DNF Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled CityThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Genre: YA, Thriller

Publisher: Little, Brown on November 4, 2014

Source: Publisher

DNF at 46%

This book was provided by the publisher for review. No compensation was provided and my opinions are my own.

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I thought The Walled City was going to be a sci-fi dystopian novel. So when I picked it up and found that it was actually more of a historical thriller I was pretty bummed out. This is what I get for trusting Goodreads, I guess. My expectations around genre weren’t met – but that’s not the book’s fault nor is it Ryan Graudin’s. The rest of my issues with it…well. Those are a different story.

The Walled City is a great concept: it’s about the brutal and lawless world of a walled city run by Triads with an economy controlled by prostitution, gambling, and drugs. Even more compelling, the setting is based loosely on Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, a settlement of the same nature that was demolished in 1994.

Unfortunately Graudin’s writing doesn’t live up to her creativity. Her prose is wordy, jumbled, and downright purple. The whole novel is completely overwritten to the point where a character name couldn’t be introduced without an extended metaphor coming into play. I mean, give me a break. Want some concrete examples?

“My emotions are like pounds of overcooked rice noodles.”

“Names. That’s all the boy wants. Just syllables strung together like herbs drying from rafters.”

Ugh. That kind of writing actually offends me. Stop with your useless similes, already! You’re telling me you feel like soggy noodles? What does that even mean?! These quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof so they may appear differently in the published version, but I think you can get a sense of what the writing’s like.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Graudin makes use of some pretty unfortunate decisions in regards to characters in The Walled City. One of the protagonists, Mei Yee, is a young woman who has been horribly abused and forced into sex slavery. This is a horrifying situation made even more disturbing by its basis in reality (this frequently happened in Kowloon), and as a result she cowers in the presence of men and fears their touch. And yet when she sees a cute boy outside her window, she’s not only cured of her fear of men – she’s also in love! I just found that really sloppy. Insta-love is bad enough on its own, but using it for a character who is traumatized and afraid of men and sexual intimacy was just too much for me to take.

Considering this is supposed to be a thriller, I found The Walled City to be pretty boring. Barely anything happens in the first few chapters and I started to get annoyed with the characters’ dithering. I gave it until about 40% and then, in a pretty weird moment for me, I set The Walled City aside and made it my very first DNF.

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