ARC Review: House Without Walls by Ching Yeung Russel

Hi, friends! Today I am talking about the first ARC I was ever approved for on Netgalley. I’ve been wanting to sit down and read it forever, but last Saturday I actually managed to do that. This book is so so important and so powerful, I can’t wait for it to be out for more people to read and enjoy it.


Summary from Goodreads:

For most people, home is a place with four walls. It’s a place to eat, sleep, rest, and live. For a refugee, the concept of home is ever-changing, ever-moving, ever-wavering. And often, it doesn’t have any walls at all.

Eleven-year-old Lam escapes from Vietnam with Dee Dee during the Vietnamese Boat People Exodus in 1979, when people from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fled their homelands for safety. For a refugee, the trip is a long and perilous one, filled with dangerous encounters with pirates and greedy sailors, a lack of food and water, and even the
stench of a dead body onboard. When they finally arrive at a refugee camp, Lam befriends Dao, a girl her age who
becomes like a sister-a welcome glimmer of happiness after a terrifying journey.

Readers will feel as close to Lam as the jade pendant she wears around her neck, sticking by her side throughout
her journey as she experiences fear, crushing loss, boredom, and some small moments of joy along the way.

Written in verse, this is a heartfelt story that is sure to build empathy and compassion for refugees around the world
escaping oppression.

eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


I’ve tried to write down my feelings about this book many times but so far I have found them very hard to express, but I will now try to do my best.

Let’s Chat: Plot and Writing

This book is based on a true story, it tells the story of Lam as she and her brother flee from Vietnam during the Vietnamese Boat People Exodus in 1979. I did not know much about this topic before I started reading this book, but after reading it I have felt compelled to look more into it and plan on doing further research into the topic soon. It feels weird to make any comments about the “plot” given that it is the true story of someone’s life, so I am not going to really. I will say that there were many points at this story that broke my heart, especially knowing that everything is true.

This book is written in verse. I am not normally a big fan of books written in verse, but I think that it worked very very well for this book and plot. The verse was very well written, it pulled at my heart strings several times. It also makes this book a very quick read, which I always appreciate.

Let’s Chat: Characters

I feel very weird making any comments on any specific characters because, once again, these are real people and making vague judgement about any real person based off of a middle grade novel makes me very uncomfortable. However, I will say that I normally feel like books told in verse do not let me connect to the characters as much but that was not the case with this book. I feel like we knew each of them fairly well and I really enjoyed seeing how they bonded and interacted with each other.

Let’s Chat: Importance

As someone who grew up in a very small, very conservative town and has heard exactly what is said in those small towns concerning immigrants and really anyone different from the white, protestant norm, I am so glad this book exists. Books like this written for a middle grade audience are so important given the current view point on refugees and immigrants in the United States. I can clearly see a situation in which a child picks this book up and reads it and gains an understanding (and hopefully some sympathy) for people in situations they will never be able to understand and never have to experience.

Let’s Chat: Overall Thoughts

I’ve had a lot of issues trying to discuss my feelings for this book, as I’ve said, so this review is rather short. When I was trying to plan out this review all I had written down was “I loved this and it is important” and that basically summarizes everything. I feel very odd making any critical comments on a story about people’s lives (hence why I don’t typically rate memoirs or anything of the sort), but there honestly was not anything to be critical of.

This book comes out on June 4th, and you can preorder it here or here.

4 thoughts on “ARC Review: House Without Walls by Ching Yeung Russel

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