Last July, in my post “Cross-Dressing Heroines in New YA Westerns,” I called Stacey Lee’s debut, Under a Painted Sky, “a nontraditional, diverse, feminist western that celebrates female heroism, adventure, and resilience.” Her latest novel, Outrun the Moon, is not a western; but it is a nontraditional, diverse, and feminist exploration of a significant historical event: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which destroyed the city and killed roughly 3,000 people.
Like Sammy in Under a Painted Sky, Outrun the Moon‘s Chinese-American heroine, Mercy Wong, is headstrong, ambitious, and clever. According to her Ma, her high cheekbones, called “bossy cheeks,” are a sign of authority, meaning she’s assertive and independent. So true. We can tell from the first few sentences alone that she’s bold and adventurous:
In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls. Today, I will walk on air.
Tom’s hot air balloon, the Floating Island, hovers above us, a cloud of tofu-colored silk trapped in netting.
Mercy almost floats away in Tom’s hot air balloon. But this is not how she wants to escape Chinatown! She has a plan. She will become a successful business woman like Mrs. Lowry, the author of her much-loved Book for Business-Minded Women. First, she must get a prestigious education; but how will she do that when the best schools exclude non-whites? (Mercy has graduated from the Oriental Public School.)
Mercy’s clever plan for admittance to St Clare’s School for Girls is just the beginning of this powerful novel that celebrates triumph over racism, sexism, and classism. When the disastrous earthquake strikes, her assertiveness and resilience become even more important as she must rally other survivors to overcome their sorrows and prejudices and work together to build a community amidst the ruins.
Alyssa just realized she published this post without including her bio! Here it is. She thanks the author for an ARC of Outrun the Moon, for review purposes only, and Alyssa’s opinions are her own.