Written by: Stacey Lee
Published: May 24, 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Synopsis: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week you know that this book was a backlist book I own but hadn't read. So as I was looking for an audiobook to listen to for two really long trips I had last week I saw this one and had to download it.
This book really solidified the fact that Stacey Lee is a fantastic author of historical fiction. I usually prefer my historical fiction to take a well-known or even lesser known event in history and then add fiction characters to explain and expand on the world. That is what this book did. It took the 1906 earthquake of San Francisco and told the story of it from the perspective of a young Chinese American girl. Stacey's writing really brought the even to life. You could feel the tremors along with the characters and the uncertainty of what was next after most of the city was leveled or in flames. It made for a very interesting and engaging read that had me worried for the characters and the city of San Francisco. You can tell that Stacey did her research into what happened during the earthquake. It felt interesting and like I was learning something at the same time.
And while that was the backdrop, there was so much more to this book than just the earthquake. It also showed the reader what it would have been like for a Chinese American with not only what it was like to grow up in Chinatown but the oppression that she experienced because of her race. And while it's easy for something like that to feel over-wrought this wasn't. It served to add drama to the narrative and to establish the historical time period. It also gave the story a timely quality as well. The heart of this story was really a young woman who is the child of immigrants trying to overcome her circumstances and thrive. And that will always be an engaging and inspiring story.
But maybe I enjoyed that so much because I really liked the characters on this book. Mercy Wong is a fantastic main character. Her voice really comes through in throughout the narrative. I felt like I knew who Mercy was, where she came from, where she wanted to go, and what she was going to do to get there. What I think I liked most about her is that she's equal parts tough street kid and vulnerable young woman. She's ballsy and abrasive sometimes but she's also kind and caring. She was a really complex character and I enjoyed her a lot. The secondary characters in this book were also really great. There was a great theme about family and loss, but also a running thread of found family and friendship. There were also really complex characters who had great development like Elodie and Headmistress Crouch. The characterization was one of the best parts of this book.
Finally, I couldn't conclude this review without mentioning San Francisco because the city itself was as much a character as anyone else. San Francisco is a place I have only been to once but but it is also a city that I loved. It has beautiful architecture, a gorgeous landscape, and an interesting history. All of that came alive in this book. I think Stacey Lee is from the Bay Area and she obviously has a lot of love for the city. But what I especially loved is the idea that she really considered what the city was like over 100 years ago. I am always someone who thinks about those things and wonders what a city and building was like when it was first built and if you are like me then you will really enjoy this book.
All in all., I really loved this book. It's a fantastic historical fiction novel with an engaging plot that explores a historical event from a unique perspective, amazing complex characters, and a great setting that really comes to life. I'm so glad I took the time to read it and I wish I hadn't waited so long.
I give Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee 9.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read Outrun the Moon? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!