An Echo in the City

An Echo in the City
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Release Date
June 20, 2023
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Two star-crossed teenagers fall in love during the Hong Kong protests in this searing contemporary novel about coming-of-age in a time of change.
Sixteen-year-old Phoenix knows her parents have invested thousands of dollars to help her leave Hong Kong and get an elite Ivy League education. They think America means big status, big dreams, and big bank accounts. But Phoenix doesn’t want big; she just wants home. The trouble is, she doesn’t know where that is…until the Hong Kong protest movement unfolds, and she learns the city she’s come to love is in danger of disappearing.
Seventeen-year-old Kai sees himself as an artist, not a filial son, and certainly not a cop. But when his mother dies, he’s forced to leave Shanghai to reunite with his estranged father, a respected police officer, who’s already enrolled him in the Hong Kong police academy. Kai wants to hate his job, but instead, he finds himself craving his father’s approval. And when he accidentally swaps phones with Phoenix and discovers she’s part of a protest network, he finds a way to earn it: by infiltrating the group and reporting their plans back to the police.
As Kai and Phoenix join the struggle for the future of Hong Kong, a spark forms between them, pulling them together even as their two worlds try to force them apart. But when their relationship is built on secrets and deception, will they still love the person left behind when the lies fall away?

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intriguing star-crossed romance
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AN ECHO IN THE CITY is an intriguing romance around the 2019 Hong Kong protests. The story follows two teens, Phoenix (Nix) and Kai, who end up on opposing sides. Nix comes from a wealthy family, and she has been preparing to go to Yale for years, following in her absent father's footsteps. However, as she gets closer to applying to colleges, she is not sure that what her parents want for her is what she wants for herself. When she first hears about the Hong Kong protests, she gets involved for mostly social reasons, but as she really begins to participate, she realizes that she is passionate about the place from where she comes and the political rights of its citizens.

Kai has recently lost his mother and had to leave his home in Shanghai to come live with his father. At 17, he is a trainee for the police, where his father works, though he would prefer to focus on his art. As a trainee, he is involved in their plan to infiltrate the protests and help to stop them, so when he meets Nix and she invites him to the protest meetings, he agrees while knowing that he will have to share that information with the police.

As things escalate and Kai and Nix continue to spend time together, each of them will need to determine who they want to be and what they want for Hong Kong.

What I loved: This was a compelling read for the star-crossed lovers romance, but it also brought a lot of information about the state of Hong Kong and the reasons for the protests as well as the injustice of police treatment and political dangers around them. Other important themes include determining your own paths/figuring out the future, coming-of-age, and complicated family relationships.

Nix and Kai were both compelling and flawed characters who are figuring out what they want and who they want to be, as well as falling in love. Kai is holding a lot of secrets about who he is, which would impact their relationship, but he is also questioning the things he is being taught as well as his father, who he has not known well. His future has been defined for him, but he is realizing that it may not be what he wants. Similarly, Nix has had her future dictated by her wealthy parents and their education goals for her. However, as she begins to participate in the protests and experience them first-hand, including police brutality, she redefines who she wants to be for herself and realizes what she is passionate about.

The story also does a deeper dive into the protests and the political oppression leading to them and ongoing during them. Readers may not be familiar with these except through news headlines, and the book helps to explain why they occurred as well as the fearful environment for people who are trying to make a change and care about their home.

What left me wanting more: I struggled with the relationship in places, especially with all the lies and the ways that these were resolved. However, this did feel very true to teen relationships and the tension was to be expected, given their opposing roles.

Final verdict: AN ECHO IN THE CITY is an intriguing look at the 2019 Hong Kong Protests through the eyes of star-crossed teen lovers.
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