4 out of 5 stars.
This was recommended to me by one of our regular library patrons who absolutely adored it. It is obviously self-published, since I could not even find a library copy on our provincial system. No idea how our patron found it. I got a copy for Christmas.
This was very impressive for a debut novel. You can tell it is a first work, since some of the writing is a little shaky. The point of view changes within individual paragraphs, and in some parts you get thrown out of the story because of some flaw in the writing. That being said, she wrote it when she was 16. I could not have written something like that at 16.
Hana, our protagonist, starts off as an annoyingly perfect character: kind, smart and beautiful. As you go through, however, you realize she is flawed. That revelation of her character really endeared her too me. She is kind, but only to those who deserve it. She is judgmental and does not forgive easily. I was afraid she was going to be too sugary sweet to stand, but she was written with depth.
The various slaves she befriends have unique personalities which make them distinct. Wu also does not hold back any punches when describing slavery, going into details which I would not have expected given her youth during the writing process. Slavery, torture and rape are all explored.
The book has surprising depth for being so short. People die and it is heartbreaking. People make mistakes and are forgiven or condemned. The book is short but there is a ton of content, and I got attached to the characters very quickly and easily. The developing relationships are sweet, but compelling, and though some of the romance reads a bit too much like a teenage diary, I was still happy with the way things happened. My biggest problem with the book is that the ending was appropriate and satisfying for the characters, but did not address some of the bigger problems with the society itself. In some ways that is realistic. Some people were saved, and others were not. That is probably the way it would actually work out, but I am a little addicted to completely happy endings, so it was a little unnerving.
This was impressive for a first work. The writing was shaky, but the story was solid and the characters were very well done.