Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey LeeOutrun the Moon
by Stacey Lee
Release Date: May 24th 2016
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Format: eBook
Pages: 400
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Source: Purchased

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?

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Last year, I fell in love with Stacey Lee’s debut book, Under a Painted Sky. Just from reading that one book from her, I knew she would be an author who mastered every book that she tackled. Outrun the Moon proved that for me. It’s a harrowing, yet hopeful tale of strength, courage and love in the aftermath of San Fransisco’s biggest natural disaster, the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires.

For me, the best part of Outrun the Moon were the characters. It’s an understatement for me to say that I loved Mercy, our protagonist here, because love doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for this girl. She is the shining star of this book and she is the reason why everyone everywhere must read it. From the moment she wrangled her way into an all-white girl’s school using her smarts, I had nothing but admiration for her. As a Chinese-born American, she was very much at a disadvantage in that era. But Mercy never abandoned her dreams and goals for a better life. She was a determined, strong and incredibly resilient young woman. She faced obstacle after obstacle in Outrun the Moon, but she never let them get to her. Even when she faced personal loss, she grieved, then moved on with her head held high – you can’t help but look up to her and wish you had her strength. I wish there were more girls like Mercy in YA because she is absolutely the sort of character that can teach readers, young and old, to believe in themselves, be kind to others and face whatever hurdle life throws at you by focusing on your ambitions. Isn’t that an invaluable lesson?

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Besides Mercy’s character, I adored how much focus there was on friendships, like with Stacey Lee’s previous novel. When Mercy enrolls at St. Clare’s, some of her fellow students look down on her for the simple fact that she’s Chinese. Over the course of the book though, she makes some amazing friendships. What was really great about these girls bonding was how they taught each other acceptance by showing each other their different cultures. Mercy, in a way, forced these girls to become independent, and to seek goals other than marriage in life. The earthquake forces them to become close to one another and I loved that sense of closeness, support and love they gain for each other.  My favorite scenes in the book were definitely the big meal Mercy and her friends plan for the people at the park they find refuge in, so as to ease the suffering in a small, but powerful way, bringing together people of different backgrounds. There’s also a sweet childhood-friends-turned-more romance here, which remained in the background, between Mercy and a cute boy, Tom, for those of you who like romance.

I’ll admit to expecting Outrun the Moon to being perhaps more fast-paced judging from the summary, but it was very much of a slow-moving novel. I’m not complaining though. It is a very character-driven story and a lot of the focus is on the emotional impacts that the earthquake has on Mercy and the city. Reading about the aftermath of the earthquake was honestly tough, because every scene was laced with grief, loss and pain. It was hard watching Mercy and her friends suffer, but I loved that Stacey Lee left readers with hope and smiles throughout the book. As you may have expected, Outrun the Moon was also rich in culture. I loved the glimpses the author gave us into the customs and lifestyle of Chinese Americans in that time. The Chinatown setting, especially, was so vibrant. Stacey Lee’s writing was, once again, stunning, and for me, it was even better than the first book. She is beyond talented! Every sentence that she crafts is powerful and poignant. If you’re a YA reader and have yet to experience the beauty of her prose, you are honestly missing out.

Outrun the Moon has so much to offer readers with its story about feminism, diversity, friendship and love. Stacey Lee is quite honestly a queen when it comes to historical fiction and she proved that 100% with Outrun the Moon. If there’s one book you should pick up in 2016, this one is it.

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?
Let me know in the comments below!

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  • So glad to hear you loved this! I absolutely adored Under A Painted Sky as well, so I’ve been happily/excitedly/crazily anticipating this one. Stacey’s stories usually include great friendships, so I was glad to hear good on that aspect, too! Great review, Nick! 😀

    • If you liked Under a Painted Sky, this is definitely one you’ll enjoy, Peach. She does friendship well for sure.
      Thanks! 🙂

  • I’m not THAT into Historical Fiction, but I do always want to expand my horizons and try new things. That’s how I ended up reading Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman and I loved it! So I’ll try & give this one a shot. Hopefully I end up loving it as much as you! 😀

    • That’s a great attitude to have. You never know what gems you may find. I think you’d like this, Bee! 🙂

  • I’m good with slow-moving as long as the characters are outstanding, and clearly they are in this one Nick! I obviously need to read Under the Painted Sky as well as this, and I can’t wait to fall in love Stacey’s writing as much as you have my friend!

    • Yes, Jenny! They are definitely outstanding and I think you would truly appreciate this book as well as Under a Painted Sky. 🙂

  • I haven’t read anything by this author but the cover to this book is just so pretty!! I so want to try it!!! Glad to hear it was good. Thanks for adding a book to my ever growing TBR.

    • Her books are great and definitely worth the read. And I’m glad I was able to add something to your TBR! 🙂

  • I’m definitely trying to get more into historical fiction. My experience has been a positive one, and I’ve read pretty positive things about this book. So glad you enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to check it out!

    • This is one I’ll wholeheartedly recommend, Jazmen. I hope you’ll like it when you read it.

  • Oh wow! Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this one sound truly amazing. I must read it!

    • If you’re a fan of the genre, I definitely think you should read it!

  • Great review Nick! I was going to pass on this but now that I read your review, I definitely want to read it. I don’t know why I am so hesitant with historical fiction but some I’ve read lately have been really good so I need to branch out more. This sounds so beautiful and fascinating ♥

    • This year’s historical fiction have been very good so far, Eva. I would definitely recommend picking this one up especially because you liked The Smell of Other People’s Houses.

