Review: American Born Chinese

Title:  American Born Chinese

Author:  Gene Luen Yang

Published:  September 5, 2006

# of Pages:  240

ISBN:  1596431520

My Rating:  5/5

A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax. 

American Born Chinese was my first, yes FIRST, experience reading a graphic novel.  I was weary at first of this genre because I’ve never been much for comic books (actually I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic book in my life) and I just wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the format of looking at pictures while following along with the story.  I’m SO glad that I went for it, though, because American Born Chinese was awesome.  Seriously, if all graphic novels are this cool I might have to go on a binge.  I absolutely loved this book.

It did take me a little bit to get used to reading/looking in an appropriate way – so that I didn’t miss anything important in either the writing or the illustrations – but once I got into it, I stopped thinking about balancing the two and the book just flowed.  In addition, American Born Chinese is three stories in one, and it took me getting through the first section of all three stories before I understood what was really going on in each one.  Once I got past all that, though, I read the book in one sitting.  I got super invested in the characters, especially Jin Wang (who I thought was just so adorable), and there was no way I would think about going to sleep until I found out how things would turn out for them.  Also, I knew the three stories would somehow “come together” in the end, and while reading them I felt like they had nothing to do with one another AT ALL – so I was extremely curious to see how they were related.

I loved the ending, too.  I loved how it really was like a modern fable, sort of like there was a “moral of the story” moment.  It just made me smile.  

This is a great book.  It’s one that will make you feel happy after reading it (although, if you’re like me, you’ll have the urge to go back and read it again once you finish!).  I read American Born Chinese for Dewey’s Reading Challenge – her review is here.  Definitely pop over there because she’s included pictures from the book in her review, so you can get a feel for what it’s like.  I’m so glad I read this fantastic graphic novel; it’s totally deserving of the Printz award and I wholeheartedly recommend the book!

More reviews –

15 thoughts on “Review: American Born Chinese”

  1. I’m so glad you liked it! This is a perfect introduction to comics. I think that trying to balance the text and the images is something that becomes easier and easier with practice. You need to read Persepolis next! And Fun Home! There are plenty of great comics/graphic novels out there, but those two in particular I can really see you loving.

    1. Thanks, Nymeth! This is what I love about blogging… discovering new genres, getting amazing recommendations that I never would have even thought of before. I’ll definitely check out some of your suggestions soon. 🙂

  2. This is in the next in line for graphic novels for me to read!! I just finished Laika and I loved it. I’ve read Maus I and II, Persepolis I and II, Fun Home, Skim….they’re really growing on me!! Great review!!

  3. I’ve got this on my list but I haven’t given graphic novels a chance yet. I will but I’ve been too busy reading other things. This sounds really interesting though so great review!

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