Heroin addicts, crime lords and murderers wreak havoc upon the residents of Hak Nam Walled City, a neglected, filthy place in this teen thriller told in alternating viewpoints.
Inspired by Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, Graudin’s prose uncovers a contemporary dystopia where despair is so rampant, “even the sunlight won’t enter.” Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling runs like the wind and searches Walled City for her beloved sister, Mei Yee. Mei Yee, taken to a brothel run by Brotherhood drug lord Longwai, longs for the sea and her sister, while her nights are spent servicing Ambassador Osamu. And Dai Shing, full of personal demons and running from the law, ticks off the days leading up to the New Year, the day his dubious freedom within lawless Walled City will end. He needs an “in” to the brothel in order to clear his name, but first, he’ll need help—from the two sisters. As their paths cross, the three teens struggle with their biggest obstacle, as mountainous as the walls surrounding the city: trusting one another. With gritty, vehement details, Walled City looms large, like a fourth character, its alleyways as twisted as Longwai’s mind. Violence runs deep throughout the book, but it’s written with care and never feels gratuitous. In particular, one rape scene becomes Mei Yee’s source of strength. It’s key moments like these that offer humanity in this sea of inhumanity.
Readers, rapt, will duck for cover until the very last page. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)