Book Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic transition into 2017! I’m technically still on holiday hiatus, but I just finished reading this book last night (my last book of 2016!), and I wanted to write a review right away.

In addition to writing up literature lesson plans for ESL instructors, I also want to do reviews of books that I read for fun. This way, even if I don’t write a lesson plan for the book, instructors might be able to find a book that fits their reading class. This is my first review of 2017, and I loved this book SO MUCH…I hope you and your students enjoy it as well!

26192915Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Goodreads Description: 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?

What I Enjoyed About the Book: I loved almost everything about this book! The main character, Mercy Wong, was smart, independent, and funny. She’s a self-made business woman with a lot of dreams. There was also very little romance (which I think tends to take away a lot from a story) – just enough to be cute, but not enough to be overwhelming. I also really liked that there was a lot of discussion about immigrants and non-white people in San Francisco in the 1900s – how they were treated by white people, how they were segregated to their own neighborhoods, how laws were passed targeting specific groups (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act)…but the main theme of the story is overcoming these barriers in the face of adversity. Overall, I’d give this book 5 stars!

What Students Would Enjoy About the Book: Even though my program has students from lots of different countries, we tend to have mostly Chinese students – as a result, we end up with a few classes every semester that have only Chinese students. I think Outrun the Moon would be perfect for when you have an all-Chinese class. The main character is a Chinese-American girl living in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1906, and the novel contains a lot of references to Chinese culture. Chinese students will have an easy time understanding the cultural references in the book, so they will mostly be doing language processing while reading, while non-Chinese students would have to do cultural processing on top of language. There are also universal themes that all students enjoy – action, adventure, family relationships, friendships, and people following their dreams.

Recommended ESL Level: High-Intermediate to Advanced

Have you read this novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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