Book Review: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Book: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Published December 2008 by Square Fish|233 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

 

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way—if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

I really liked American Born Chinese!  After reading his Boxers And Saints series, I knew I wanted to read this book, since I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it.

We see three different stories in this graphic novel- Jin, Danny, and The Monkey King.  I really liked The Monkey King’s story, and I also really liked Jin’s.  I felt so bad for Jin when we first meet him in American Born Chinese, and how his classmates and teachers made assumptions about him.  I also loved the story of The Monkey King, and I really want to know more about that story, because I really liked it.

Danny’s story was my least favorite of the three.  I still liked it, but…I’m not sure what it is about his story, but it just didn’t appeal to me the way the others did.  I wasn’t sure how Danny fit into the book at first, because he seemed really entitled and I wasn’t sure why his story was included for most of the book.  It did become clear at the end, and I honestly didn’t see it coming.  Now that I think about it, I might re-read it, because knowing how all three stories connect would definitely help me see Danny’s story in a completely different way.

One of my favorite things was how it all tied together, and I really liked how the book was about liking yourself and being true to yourself, no matter what.  And I loved how well-plotted the book had to be, because everything was so detailed and thought out so well for everything to work together so well.  I can’t imagine American Born Chinese being told in any other format, and I think, if it were told more traditionally (i.e., a novel) it would lose something. Somehow, it works beautifully as a graphic novel.  I think the illustrations are what really bring the book to life.

4 stars.  Unfortunately, my initial dislike of Danny’s story is what is lowering my rating of the book.  Even though his story made more sense at the end of the book, it didn’t work for me at the beginning.  Still, American Born Chinese is a great read because it’s a really good starting point for talking about a lot of different issues.

Book Review Round-Up: Boxers, One Night For Love And City Of Night

I have quite a few books I want to talk about, so I figured I share some quick thoughts on some of them!

boxers-coverBook #1: Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Published September 2013 by First Second|325 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: Boxers And Saints #1

Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

What It’s About: China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils”–Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I liked Saints.  I think reading Boxers before Saints will help you understand what’s going on in Saints, because it goes into greater detail about what the Boxer Rebellion actually was. I really like the idea of history being told in the form of a graphic novel.  It’s been a while since I’ve read it (over a month), and now I’m finding that I’m having a hard time talking about the book and what I thought about it.  It’s definitely worth reading, though, and it does make me want to learn more about it. Whether I actually do so remains to be seen, but maybe one day…

It is a good introduction to the subject, though, and I think if you’re new to graphic novels (like I am), Boxers (and Saints) is a really good place to start.  I also liked seeing the other side of the story, and that there are many sides to one event.

My Rating: 3 stars.  Mostly because it’s a good introduction to the Boxer Rebellion and the format makes it different. But it also gets 3 stars because I don’t remember enough to give it a higher rating.

one-night-for-love-coverBook #2: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh

Published January 2012 (originally published 1999) by Dell|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Bedwyn Saga #0.5

Genre: Adult Romance, Adult Historical Romance

What It’s About: One reckless man…One passionate woman.

Enter the world of Mary Balogh—the glittering ballrooms and vast country estates of Regency-era England, where romance, with all its mystery, magic, and surprises, comes vibrantly alive.

It was a perfect morning in May…

Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar—when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he’d wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he’d honor his commitment to her—regardless of the gulf that lay between them.

Then Lily spoke her mind…

She said she wanted only to start a new life—wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt’s companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than…One Night for Love.

What I Thought: This is another one I don’t remember a lot about.  I vaguely remember liking it, but not being super-into the romance.  I do remember not being surprised by the fact that she wasn’t really dead, and that he never told anyone about it.  Other than that, nothing stands out.

My Rating: 2 stars- mostly because I remember nothing, and I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I also don’t remember enough to actually like it.

city-of-night-coverBook #3: City Of Night by John Rechy

Published January 1994 (originally published 1963) by Grove Press|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

What It’s About: When John Rechy’s explosive first novel, City of Night, was first published in 1963, it became a national bestseller and ushered in a new era of gay fiction. Bold and inventive in his account of the urban underworld of male prostitution, Rechy is equally unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling “Youngman” and his restless search for self-knowledge. As the narrator careens from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter, we get an unforgettable look at a neon-lit life on the edge. Said James Baldwin of the author, “Rechy is the most arresting young writer I’ve read in a very long time. His tone rings absolutely true, is absolutely his own; and he has the kind of discipline which allows him a rare and beautiful reckless.”

