Review of An Echo in the City

An Echo in the City An Echo in the City
by K. X. Song
High School    Little, Brown    352 pp.
6/23    9780316396820    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780316397025    $10.99

In this page-turning drama, two teens from different backgrounds forge a brief romantic connection amid the tumultuous 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests. Phoenix Lam, sixteen, comes from a wealthy shipping family. Zhang Kai En, seventeen, an amateur painter who has been living in Shanghai, returns to Hong Kong after his mother’s death to reunite with his estranged father and enroll in the police academy. The two protagonists meet by chance at a restaurant and connect after they accidentally swap cellphones. Apolitical Phoenix follows her brother into protesting. Kai joins their student group while secretly undermining their efforts. Tension builds as the teens grow closer, peaceful protests turn deadly, and Kai’s betrayal is discovered. The novel succeeds in using the lens of young love in an undercover thriller to capture a significant historical moment. Song does a strong job with her vivid descriptions of the cosmopolitan city in peaceful moments and in realistic, chaotic protest scenes, including examples of police and protester violence. She also manages the difficult balancing act of exploring various characters’ viewpoints on the China/Hong Kong political situation with nuance, whether they see the pro-democracy protests as necessary, destructive, or futile. In her author’s note, Song emphasizes that her novel is “not representative of the entire Hong Kong population…there is a vast range of perspectives.” A short list of recommended nonfiction books and documentaries is also appended.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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