Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

18196040730. 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.

PUBLISHER: Little, Brown

PAGES: 432


I was pretty much desperate for a good read when I randomly downloaded this book from my library. I don’t even think I ever read the book blurb–so this was a bit of a stretch.

I’m a big fan of diverse YA fiction, but I encounter it so infrequently that this book surprised me at first. Set in China, the characters have distinctly Chinese names and the setting of the Walled City was an actual location in Hong Kong once upon a time called Kowloon Walled City.

walledDoes that not look like the perfect setting for a Dystopian novel?

insidewalledIn 1987, this city was filled with 33,000 residents in a 6.4 acre area. Crazy, right? The Kowloon Walled City was a breeding ground for prostitution, drug smuggling, and all sorts of illegal activity. Throughout my journey through Graudin’s novel, I didn’t know that the book was based on a real location. Since 1987, the Kowloon Walled City has been demolished and replaced by a park. While factual details were changed to fit Graudin’s ideas for the plot of this novel, it’s clear that Graudin did plenty of research to write The Walled City. How cool is that?


PG/PG-13: Deals with some sensitive topics like sex trafficking, drugs, gangs, and violence. Nothing is described in detail, however. A few bad words. Thank you, Ryan Graudin, you lovely person.


There’s no doubt in my mind that Graudin has a real gift with words. This story is narrated by three characters–two sisters and a boy. Everything twists and turns effortlessly and I was enthralled with the plot about 95% of the time. For me, the first half of the novel felt like it moved at a slower-pace than the second half, but I was still motivated to keep reading to figure out several important plot points (why is the novel counting down days?). As the real action started building, my eyes were practically glued to my Kindle. There was a point were my Kindle froze about 20% away from the end of the novel at a key moment and I nearly cried. Dang technology. Graudin’s writing style is beautiful, a sort of prose that ensures that the reader can envision what they’re reading. At times, I felt like I was there in the action with Dai, Jin, and Mei Yee. Also, there were some very beautiful quotes in this novel….

You never know what a fragile thing a name is until it’s used as a weapon, screamed like a curse.


I look down at my bare arms–so white after two sunless years. Scars cover them. Shiny lines and circles. My father’s fists wrote them all over my skin. Stories he wanted to tell Mei Yee. My mother. I never let him.

Graudin does a fantastic (and I do mean fantastic) job of character-building. Dai’s character ark–from a character largely drowning in his own loss and depression and selfishness to a character full of life who possesses unconditional love towards those he cares about–was really a pleasure to read. Dai fangirl 5ever.


I think my only minor problem with this novel was that the prose sometimes became a little overbearing for me. While I tended to enjoy Graudin’s writing style (a lot), there were times were the prose became a bit much. I feel like this was a personal thing, and it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the novel. 🙂



This was a tough one… After much debating (with myself–promise I’m not crazy), I think I’d choose Worthy by Jacob Banks as the soundtrack to this novel. I can see it as a song that just layers over all of the crazy, action scenes… Tough choice!


I’m going to give this one a 4/5 heart rating. I went into this novel with virtually no expectations and emerged believing in YA Fiction again. There are times I wonder why I read YA Fiction (lots of mehhh and only a few diamonds in the rough), and I live for books like this. Good stuff! I definitely recommend this book and I’m pleased that it was a standalone (now I can get to all the other books I have lined up ughh). I look forward to Ryan Graudin’s future writings with baited breath–she has a bright future as a writer!


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