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Outrun the moon

de Stacey Lee

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3011368,314 (3.94)1
"On the eve of the San Fransisco Earthquake of 1906, Mercy Wong--daughter of Chinese immigrants--is struggling to hold her own among the spoiled heiresses at prestigious St. Clare's School. When tragedy strikes, everyone must band together to survive"--

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Please note that I gave this book 4.5 stars, but due to Goodreads not allowing half stars, I rounded the book up to 5 stars.

I have never read a novel by Stacey Lee before, but I am going to definitely check out her other books when I get some time. "Outrun the Moon" was a great look back at a tragic event in the city of San Francisco's past (1906 Earthquake) told from the first person point of view by 15 year old Mercy Wong.

I can honestly say that I am totally ignorant about all of the former laws and policies previously enacted in the United States passed in order to segregate Chinese and American born Chinese people in our country's past. I am actually a little ashamed of myself for not looking deeper into that especially since everything that Ms. Lee provided context about just caused me to want to read more and more and more.

I visited San Francisco a few years back for a friend's wedding and the city spoke to me like no other place has since. There are just some places that touch you and make you feel like you came home. I recall being fascinated by everything and I did a Big Bus tour around the city that briefly touched upon the Earthquake of 1906. But even with that context, I still had no idea of the devastation that people were forced to deal with for several days after the first quake.

"Outrun the Moon" takes place a few days before the San Francisco earthquake. Mercy Wong is determined to be enrolled at the St. Clare School for Girls in order to further her education. Mercy believes that if she is able to attend this school she will be able to use what she learns there in order to set up her own successful business. Living in San Francisco's Chinatown with her mother, father, and younger brother Jack, Mercy dreams of being able to make enough money for all of them to live in Nob Hill one day. Using "bribery" Mercy is able to get her foot in the door at St. Clare's, but finds that it may be harder than she thinks to be able to get what she really wants.

Mercy was a wonderful character. She is a 15 year old girl who is doing what she can in order to make sure that her family can be better off. Being the oldest and a girl you get to see how hard she is fighting to be taken on her own merits and not to be treated like a Chinese girl who is not as good as the white people she sees living in better off circumstances around her. Mercy's constant parroting of lines from a business book written by a businesswoman definitely made me smile after a while. I used to do that too when I was younger. Read something that stuck with me and would just repeat it back to friends and family. Thank goodness no one smothered me.

There were parts of me that did get a little bit frustrated with Mercy. I think it was because I wanted her to be cautious and be safe a lot of times during the story, but the character at that point was over everything and said screw it, I am going to do what I am going to do, and damn the consequences.

Other characters included in this book are Mercy's mother, father, her younger brother Jack, her longtime childhood friend Tom, and the girls that she meets at St. Clare's. There are a lot more characters introduced to you as soon as the action moves to St. Clare's but the big stand outs for me were Harry, Francesca, and Elodie. I would seriously love to see a sequel showing how did all of these girls turn out one day.

Though we don't get much insight into Mercy's family life besides crumbs left here and there, I felt their presence through the whole book. I will be honest though that the character of Tom did not do a thing for me. I loved Mercy's relationship/friendship with Francesca more. Those two together were fantastic.

The writing was really good. I know some words here and there from other friends so I already knew what "gwai lo" meant. Ms. Lee has Mercy explain things so I don't think any reader would get lost. Mercy's voice is very distinct the whole way through and read like a 15 year old girl.

The flow though was way too slow at the first half of the book, and the beginning of the book felt like it started mid-story to me. It read like the reader should already know what Mercy was up to. Nothing got explained there for a few chapters later for you to get why Mercy was out looking for a certain herb.

The world building was fantastic to me because this book took real life events and sections of a city and breathed life into the book.

The ending came a bit too fast for me. There was kind of a little cheat I would say surrounding some of the characters. I think that Ms. Lee wanted to make sure that whatever reader came along was not totally thrown into a pit of despair. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
4.5 stars. This was one of the best JF/YA books I’ve read in a while. The characters and story really caught my attention and made me want to keep reading. I didn’t give this 5 stars because of the plausibility of some of the situations (which the author also acknowledges), but these same situations also make up a lot of the plot and help the reader understand Mercy more. I do love her “bossy cheeked” strength and endurance and think she is a girl we could all strive to be like. I also loved the Chinese proverbs and Mrs. Lowery’s words of wisdom sprinkled through out. ( )
  slittleson | Mar 19, 2020 |
Mercy is a character full of ambition and moxie which apparently is indicated by her strong cheekbones. Growing up in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1906, she faces a great many obstacles when trying to apply for a spot in an exclusive school for girls. Not to be deterred, she sets up a meeting with the head of the school board and works a deal to get 3 months at the school where she'll attend as a Chinese heiress. Just as she's found out, the San Francisco earthquake hits and the story turns into a quest to survive. The remaining girls head to a camp and there find that they can find opportunity in the rubble. There are a lot of instances when they are discouraged from taking action because they are girls, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone in Mercy's group under her leadership. Memorable characters. ( )
  ewyatt | Jan 24, 2020 |
Not as good as her debut. Lee's debut book 'Under a Painted Sky' surprised me since I typically don't like YA books and have rarely (ever?) read a Western. But it was an enjoyable book of historical fiction and this next book sounded really interesting.
Mercy Wong is a 15 year old girl living in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1906. She's determined to break out of Chinatown and have more in the life that is typically destined for young women for her age at that time. Her first step is to go to exclusive prep school for wealthy girls for a better education. But unfortunately the great earthquake hits San Francisco not long after and Mercy is left to scrabble among the ruins and the chaos of the city.
Overall the impression I got from this book was too long and it wasn't as well-integrated as her previous book. Here you can look at it as Part 1 being Mercy's life in Chinatown, Part 2 is her transition to the new school, new world and trying to survive among the "Mean Girls" of the time and place and Part 3 being the earthquake and its aftermath. The book flap somewhat led me to believe the earthquake would occur sooner in the book and would be a more dominant story. It is by Part 3 but at the same time it took a lot of setup to get there.
And while I enjoy historical fiction and had been looking forward to reading a book about this time, place and event, Mercy seems a bit too "modern" and anachronistic. While she would need the education to become who she would be, it seemed too convenient of a setup and did not allow for as much character development. I don't mind strong female characters and enjoyed Mercy for who she was, but her as a character didn't quite sit right with me.
Maybe it's me and I'm not in the right mind for it. I really did enjoy Lee's first book so maybe it's just not every book she wrote is going to work for me.
As a YA novel I think it's marketed right. It's mild in terms romance and violence (a major natural disaster is a big part of the story but it's not as gory as it could have been). If you're looking for a historical fiction (if only for this particular event!) for a teenager/late-tween this wouldn't be a bad pick. I'd recommend it as a library borrow though. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
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?
  Clippers | Dec 21, 2017 |
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In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls.
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"On the eve of the San Fransisco Earthquake of 1906, Mercy Wong--daughter of Chinese immigrants--is struggling to hold her own among the spoiled heiresses at prestigious St. Clare's School. When tragedy strikes, everyone must band together to survive"--

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