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Re-Gifters by Mike Carey
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U 50x66
's review
Mar 25, 2009

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Dik Seong Jen, otherwise known as Dixie, is a hotheaded teenage girl from Koreatown, in South Central Los Angeles. Although she is an excellent student of hapkido, a Korean martial art, her teacher worries that she has lost her sense of balance, or ki, without which she cannot reach her full potential. Dixie suspects that one reason for this loss is her all-consuming, but unrequited crush on a fellow student, Adam. To impress Adam on his birthday, Dixie presents him with what, for her, is a meaningful gift, a statue of a Korean knight. Adam, however, is more interested in iPod accessories, and ends up re-gifting the statue to another girl he likes better. Meanwhile, he wants Dixie to withdraw from the championship hapkido tournament, so that he can win it instead. Dixie must make some difficult choices, but learns that her alternatives are less limited than they seem.

The action-packed black and white drawings in this story convey the drama of the fight scenes, as well as the inner conflicts of Dixie, who carries the double burden of peer pressure and the aspirations of her father, a recent immigrant. I especially liked how one of the illustrators represented her confusion, by placing her within an M.C. Escher drawing, in which continuous stairs lead to nowhere. The background drawings also provide a sense of the racial tensions in her tough neighborhood and the social interactions of boys and girls in her high school. There were only a few instances in which I found the story difficult to follow, or couldn’t distinguish between characters because they weren’t always drawn in a consistent way; this may be a consequence of the fact that the book has several illustrators. Dixie is an imperfect but strong heroine, who, in spite of herself, seeks harmony in a perplexing and sometimes aggressive world. Teenage girls dealing with peer pressure, parental pressure, and/or racism might find inspiration from her story. Teens might also simply be entertained by the combination of fighting and romance in this fast-paced novel.

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