Title: Outrun the Moon
Publisher//Release Date: G.P. Putnam and Sons// May 24th, 2016
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
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?
As a child, I was obsessed with natural disasters.My dad took me to see Twister three or four times and I got really obsessed with weather and nature and natural disasters got lumped in with the rest of them. So when I find a book taking place during the San Francisco Earthquake, you bet I’m reading that sucker.
I knew I was going to like this book. It’s historical fiction, set during an infamous natural disaster and has a great cover. As an added bonus, its has an Asian-American heroine and author and, with me trying to be more diverse in my reading choices, seemed like the perfect book for me to read. I don’t think I expected to LOVE this book as much as I did.
Let’s break it down:
What I Liked:
- Characters. Mercy was a FANTASTIC heroine. She was strong-willed and stubborn and ever so slightly sarcastic. She had a drive that I envy. But as a side of that, she’s impulsive and single-minded sometimes. She wasn’t perfect – a more accurate description would be human – and she was aware of her faults and I liked that about her. And then we have the St. Claire’s girls. I absolutely loved the St. Claire’s girls – even the ones that you weren’t supposed to like. They were very distinctive and I felt like I got to know them very well very quickly and then watched them all grow as people as the story went on. I just want to give an absolute shout out to Elodie and Francesca. Elodie for being understandable and a little likable, even if her mean girl ways were frustrating as hell and Francesca for being an Italian and therefore BAMF (I’m an 3rd-Generation Italian-American of the unpronounceable last name variety and Francesca reminded me very much of both the stories that I grew up hearing and myself. A lot on that second one).
- The “Girl Power-ness”. If you’re looking for a book feminist leanings, THIS IS YOUR GO-TO. The core cast is a group of young women, lead by a Chinese-American protagonist who, despite having being going to school that specializes in MRS Degrees, prove themselves in the midst of disaster. None of the girls are painted as a villain – antagonist or foil, yes, but not villain – and Mercy doesn’t dole out hate on any of them. There also isn’t a lot of romance in this book. Mercy does have a love interest, but it isn’t a focal point for much of the novel and one of the secondary characters has a romantic relationship that is relevant to the plot. More time is spent building the friendships between Mercy’s classmates and seeing them work together after disaster.
- The Chinese Perspective. The older I get, the more I realize that my history education was severely lacking in perspectives that weren’t, literally, black and white (but mostly white). I read a lot about early 20th Century San Francisco and the Earthquake as a child, but I don’t think any of those books ever touched on Chinatown. I knew nothing about life there and this book really piqued my interest on the subject. You see what daily life was like to an extent and see the prejudices against Chinese people living in San Francisco at the time and, to be honest, it was eye-opening. I actually wish we spent more time in Chinatown in the book to be honest.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The First 50 Pages. The pacing was a bit off at the beginning of the novel. The plot doesn’t kick off in a big way for about 30 pages and, until then, it’s mostly just setup. And while you get to know about Mercy and her family and life in Chinatown, it is a bit slow. This is a minor complaint as a whole and didn’t really effect my enjoyment all that much, but I could see people not getting into the story during the first part of the book.
tl;dr: Outrun the Moon is an empowering yet entertaining novel that I would recommend for anyone looking for a diverse book with a focus on family and friendship.