4 star, YA

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

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?

I’ve been trying to support some more Chinese authors, or at least getting to know some of their works a bit better. I came across this one in the library and decided to pick it up. With my recent interest in historical fiction, I figured this one would be right up in my alley. I think I wasn’t 100% correct on this, but overall I’m still glad I picked it up!

Outrun the Moon is an emotional tale that takes place in 1906 San Francisco. Our protagonist, Mercy, makes a series of seemingly crazy deals to get herself into a prestigious school, deceiving all her classmates. Things seem to be fairly under control until an earthquake hits, devastating the city. How will Mercy be able to use her wits and bravery to overcome this mess? Or will it prove too much for her to handle? This is the story of her journey.

The historical elements of this book were great. I really enjoyed the old Chinatown setting and the attitudes of the people at the time were really well represented here in this book. I really felt like I was transported back to that time, watching from the outside in. As such, the characters that were in this book were also well-crafted, and I enjoyed having all their different perspectives, even if it was definitely aggravating to endure the “ancient” discriminating mindsets.

I also enjoyed the Chinese elements that were sprinkled into this story. It was well incorporated, without overtaking the story. Through the eyes of Mercy, a young Chinese girl in the early twentieth century, we are able to experience with her the discrimination and social status of a person in her position, as well as the effects of such status on her family and neighbours. This was definitely a huge element that hit home, and I felt that it was well done.

Throughout the story we really got to watch Mercy grow and face adversities. She may be a strong-willed character who loves to fight and not back down, but in her moments of weakness her humanity and stumbles also make her so relatable. With her morals and her upbringing, she truly made an interesting main character, and I couldn’t help but root for her from the side through the ups and downs. I may have disagreed with some of her decisions in the book, but her strength to follow through and her own emotional journey was something that I could still respect.

Overall, this was a really touching story in a well-researched backdrop and is definitely worth a read if you are into historical fictions.

Overall Recommendations

Outrun the Moon follows a young female protagonist, Mercy, in her hometown of San Francisco Chinatown in 1906. Not wanting to be stuck in the slums, she devices a clever plan to get into a prestigious girls school. Though she makes it in, the plan isn’t as easy to execute as she thought. When an earthquake literally turns her world upside down, will she be able to find the strength to continue? Find out in this exciting historical journey!


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