Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Summary: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 bribery.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. 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. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Tragedy can give the pot a good shake, not only causing the good bits in us to float to the surface, but the nasty bits, too. Maybe it’s better to skim off the nasty parts and let them go.
I read Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky and found it extremely entertaining and well-written, so I was ecstatic when I heard she was writing another book. Fortunately, Outrun the Moon does not disappoint.
It’s 1906 in San Francisco, and 15-year-old Mercy’s only hope of escaping the poverty of Chinatown is to be admitted to the prestigious St. Clare’s School for Girls. Mercy manages to get admitted by disguising herself as a Chinese heiress. But when a deadly earthquake wrecks havoc in San Fransisco, Mercy’s life is turned upside down.
Mercy is an extraordinary protagonist and I loved her character. She is ambitious, kind, tenacious and intelligent and it’s extremely hard not to root for her.
One of the book’s strongest elements is how it highlights the power of friendship. It’s rare to see friendship in young adult books – most authors choosing to write about romances over friendships – but Stacey Lee writes about friendship in such an honest and realistic way.
The historical details shine throughout the story. It’s obvious Stacey Lee has done quite a lot of research about the Great San Francisco Earthquake and its aftermath as well as what life in Chinatown was like, and all that research adds an authenticity to the story that makes it feel real.
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the story just didn’t quite affect me as much emotionally as I wished it would have. But, even so, this is a historical fiction novel that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.