bright–like stars that fell to earth and got wedged in its streets and sidewalks.
I’ve never been able to sit back and watch things happen. Not without a fight.
I scream the memories away.

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

7 responses to “ARC Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

  • shannonmiz

    But wait- did you like this book? Hahha kidding, of course! I know I am the black sheep here, the funny thing is, I do agree with your review! I liked the diversity and the setting the best for sure, and I liked the concept. I guess I can’t even fully explain WHY it fell flat for me, it just did? But I am so very glad you enjoyed it so much! Jin and Dai were definitely better for me than Mei- I just could not connect with her. Lovely review!


  • brandileigh2003

    The depth of characters and the diversity in this one sounds great


  • vlangloisx3

    Hahah I’m glad you liked it (Unlike Shannon here)! I definitely think I would be interested in it because it takes place in China, but then again I don’t think I’m ready for all the gritty, drugs and sex trafficking topics. Anyways, AWESOME REVIEW AMBER GLAD YOU LOVED ITTT


  • Aimee

    So stoked that you loved this, Amber! I’m really really excited to read this now. I also find it adorable how one character’s name is Mei Lee, which actually means “beautiful” in Chinese. 🙂

    I love the sound of Jin. Heroines who are headstrong and never lose sight of their goals are really lacking in YA, so I’m glad we have one here!

    Dai seems like an interesting character as well. I do like my brooding men every now and then. 😉

    I’m really curious about how the author’s going to deal with the drug trafficking aspect here. >_<

    Awesome review, Amber!

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amber (YA Indulgences)

      I did love it. 🙂 Yeah, I think the “beautiful” part was actually brought up in the book.

      Jin is so good. As is Dai. I don’t think the drug trafficking aspect was too bad, it’s a somewhat common theme in it, but I don’t think there’s too many encounters.

      Thanks! I hope you like it when you get to reading it!


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