By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian
As you may recall, last summer I was raving about Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, a book I adored when I read it and continue to talk about. So I was psyched to get Lee’s next book on audio, and am finding my car rides extra enjoyable while listening to it!
What I Just Read: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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?
Do I Like It: As expected, I’m loving it!
Thoughts: Only two books in, and already I am learning to count on Stacey Lee for amazing historical fiction, strong and well-rounded young woman protagonists, and incredible depictions of friendships between girls. Those are all things that Outrun the Moon has in common with Under a Painted Sky, along with fascinating glimpses at Chinese beliefs and culture. But Outrun the Moon is its own distinct story as well, and Mercy is an amazing heroine.
One of my favorite things about Mercy is that she is compassionate, brave and caring, but these qualities exist right alongside her ambition and difficulties abiding by the rules. From the very first pages, we learn that Mercy is impetuous and headstrong (which leads to a very exciting trip in a hot air balloon) and not long after we discover that she is determined to become a successful businesswoman and lift her family out of poverty. While certainly Mercy’s ambition is understandable, particularly given how her family struggles with prejudice and being poor, it’s also lofty. She’s not just striving for better, she’s striving for the best. I love that this is part of her character, and that her ambition is part of what makes her strong and determined and supports her better self.
I’m also loving, as I expected, the friendships that Mercy is developing. While I felt her connection to her friend Tom and to her family right from the start, watching her slowly growing friendships with some of the girls at her school is delightful. Each one of Mercy’s friends clearly has her own life, hopes, dreams and wants, and all seem like real people. I’m closing in on the halfway point, and really looking forward to seeing how the relationships develop in the rest of the book.
On top of incredible character and a rapidly increasing plot pace, Outrun the Moon is a can’t-put-it-down read. Add in the incredible research and wealth of detail that makes 1906 San Francisco come alive, and I have a feeling this won’t be the only time I’m reading this book. Highly recommended for anyone who likes historical fiction, great characters and incredible relationships.