  • Wow! I haven’t heard her previous book either, but you’re never wrong Nick (annoying habit that one! *kidding!)

    • Her previous one was wonderful but underrated too. She’s certainly an author to check out. And LOL! I’ve been told that quite a bit lately. 🙂

  • Oh I’m glad you loved this one too! I adored Mercy! She’s such a strong character and I admired her every step of the way. It was wonderful getting to know her!

    • She really was so strong and brave. She’s definitely one of my favorite heroines.

  • I either read the summary so long ago or didn’t read it at all because I didn’t know/remember this was a historical. But since I’m reading my first adult historical romance anyway maybe I’ll be a semi-pro once I get a chance to listen to this one. I really hope I like this one too and that the narrator is good. Gorgeous graphic!

    • I didn’t remember what the book was about when I picked it up, but I guessed it was historical because her first book was one. You will be a semi-pro once you’re done with the Wallflowers. 😀

  • This sounds like such a good read! I know that I can count on you Nick when it comes to finding a book to pick up. I hadn’t really heard about this one before, but I had her first novel. I might have to give both a go.

    • Aww! 🙂 I think this is a book very much worth reading, Angel. And her first novel was great too.

  • This sounds right up my alley! I love historical fiction and I really know nothing about this period of time. Mercy sounds like a wonderful character and I can’t wait to meet her. Definitely going to pick this book up! The cover image is so beautiful too (not sure about the typography though…).

    • I don’t know much about that time period either, so it was nice getting that extra from this book other than enjoyment. I think this is definitely right up your alley, Jenna. You would love Mercy. 🙂

  • I kept seeing this one around but honestly had no idea what it was about. Sounds really interesting and I do love historicals. Mercy sounds like such a great character!! Great review!!

    • I’m sad that this one is being hyped up more because it’s so wonderful. She was amazing. Thanks, Grace!

  • Lovely review Nick. I love the Chinatown setting and sound of these characters. I have not tried this author yet.

    • Thank you, Kim. She’s a YA author worth trying. 🙂

  • It seems to me that a lot of the historic novels released this year have been nothing but hits. Outrun the Moon is definitely one of my most anticipated books and I love that this was such a hit for you. I don’t know much about the San Francisco earthquake but I love how these historic time periods allow us a chance to explore the cultural diversity and in a lot of cases discrimination that these characters face within society. I can already see myself loving Mercy’s character and I love the fact that there’s an emphasis on friendship in this novel. Plus you cannot go wrong with a childhood-friends-turned-more romance. Basically I need to get my hands on this book.

    • I’ve only read 3 or 4 so far this year, but I have to agree with that assessment. There are a couple of others that I want to get to and I can’t wait. Lois, this is definitely a book you would enjoy, in my opinion. The friendship aspect was undeniably my favorite part of the book. I’d love for more books to be so focused on friendship. I can’t wait for you to read it. 🙂

  • I’m sold! I hadn’t wanted to read this book but wow. Just added to my wishlist! I love friendship in books, especially like these so I’m eager to read it now. I admit I wasn’t interested in learning about the earthquake but now I want to know how it affected Mercy. This was a great review, Nick!

    • This is a good book to add to your wishlist, Genesis. It’s very powerful and invaluable, in my opinion.
      Thank you so much.

  • TOTALLY agree with you! I just thought this book was wonderful- the kind of book that actually got BETTER the longer I thought about it! The friendships and setting were just… beyond amazing. I need to read Under a Painted Sky NOW, basically. OH and I agree, I thought it would be fast paced too, though I was totally fine with the direction it did take! Fabulous review, I am SO glad you liked it so much too!

    • Yes, it really did. It’s the kind of book that stays with you after too. Oh you should most definitely read Under a Painted Sky. It’s so wonderful.
      Thank you, Shannon. I’m glad you liked it too.

  • I have wanted to read this for some time. I think Olivia fro Olivia’s Catastrophe sealed the deal for me, and now you are just reminding me that I need to get to it. I hope the library has it when I go in there on Tuesday. Great review!

    • I really really hope you get a copy because this is right up your alley!

  • This novel sounds exactly up my alley with the Chinese culture and the grief and Earthquake and everything that’s formed around it. I love how empowering Mercy sounds and how she brings people together without judgement. I can definitely tell how much you liked it, Nick! Lovely review!

    • Jeann, I can 100% see you enjoying this book and the culture and friendships. Thank you!

  • You had me with “I wish there were more girls like Mercy in YA because she is absolutely the sort of character that can teach readers, young and old, to believe in themselves, be kind to others and face whatever hurdle life throws at you by focusing on your ambitions.”,/i> Nick! Mercy sounds wonderful and, of course, the historical setting makes this a must on my TBR list 🙂

    • This should absolutely be on your TBR, Kim! You would love it! 🙂

  • Beautiful graphic Nick, so, so puuurdy <3

    I'm generally really selective with my historical reads and this sounds incredible. Not only because it's a fish out of water storyline which usually appeal to me anyway, but I love that the emphasis is on friendships and the girls learning acceptance and to want more for themselves. Any book that empowers females I'm instantly drawn to and so excited to read this one! Incredible review Nick, loved it! <3

    • Thanks, Kelly! 🙂
      I think this is a book you would really like, especially because of the friendships and Mercy’s character.