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Buddha Boy

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  848 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
The kids at school call Jinsen “Buddha Boy”—he wears oversize tie-dyed dragon T- shirts, shaves his head, and always seems to be smiling. He’s clearly a freak. Then Justin is paired with him for a class project. As he gets to know Jinsen and his incredible artistic talent, Justin questions his own beliefs. But being friends with Buddha Boy isn’t simple, especially when ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published November 18th 2004 by Speak (first published March 4th 2003)
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Chloe Mae I think the protagonist would be Justin because he is the narrator of the entire story. I think the antagonist would be McManus because he is harming…moreI think the protagonist would be Justin because he is the narrator of the entire story. I think the antagonist would be McManus because he is harming Jinsen and Justin both. Hope this helps! (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 07, 2009 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This book was a random recommendation while I was book shopping and the title was quirky enough to catch my interest. It was worth it.

I think on audio it was 2/2.5 hours. I could have read it in 1, I'm sure. The story is fairly simple, the setting familiar. A boy (sophomore, I believe) in high school is just trying to keep his head down and not be noticed (in the bad way) by the popular kids. He's doing pretty good, has his friends and is happy. Then he meets Buddha Boy.

Through chance, and a lit
Aug 31, 2016 Magda rated it really liked it
A tale about a strange boy transferred to a new school, about an unlikely friendship and bullying.

Oh yes, a realistic tale with a hard topic – another type of books I avoid. I use books as an escape from reality, an opportunity to visit new worlds and not to crush into a tough reality.

Maybe this book is just like many others, but it is a well-told story worth checking out. It shows the strengths and weaknesses of schoolkids. It helps to realize some of the reasons behind the bullies’ thinking. I
David Mejia
Aug 30, 2016 David Mejia rated it did not like it
I would pour gasoline and set myself on fire if I ever have to recommend this book. Preachy, whiny, and long winded plot, characters were boring and unrealistic, nothing stood out. It felt as if it was a brochure advocating Buddhism. I have nothing against Buddhism but it really felt as if it was forced down my throat only to be regurgitated at the end. Boring read. Do not recommend
Dec 19, 2012 Owen rated it really liked it
What I like about Kathe Koja is that in her writing, she doesn't try way too hard. I'm not saying she doesn't put effort into writing a good book, but in so many more modern YA books the authors try to make their characters and plot so jaw dropping and full to the brim of surprise and literary gold. Most of the time, these books aren't so great, which is why I like Kathe Koja because her writing is a lot more nonchalant.

I first read Buddha Boy about five years ago maybe (it was published in 2003
Nov 25, 2011 Madeleine rated it it was ok
Shelves: bullying, crap
This is a good example of when an author tries to be poetic but fails miserably. What was supposed to be lyrical ends up being dry and boring. Putting language aside, the plot was SO typical of anti-bullying stories that I could and did predict what would happen (I was right). A fairly popular boy meets another boy who is different because of religion, dress etc. They end up working on a project together and the different and bullied boy ends up being really talented and having great insight ...more
Dan Curley
Aug 22, 2014 Dan Curley rated it did not like it
This was a predictably boring book to say the least. This book is based of off the same formula for a summer reading book. Kid is bullied for being different, other semi-popular kid pities him, semi-popular kid discovers the different kid has a hidden talent, they become friends as out casts together. And not to mention the characters. Different talented kid, semi-popular sympathetic kid, his jerk friend, his sympathetic other friend, the popular bully, and last an authority figure to help the ...more
Shawn Thrasher
Oct 22, 2013 Shawn Thrasher rated it liked it
A friend convinced me to keep reading, and I'm glad I did. These high school bully stories always bother me though, they hit too close to the heart.
Feb 13, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it
This is really good. It is quick and should be required reading by 9th graders.
Nov 04, 2016 Amber rated it liked it
A good rec for middle schoolers on the subject of bullying (warning: some language). I especially liked Justin's relationship with his dad.
Miss Welsh
Nov 13, 2016 Miss Welsh rated it it was amazing
Fantastic story! Everyone needs to read this book NOW!!
Richie Partington
Jul 17, 2013 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
6 November 2002 BUDDHA BOY by Kathe Koja, FSG/Frances Foster Books, March 2003

"That's right: You can't play tug of war with someone who refuses to hold the other end of the rope."

