Book Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

A dark and moving story of three independent characters coming together in a terrifying maze of drugs and crime.

4.5/5 stars

cover the walled city

Plot (via Goodreads)

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.

My Review

This book was incredible. Dark, gritty, horrifying, and touching all at once.

From the first page, the setting fascinated me. Based on a real “walled city,” the Walled City is a labyrinth of slums and suffering, filled with gangs, prostitutes, runaways, and drugs.

The world-building perfectly set the tone of this book; it pulls no punches, and even though it is a YA book, The Walled City gets dark. There were moments when I was genuinely terrified, not because of any horror-movie tropes, but simple because of the intense pain that this book portrayed. And even with all of the darkness, the setting always felt realistic—which may have been the most horrifying part of all.

I also loved the prevalent Chinese influence. From the food that they ate to the metaphors that went through the characters’ minds, the story never let you forget that it took place in China. Having read mostly books set in America, or fantastical/dystopian spin-offs of America, I loved the way Ryan Graudin wove the Chinese culture into this story.

The thing that blew me away about The Walled City was the characters. TWC basically has three protagonists, each with their own distinct plot line and personality. I loved seeing all of the characters slowly bump into each other and form connections, all without realizing the significance of each other.

Jin was my favorite character; I loved her badass nature, and I understood her emotions. I seriously wanted to give the girl a hug, and I loved her dedication to her sister. I wish that the plot had spent more time with her, but Dai and Mei Yee were also great to read about. Watching each of the characters grow out of their shells and develop into new, stronger people—despite the horrors of the world they lived in—was honestly inspiring.

Though this could have weighed down the plot if it were written badly, Ryan Graudin totally pulled it off. The story was able to carry each character’s plot without losing its fast pacing.

I have to give this book a huge shout out for the way it handled the romance. There could have been a love triangle, but there wasn’t—and I was sooooo glad. Don’t get me wrong, I like love triangles when they fit in the plot, but one would have destroyed this book. Instead, I loved watching Dai and Mei Yee slowly falling for each other, while Dai formed a refreshingly platonic friendship with Jin. By the end of the book, all three characters are all tied together with strong emotional bonds, but they don’t all rely on romance, something that the YA genre often lacks.

I would recommend this book to anyone searching for a powerful story of courage and resistance even in hell on earth. Each of the characters is vividly portrayed and fascinatingly complex. The plot is gripping and perfectly paced—I couldn’t put it down. If you’re wondering what you should read next, just go buy this book. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

  1. i really want to read this book! i’ve heard nothing but good things about ryan graudin’s work, and i own wolf by wolf, i might start reading that.

    really wonderful review! i enjoyed reading your thoughts about the book :)))

    Liked by 1 person

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