“Outrun the Moon” by Stacey Lee

Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on May 24, 2016

Review Source: Publisher, Edelweiss

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Plot: Mercy Wong wants to leave San Francisco’s Chinatown c. 1906 and attend St. Claire’s School so that she may become a successful business woman.

Review: Full disclosure, historical fiction isn’t my preferred genre, but I have heard a lot of great things about Stacey Lee and I like to round out my reading habits by spicing it up from time to time. Here’s my list of pros and cons.

Pros:

  • It will add diversity to your young adult collection. Lee manages to wrap her story around a wide cast of characters, all of which go a long way towards expressing just how diverse San Francisco was at the time. It was also really refreshing to see a main character who is both of Chinese descent and a second generation immigrant. With immigration being such a hot topic today, Outrun the Moon gives readers some food for thought about how far we have come on the subject, what struggles remain, and how one might want to address the situation if confronted with things such as prejudice or inequality.
  • It feels authentic. As the librarian responsible for selecting all of my system’s Young Adult materials, I can tell you I see a lot of YA. Partly, it is because I love reading it, and partly it is so that I can stay knowledgeable for work. One subgenre that can be really tricky to find solid titles for is Historical Fiction. Many times titles feel either completely dated or entirely unrealistic. Lee provides readers with a balanced read that gives enough historical authenticity to ring true, but injects it with enough action and modernity to engage today’s readers.
  • It is a clean read. There is a small amount romance, but nothing overdone. Also, while this title covers things such as natural disasters, racism, and death it isn’t gritty. The subjects are tackled in a sincere and thought provoking way, rather than through shock and awe.

Cons:

  • It feels more like a middle grade read than young adult. Maybe it’s the genre, or maybe it’s because it was set in the 1900’s where tings were more “tame” for a lack of a better word, but Outrun the Moon felt more geared towards upper elementary / middle school readers than high school. Mercy is fifteen, but her actions and thoughts felt significantly more juvenile to me. This isn’t to say that older readers won’t pick this one up, but it did needle me that Mercy’s voice didn’t quite click with her age.
  • The plot progression felt slow. This might have also been due to me reading outside my typical wheelhouse, but it felt like the pace of the book slow. I gravitated towards this title, because the description mentioned a girl breaking the social rules and an epic earthquake. Did these things happen? Yes, but the wait for those plot highs was grueling.
  • Things ended a little too neatly for me. Without spoiling anything, let me just say this: a bunch of crazy things happened and it all magically worked out. It started to feel like when I used to read Nancy Drew or American Girls as a kid. Everything is all over and then the last two chapters put plot Band-Aids on everything. It was just too good to be true.

Having said all that, it is still a worthy addition to any collection.

 Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Who Should Snag It: Fans of Lee’s previous works, Historical Fiction, or seekers of a clean, light read will want to give this a try.

*I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*

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