That's how a friend of mine characterized what I was excitedly telling her about BUDDHA BOY, the superb new book by Kathe Koja. It was a foggy early morning on campus--I'd just come from voting--and I was explaining how, in contrast to the many stories where the bullies/jocks/student "leaders" had the satisfaction of se
May 31, 2016 Claire rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I brought this and only this along on my retreat - oh dear god, it is positively dreadful for me to operate at this level of cognition... but in any event, the reason this was a one-day read is that I focused energy on it, which I probably would benefit from trying again in the future.
I am talking about it now, though, since I feel very passionate about it, so I think that it will wake me up.
Maybe since I know I don't think as well late at night I rethink everything so that it overall comes out
Franki D
In the novel, Buddha Boy, by Kathe Koja, a high school boy, Justin, is paired for a project with a new boy in school, Jinsen, who wears a t-shirt to his knees and sports a shaved head making him an easy target for most at Rucher High School. At first Justin wants to just get this over with and be done as soon as possible, but while working on the project Justin discovers that Jinsen has incredible artistic ability, so he insists that Jinsen joins the art class at Rucher. Justin also takes an ...more
Sep 27, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing
Another YA book worth reading, especially if you know what it's like to bully or have been bullied . . . or have stood up for someone being bullied.
Sep 24, 2016 Karen rated it liked it
Nice YA story.
Feb 28, 2013 Handan rated it liked it
Justin muddles through high school, being tolerated and clinging to his two friends, neither rising to the height of popularity nor sinking to the depth of school punching bag. Until Michael Marvin, aka Jinsen, arrives with his shaved head and baggy clothes and blithe, honest approach. They connect over art, namely that Justin's dad is an artist and Justin appreciates art and that Jinsen is truly an artist. However, Jinsen has become the most popular target at Edward Rucher High School, a
Robert Beveridge
Kathe Koja, Buddha Boy (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2003)

I got to the point about eight years ago where I finally gave in to the temptation to predict an author. After the back-to-back triumphs that were Skin and Strange Angels, I figured that from here on out, anything Kathe Koja would release would be brilliant, and every book she released would find its way onto my top ten for whatever year in which I read it.

Then she started writing kidlit. I approached Straydog with some trepidation, but i
Nov 27, 2010 Lawral marked it as read-but-unowned
Shelves: ya, middle-grade
Buddha Boy has that feeling of hurtling towards disaster running along in the background of the whole thing. In the forefront, however, there is a great story about Jinsen and Justin. Jinsen seems not to care what anyone thinks of or does to him. Good thing, too, since he dresses, looks and acts odd, none of which gets him a bunch of friends. He practically invites kids to bully him when he starts to beg for lunch money in the cafeteria. Most of the kids do just that, either actively by throwing ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Quill rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
The Basics

A boy named Jinsen is the new kid at school, and he’s instantly singled out for his shaved head and tie-dyed dragon shirts. They call him “Buddha Boy”, and with his calm demeanor and tendency to turn the other cheek, he seems to fit the description. When Justin, our narrator, is paired up with him for a class, he has to decide if he wants to be Jinsen’s friend and become a target or if he’d rather take the easy road.

My Thoughts

This book sounds like it should be glurge. If you don’t kno
May 19, 2010 James rated it liked it
In the book Buddha Boy the main character faces peer pressure when a new kid comes to his school. The new kid's name is Jinsen but the main character continuasly calls him Buddha Boy most likely via the title of the book. Everyone except for the main character seperates Jinsen from them because the way he acts is different because his religion. Even a girl in his school who thinks everyone is equal starts to contradicts what she believes and becomes sort of a hipercrite in my mind. Jinsen's gift ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Tanja rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerful stories on bullying I have ever read, with an unusual take as the victim is allowing the harassment out of religious beliefs. I love how the author has woven into the main plot the healing power of art and a wonderful introduction to Buddhism that awakens the interest for this philosophy of life in readers unfamiliar with it. As the author shares at the end of the audio version I listened to, she loathes bullying that gives empty people, stunted souls, power, allowing ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Johanna rated it liked it
Shelves: engl420
This is the story of a cool young high school boy, Justin, whose life is interrupted by the arrival of a new student, Jinsen. Jinsen is very different, and Justin is embarrassed about being partnered with him for their project for art class. While working on the art project, Justin begins to see Jinsen for who he really is and, with the support of his artist father, goes on to defend Jinsen from the school bullies. Through art, Justin comes to learn powerful les
Sep 10, 2016 Hope rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf

This book was just a mess. The plot wasn't steady and all over the place, you had to read lines over and over again to understand what the author was talking about. Also, the author seemed to not know the rule of capitalising after punctuation? weird i know. "I"s were sometimes not capitalised when they were supposed to be, too. It seemed this book wasn't edited properly because it's over-all just a bad book with a not-so-interesting plot.
Kristine Hall
I listened to this quick story, and I enjoyed the effects that were used in the audio: for example, using music to signal chapters/transitions and using an echo-y effect on the voice of the main character, Justin, when he had internal dialogue.

