Terry's Reviews > American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
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's review
Feb 23, 08

bookshelves: cdcs-young-adult
Read in February, 2008

This took all of about an hour to read and was totally worth it. Three stories of quiet power unfurl--the Monkey King, who undertakes a quest for dominance after a slight by the gods; Jin Wang, the title character and one of a handful of Asian students at his elementary school, trying to maneuver through bullies, love, and American culture; and Danny, a white teenager, and his Chinese cousin, Chin-kee, the embodiment of the racist Chinese stereotype. All three stories intersect in the climax, with one twist that is predictable (but powerful) and another that is completely unexpected.

This graphic novel is a page turner, with three stories of identity that are brilliantly plotted, paced, drawn, and scripted. There is no weak link--instead all flow seamlessly together to make a point that is both specific and that any reader can relate to. If I had to choose the best of the three, however, the half-dream, half-reality story of Danny and Chin-kee is masterful. The presentation and deconstruction of the stereotype is pitch-perfect. The whole time I knew what the author was up to, but his point has an amazing visual power with the way it is presented. (Deliberately vague here so as not to ruin anything.)

From the intimate story that allies the reader with the protagonists, but never makes the reader awkwardly uncomfortable (there are uncomfortable scenes, but in a good way; this is no Napoleon Dynamite) to the fantastical but real characters, this graphic novel is a great exploration of identity told through three exciting, and, more importantly, non-didactic, stories. Only quibble--the climax happens too fast; this is saved, however, by the quiet beauty of the ending--this is a novel that ends not in fireworks but in the importance of culture and a friendship.
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message 1: by jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

jo really nice review. i concur with everything.


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