Book Talk: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Book Talk: The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little Brown on November 4, 2014
Genres: YA Thriller
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”



The Walled City is home to about 30,000 people all cramped together in about 6 acres. Everything is built up so high that the sun barely shines in and it feels suffocating, it’s dirty and people live in poverty and there is so much lawless danger — drug lords, street gangs, brothels run by bad guys and more. The three main characters are all in the walled city for their own reasons and their stories become intertwined. Dai is trying to secure his freedom which involves having to run drugs for the most ruthless drug lord in the walled city who also runs a brothel. Mei Yee was taken and forced into working at a brothel two years ago and her dreams of escaping one day are always snuffed out after other girls attempt and fail. Jin went into the walled city to find her sister Mei Yee and disguises herself as a boy so she can look for her sister and tries to stay as invisible as possible while she does it.

a2I’m glad I stuck with it even though I had a rough start with it!

a4I had a really really rough start with this book. I just could NOT get into it at all but once I pushed through it had me just flying through the pages. While it didn’t blow me away, it was still an enjoyable read that I’m glad I stuck with in the end.

What I liked:

1. The setting was FASCINATING: The idea of this walled city fascinated me but once I learned that it was based on a REAL thing that existed my fascination level grew. I think Ryan Graudin really nailed the atmosphere of it. It’s this cramped walled city (like 33,000 people in 6 acres or something crazy like that) that houses all sorts of degenerates and drug lords, street gangs and brothels and people, lots of young people, who were dumped in there because they were criminals, stolen, abandoned or sold off. It’s dark and violent and filthy and I could SEE it and feel it as I was reading. I could feel the hopelessness and the looming super high buildings (because everything was built up) that made you feel even more trapped. The author definitely made me feel the danger and just the awful conditions these people lived in.

2. I loved the way the three main characters stories were woven together: Each character had their own reason for being in the walled city. One was taken there and forced into a brothel, the other was trying to save her sister in the brothel (and she was dressed up like a boy to survive to do that!!) and the other has a mission to help gain his freedom. I loved how they were brought together and were the key to each other’s survival and freedom in a setting where trust was hard to come by. I really began to care about them and hoped all three would make it out alive.

3. Once I got over the hurdle of getting into the story it became a gripping and thrilling ride: It seriously was this heart-pounding, action-filled story. The danger and the high stakes became so palpable as I was reading. I mean, they were dealing with some of the worst baddies in that walled city and were risking a lot for the freedom they were trying to gain.

4. It was a standalone: It’s not very often that I find an action-y type of story that isn’t part of a series so this was fantastic for me!!

What I wished would have been better:

1. It was SO hard to distinguish the three main characters from each other: I don’t mind multi POVs but I just felt like their voices sounded SO much the same. At the top of each chapter was the name so we knew WHO it was but if I had just read random parts from the book, without context to tell me whose story it was, I would never have been able to distinguish who was who because their voices just sounded like the same exact character.

2. It was hard for me to figure out the PLACE and TIME of this novel: As well done as The Walled City was it kept bothering me that I couldn’t figure out if this was set in the midst of our world or if it was a completely different world. The Walled City itself made me feel it was set further in the past but then there was this part that talked about a plane flying past so I knew that okay planes were a thing so I guess it is more modern setting.



factors+ action, thrills, setting

Re-readability: No
Would I buy a copy for my collection? No but I do want to give my copy to my teen nephews because I think they would like it.

a5people looking for a more action-packed standalone, fans of gritty settings, readers looking for a non-US setting

a8Despite the slow start for me and being tempted to put this one down, I ended up being glad I stuck this one out because it became an absolute thrilling race to the ending and I actually grew to care about the characters in spite of how much their voices blended together and didn’t feel very distinguished. I was absolutely transported to the dark, dangerous streets of the walled city and the fear and the danger the characters were experiencing were also mine to bear as I was reading.


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
Did you have a hard time distinguishing the voices or was that just me??
Did we ever figure out WHERE this city was located exactly? I can’t even remember after reading it.
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I honestly had never heard of this book until now. It sounds like something I will definitely be wanting to look into. I seem to really love action packed books, but tend to have a SUPER hard time finding some that are not in a series. I have no problem with a slow start, as long as it picks up nice and quick. I definitely struggle with distinguishing between POVs, and I always like when an author makes sure to distinguish. Like in the Legend books (by Marie Lu) she has a different color for each POV. It made it so much easier for me to remember that I was reading from a certain character’s perspective, though sometimes the colors were just a tad difficult to get used to. This is why I do not read any of the Song of Ice and Fire books. I get so confused. But I think this one sounds interesting and I will definitely be wanting to give it a try.

    • RIght?? It is SOO hard to find standalones that aren’t contemporary (which I LOVE) but sometimes I’m craving something like this but don’t want to start a new series. OR I will THINK one is a standalone and SURPRISSSSSE IT IS A SERIES. Yes, I loved how Marie did that but funny enough for me in Legend June and Day’s voices sounded the same to me but I thought that problem went away in Prodigy for sure. LOVE that series which reminds me I need to read Champion!

  2. I loved this book. The real Walled City was in Hong Kong, hence all of the Asian influences, names, food, and the like. I didn’t have problems distinguishing between the voices. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mei Yee. I ended up skimming through a lot of her scenes. I adored Jin. I thought her determination and intelligence were so perfect in such a male-dominated society. I’m really glad you enjoyed the book. Did you check out pictures of the old Walled City? They really did turn it into a park.

    • Yes I had heard that it was a real thing before I read it so I was SUPER intrigued and did research on it. The pictures were crazy and definitely was how I pictured it! Yeah, Mei Yee..she was my least fave POV. Jin was just everything I had hoped for when I heard about this book at BEA and the publicists were telling us about it. She was SO FIERCE and smart and I just loved her!

      • Fierce is a great description of Jin! You had one up on me. I had no idea it was based on a real location until I got to the author’s notes. I was completely blown away by them.

  3. Just now reading this to review. I was having a hard time getting through it, so I stopped by to read your thoughts. Going to keep going!

  4. Ah! I really enjoyed The Walled City. Well, as much as you can enjoy a book that’s so dark and so heavy. It was seriously a compelling read for me though, especially because the characters were all in situations with high stakes involved. Glad you stuck it out!

  5. I just finish this book. It was a fun, quick read. One of the things I loved most about this book was the contrast of action and beautiful language. I also have a review here fyi, 🙂