This is a semi-typical bullying story but it does have a less-than-typical victim, Jinsen, and a good twist to his story. There were some very poignant observations and commentary about church, religion, and karma, and for a delightful change of pace, sev
Shawn Crown
Oct 08, 2014 Shawn Crown rated it really liked it
While reading Buddha boy you get to see a type of culture a boy portrays that is very unique. Usually when someone new comes to a school, the first couple days is very scary. The person tries to fit in with everybody with the best of their abilities. Once he comes to the school the people think he is very unusual and not normal. So right off the bat people are starting to judge him. An average kid would care about the other kids opinions, but Buddha Boy isn't a regular kid. That is one of the ...more
If I had to sum up what Buddha Boy is about I'd say both bullying and religious tolerance. Which I think are two things that go hand in hand, since many children and teens who have different beliefs than their peers do tend to be harassed and bullied for it. And are two things that need to be taught more in both the schools and by adults.

Jinsin is the Buddha Boy in question, spending his lunch hour begging for food or spare change. The protagonist of the book, Justin, is wary about befriending
Apr 12, 2013 Chris00 rated it really liked it
In Buddha Boy , by Kathe Koja is about a boy named Jinsen aka Buddha Boy. Other kids at the school consider him a freak. When he begs for lunch money it doesn't help the matter of people liking him. A boy named Justin is paired up with Jinsen for a class project, Justin plans to get this over with as soon as possible. But then Justin finds out about all of Jinsens artistic talent and Justin becomes curious about Buddha Boys beliefs. Justin is then forced into a cruel contest with the jocks who ...more
Feb 23, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
This is a good book if you want to read about high school troubles because that is basically what the book is about. It is fun to read to me because it is simple to compare with the real world. This book had a lot of meaning but it was packed in a short book. To me it was a good book since it is easier to understand if u know where the characters going to do because u might have went through this before and it might suprise you where he'll end up. The main characters name is Justin and his life ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Marianna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library-audio
What a wonderful book.... I was lucky to receive this Audio Book for free from's summer program - Thank you.

I really enjoyed listening to this beautiful story unfold about Jinsen and Justin - their friendship so tentative and unsure at first continued to blossom into something meaningful and strong. The bullying that occurs in this story is really applicable to many situations and multiple grade levels. It's a great lesson that is taught within these pages.

The story was extre
Thankfully, this is a short book, so it didn't have long enough to become truly irksome. The book might be a useful book to recommend to children of a certain age trying to figure out how to respond to peer pressure, bullying, religious intolerance, and other middle school/high school woes. But overall, I found the book a bit preachy about Buddhism/nonviolence and the characters rather boring and somewhat unbelievable. Maybe I'm just jaded by having read too many stories of this type, but I ...more
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Kathe Koja (born 1960) is an American writer. She was initially known for her intense speculative fiction for adults, but over the past few years has turned to writing young adult novels.

Koja is also a prolific author of short stories, including many in collaboration with Barry N. Malzberg. Most of her short fiction remains uncollected. Koja's novels and short stories frequently concern characters
More about Kathe Koja...

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“Do you know the concept of karma? It’s kind of like a circle, or cause-and-effect, like a slow-tolling bell you rang maybe a year ago, five years ago, maybe in another lifetime if you believe in that. Karma means that what you do today, and why you do it, makes you who you are forever: as if you were clay, and every thought and action left a mark in that clay, bent it, shaped it, even ruined it… but with karma there are no excuses, no explanations, no I-didn’t-really-mean-it-so-can-I-have-some-more-clay. Karma takes everything you do very, very seriously.” 9 likes
“In history, in a movie, in a book, you can always tell who the heroes are;
they're the ones rushing into a burning building, giving crucial testimony in
the courtroom, refusing to step to the back of the bus. They're the ones who
act the way you hope you would, if the moment came to you.
But the movies and the history books never tell you how they felt, those
heroes, if they were angry or uncertain or afraid, if they had to think a
long time before they did the right thing, if they even knew what the right
thing was or just made a headlong guess, just leaped and hoped they landed
instead of falling. They never tell you what it's like to stand on the
brink, wishing you were somewhere--or someone--else, wishing the choice had
never come your way and you could just go back to your safe, ordinary,
everyday life.
Because you know what else the books never say? Nobody, hero or not, really
wants to rush into a fire. Because fire burns.”
More quotes…