American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

This is one of those books that I’ve been hearing about for a long time, but that I never had any interest in reading, primarily because it was a graphic novel. It’s not that I don’t like graphic novels, it’s just that I have a hard time reading and looking at the pictures all together and I’m not generally convinced that I couldn’t have imagined a book better than it was drawn. That latter part is the reason I have trouble with movie versions of books, too.

But this book? I couldn’t have imagined it better, and I really do think that the illustrations are what make this book so awesome. So if you’re like me, just forget your graphic novel problems and go read this.

There are three stories all intertwined in this book; we jump from the myth of the Monkey King to the new Chinese kid in school to the all-American kid trying to escape his crazy, stereotypical, flamboyantly Chinese cousin. In all of these stories, the protagonist wants to be something he’s not — the Monkey King wants to be human, the new kid wants to be an American, the American kid wants to be not related ever again to his crazy cousin. Eventualy, all of these characters meet, and they all realize in the end that what’s most important is to be yourself.

And that sounds kind of hokey and after-school-special-y, but it reads a heck of a lot better and it looks a heck of a lot prettier than I wrote it. Yang perfectly captures the spirit of those middle-school years, when all you wanted was to fit in. I wish that this book had been around when I was in middle school! Could have saved myself a lot of time and effort. 🙂

Rating: 8/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2006, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
dreadlock girl
The Book Zombie

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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