Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
American Born Chinese was a very interesting combination of three seemingly unrelated stories. First a young Chinese boy named Jin Wang tries and tries again to fit in at school, and second a monkey learns many new powers but still cannot earn the respect of a god he yearns for.
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Cultural, Humor
Rating: 4 stars
All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…
Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…
Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…
These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.
American Born Chinese was a very interesting combination of three seemingly unrelated stories. First a young Chinese boy named Jin Wang tries and tries again to fit in at school, and second a monkey learns many new powers but still cannot earn the respect of a god he yearns for. The third tale is of an American teenage boy Danny who has a Chinese cousin Chin-Kee who visits once a year and ruins Danny’s life at school each time. The book switches back and forth between these stories, and each on its own was a fine tale, but the best part was when the true nature of all three were revealed, and the connection made sense. This combination is so unexpected, despite the early foreshadowing, that it is what made me give the book 4 stars. On the whole, this graphic novel was nothing special.
It was hard for me to fall in love with the main characters, which were the monkey, Jin Wang, and Danny, because they all seemed to make such awful decisions and have such poor judgement. I understand that this flaw of all of theirs is a huge part of the story, but it isn’t one I enjoyed. And I found that the final and inevitable “learning” period at the end was very short and didn’t match the amount of mistakes and “learning” the characters needed!
Genre Review: Graphic Novel
The illustrations in this book were very well done — simple but accurate and easy to keep your attention. The style really fit with the sort of book and helped strengthen the theme. However, I think the media of graphic novel was a bit limiting to Gene Luen Yang and might be to other authors as well. Because each panel takes so much effort, it is hard to write a full-length book with a complex plot and character development. But then again, you can show subtle facial expressions with some graphic novel illustrations and there are many more illustrating styles than writing styles that help to tell the story and create a theme.
On the whole, I love graphic novels, some of my favorites (see my full list of favorite graphic novels here) being the Bone series by Jeff Smith, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, and Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Graphic novels are a wonderful book style for summer, when you can just pick up two or three at the library and breeze through them in one lazy afternoon.