**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Three interrelated stories form the structure of this graphic novel. In the first, Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy, strug**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Three interrelated stories form the structure of this graphic novel. In the first, Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy, struggles with issues of identity, popularity, conformity, friendship, and infatuation. He struggles with the problem of trying to impress a girl and to be accepted by his white classmates while also maintaining a friendship with his Chinese immigrant friend, Wei-Chen. The second story is adapted from Journey to the West, though modified from its Buddhist origin to fit more closely with Yang’s Christian worldview. In it, the mythical Monkey King, Sun Wukong, attempts to set himself above the various denizens of Heaven and must serve a humble monk to find his true place in the world. Finally, in the third story, Danny, a popular white high school student finds his reputation utterly destroyed by the arrival of his mysterious cousin, Chin-Kee, who somehow embodies every negative stereotype of Chinese people. Many secret identities are revealed in the book’s sudden climax: “Danny” is really Jin, who has denied his heritage to the point of seeing himself as someone else; Wei-Chen, whom Jin alienated in middle school, is actually the son of the Monkey King, sent to learn about humanity; and Chin-Kee is the Monkey King himself, who has come to confront Jin with his own fears. By the end, Jin has come to accept himself in some way, made amends with Wei-Chen, and banished Chin-Kee for good.
Reaction: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I completely related to the stories, all of them. When I was younger I was like Jin in a lot of ways. I was pretty much the only Chinese person in my classes, and have never lived around a Chinese community. I never felt like I didn’t belong with my friends, but I do remember being ashamed when my parents would talk to me in front of them. I also remember being angry a lot because my parents would not let me do things my friends could do, like having sleepovers. I am also a big fan of Journey to the West and really enjoyed Gene Yang’s version of the characters. I remember watching the TVB (Hong Kong TV) Journey to the West series with my grandmother. She would sit and tell me all the stories that she knew about the Monkey King. Recently I found out that the TVB Company released Journey to the West on DVDs; I bought them and to this day I still watch them. The only thing I disliked about the comic was Chin-Kee’s character. He embodies everything I hate about kids. I never understood why kids were so mean to one another. Were they so insecure with themselves that they had to make fun of others to make themselves feel better? I don’t know but I have heard every single one of the jokes that were in the novel. I thought it was kind of sad that Jin was so insecure with himself that he had to imagine himself as a white person. I have never been that insecure about my heritage. I know, and I’ll admit, that I have been ashamed of my heritage growing up; I am also sure I have, at one point or another, wished I were white. Today, I can honestly say I am happy to be who I am; good thing it didn’t take five hundred years for me to figure out. ...more