What I Thought: This was a really hard book to get through, and I really struggled with it.  I can see why it was such an important book when it was published, considering what the book is about.  But I had a hard time with it, and it felt really dry.  I know it’s loosely autobiographical, and it really read that way.  It’s not a bad thing, but it just didn’t work for me.

It is a glimpse into what life was like during that time, but it seemed to drag on.  It also seemed really repetitive, and I’m sort of doubting why I took the time to finish the book.  It just seemed like an endless cycle of the same behavior for the main character, but I suppose it goes with the lifestyle that the character is living.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely not the book for me, and it was a struggle for me to get through but I can see why it gets a lot of praise.

Book Review Round-Up: Saints And Dream Chaser

I’ve read quite a few books lately, and thought I’d do several short reviews of some of them!

Saints CoverBook #1: Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Published September 2013 by First Second|170 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: Boxers & Saints #2

Genre: YA Graphic Novel/Historical Fiction

What It’s About: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family when she’s born. She finds friendship–and a name, Vibiana–in the most unlikely of places: Christianity.

But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie…and whether she is willing to die for her faith.

What I Thought: This is another one I’m not sure about.  I like the idea of history being told in the form of a graphic novel, because it’s definitely different, and it’s an interesting way to see what actually happened.

However, I was sort of confused about what was going on.  The Boxer Rebellion sounds really familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  It wasn’t until after I read the book that I realized it was the 2nd book in a series.  I think you can still understand what’s going on, and I don’t know that Boxers, the first one, will necessarily explain the events of the 2nd, but for now, I kind of wish that I had read it in order.

I did like Four-Girl, and I felt really bad for her, having no name.  I did like that she found friendship and a name in a very unlikely place, and that she realized she had a purpose in life.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I like the idea of history being told in a graphic novel, but I also wish I had read Boxers first, because I did feel a little confused about what was going on.

Dream Chaser CoverBook #2: Dream Chaser by Angie Stanton

Self-Published by Angie Stanton in December 2011|323 pages

Where I Got It: A copy of the paperback was given to me

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Willow Thomas has a bad habit of running away from things that scare her. And most recently, she quit her high school cheerleading squad after a terrifying fall. With time on her hands, she auditions for a musical production directed by a Broadway choreographer. Just as things are looking up, Willow discovers she will be performing opposite Eli McAvoy, the best friend she abandoned three years before. To make matters worse, the kids in the musical hate her, her singing sucks, and her dog is sick. Eli has grown up during their years apart and now possesses confidence and good looks, as well as a giant chip on his shoulder. He is in no hurry to play nice with Willow, but their entwined roles in the musical lead to entwined bodies in the backseat of his car. Just when Willow finally has her life under control, another surprise is delivered in the form of her greatest challenge yet. Will she run or finally stand and face her fears? And will Eli be there to help or turn his back on her for good?

What I Thought: Dream Chaser was really cute!  I needed some cute and fluffy and light, and this book was definitely what I was looking for.  I really liked Willow, and I don’t blame her for being scared after the cheerleading accident- I would be too, if I were her.  I felt like her best friend was really shallow, and while I get that she wanted Willow to at least think about going back to cheerleading, I also thought she could have been more understanding of what happened to Willow.

Willow does run away/quit things when she gets scared, and I think that made her really easy to relate to.  I like that she does face her fears in the end, and I think she grows a little bit throughout the book, because she finally realizes the consequences of not facing her fears.  I find her choice between dance and cheer interesting, and it seems like a lot of it had to do with fear and losing people, but I wonder if maybe there was something else too.  Eli and Willow are great together, and I wish there was a sequel, because I really want to know what lies ahead for both of them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s cute and sweet, and I loved that it was about dance and theater…and why do I not read more books about the performing arts?  I always end up really liking them!  It was predictable, but I didn’t care, because I really liked Willow and seeing her change.