Author: Stacey Lee
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest
Also by this author: Under a Painted Sky, The Secret of a Heart Note
Publication date: May 24th 2016
Source: ARC from author (thank you!), Purchased from Audible.com
From the author of the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, an unforgettable story of determination set against a backdrop of devastating tragedy. Perfect for fans of Code Name Verity. San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of 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. Now she’s 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?
Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.
From the Hardcover edition.
Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Mercy Wong has a dream. A seventeen year old Chinese girl living in San Francisco’s Chinatown at the turn of the 20th century, she’s desperate to gain more learning and prestige and find a way to save herself and her little brother from spending the rest of their lives working for her father’s laundry business. The key? Gaining entry to St. Clare’s School for Girls, the most prestigious school in San Francisco. But it’s 1906 and an earthquake is looming on the horizon…
I’d like to preface this review by saying that I really enjoyed Stacey Lee’s first novel. Under a Painted Sky, for its tight friendship between an Asian girl and a black slave on the Oregon Trail. That said, I had a few issues with plausibility in her debut. In Outrun the Moon, though, those issues went away completely, leaving me with a story and a heroine that’s full of heart, courage, and wisdom. I loved this book, and the more I think about it, the more I love it.
The book reads in two parts, with former half set before the famous San Francisco earthquake and the back half set during and after. For my part, I found the latter half a better read – obviously, it was more exciting, but I felt like it also crystallized a lot of the ideas that Mercy had at the beginning of the book. You really couldn’t have one without the other, but I admit that the first half of Outrun the Moon was a touch slow – it took me awhile to get into Mercy’s story.
It helped that I bought the audiobook to read along with my ARC, and I should say here that Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, giving authenticity to Mercy’s Cantonese expressions and her accent, while distinctly narrating the voices of the girls at St. Clare’s. That said, the story really picked up as we got deeper into Mercy’s school adventures, and of course, once the earthquake hits – so much so that I stopped audiobooking and just raced through the end.
I’m not sure what to say here because a) I don’t want to spoil anything; but more problematically b) I don’t know how to describe Stacey Lee’s masterful storytelling. The journey Mercy takes, the amount of courage she has, but also the many failures she deals with…it elevates her and this book to epic. You will feel angry and upset and cheered and optimistic. And I hope you will feel like I did, empowered and idealistic about the future and about how even the little things we do can make or break our lives…and the lives of people around us.
Diversity and Representation: Yes, Mercy’s Chinese and her ethnicity plays a big part in this novel, but this is NOT a novel where it’s everything. It’s part of who she is, but she’s also having amazing adventures and romances and great friendships in the midst of a historic event…and for me, as a Chinese girl, that’s important. Just to see her as the star of her own story. It’s not everything, but it’s important and I really wish she’d existed when I was a teen.
Boarding School Shenanigans: I have a serious thing for boarding school-like situations – and while this one is harsher because of the prejudice that Mercy has to deal with, it’s still kind of fun?
Girl Friendships: I loved the girls in this book – all of them. From the sweet, the silly, and the nasty, all of the girls were multi-faceted and the friendships and relationships were honest.
Kick-Arse Secondary Characters: Everyone in this book is awesome, from the priest at the school to Mercy’s brother to Mercy’s crush. I don’t even want to say anymore, they’re all just awesome and please read this!
Book Theme Song:
Even though this book probably deserves a song like Fighter by Christina Aguilera as it’s theme song, Bad Moon Rising is just…I couldn’t stop myself. =p
I see a bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.
Don’t go around tonight,
Well it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.
The Final Word:
With heart-pounding action, pitch-perfect description and wisdom about sorrow and fighting for your life, Outrun the Moon is a brilliant historical novel that unrelentingly pushes your emotions. Teachers and librarians, take note: this is one for your schools – between the history, issues of representation, and great metaphors, there are so many angles you could take in discussing this in the classroom. Readers, if you like unique stories about girls who don’t take no for an answer, this is your book.
OUTRUN THE MOON is out in bookstores now. Is it on your to-be-read list? Have you read any other amazing historicals, especially YA ones involving Asian characters? Let me know in the comments!