Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 24th 2016
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, an 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. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
WARNING – There are some spoilers in this. Continue at your own risk.
It has been a long time since I have read a book which such beautiful writing that it just sucked me into it so effortlessly. I received this book from Penguin Teen while I was in Toronto and I picked it up Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, I had finished it and fallen in love over and over with it. It’s written in such a beautiful manner. The story grabs you by the hands and pulls you into it. It holds your hands, takes you on an adventure, teaches you things and makes your feelings hurt. It’s wonderful.
All Mercy wanted was an education. She wanted to start a business and give her family the world. She knew how hard her parents both worked to keep the family going and no matter how little they had she was happy. Her brother Jack is the world to her and she wants him to grow up and not need to work in the laundry business. Each day she walks with her head held high despite the cruel words that were thrown at her by the gwai lo.
Mercy has to be THE strongest female character I have come across. She walks through a living hell, loses people she loves and STILL worries about the wellbeing about other around her. She puts others before her. She is selfless, determined and strong. Even though Headmistress Crouch was rude and judgemental in the beginning, Marcy still made sure she okay after the earthquake. She put their differences aside and made sure she was okay.
Elodie has an amazing transformation in this book. You see her from the beginning as the rich, stuck up rich girl whose father owns one of the biggest chocolate businesses in San Francisco. She felt that her wealth and skin color made her much better than Mercy or any other Chinese person living in the city. She is callous and plain ignorant. Following the earthquake and the death of her mother, you see her shut down for a bit. She becomes pulled away from the others. After Mercy calls her out for not pulling her weight at the camp, she goes with her to get the meat and I find that following them both rolling down the hill she really changes. She becomes more involved with the other girls and really ends up being someone I really like. She has a strong sense of business and confidence and that’s one of the beautiful things about her. If there were a book to come after this (one can dream), I would love to see more of not only her but the others.
Tom was wonderful. You got a taste of him in the beginning and it was sweet. He was not quite the typical love interest you would see in a YA book and that is one of the fascinating things about him. When he and Mercy met up in the cemetery, my heart broke and I cried. You could tell how much they cared for one another, even without all the hot and heavy romance you sometimes find in a book. Their connection was strong, and Tom showed this in many ways. He always supported her and tried to help her move mountains anyway he could.
Like Elodie, I couldn’t stand Headmistress Crouch in the beginning of the book. She was ignorant and rude to Mercy. She was just like every other uneducated person in the book who was cruel. I hated her right from the start. Every time she was mean or nasty, it made my heart cried out. I don’t understand and never will understand how people back then or even now acted like this. It’s disgusting. After the earthquake, Marcy and the girls made sure that she was taken care of. They were concerned about her blood pressure and health, but they lucked out with Toms father being near the camp. In the end, she ends up offering her home to Mercy and making sure she is well taken care of. She, alongside Elodie, has an amazing transformation and ends up seeing the world differently.
If this isn’t on your TBR or you’re unsure as to if it will be, you need to add it right now.