graphic novel, historical fiction, young adult

Graphic Novel Review: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang


Title: Boxers & Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
Length: 512 pages (between both books), Paperback
Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: 2 Folded Pages

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.
But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

I didn’t much care for these to be honest. I really liked the premise. Especially since it tells two different sides of the same event, but for the most part it really fell flat. It was boring and at times overly wordy for a graphic novel.

I definitely understand the importance of these books. They show Chinese culture and allow readers a look into Chinese characters and I love this fact but I couldn’t get into them. The only reason I finished them is because graphic novels don’t take very long to read.

Little Bao annoyed me most times. His character didn’t seem to have any cohesiveness and he tended to do things I thought varied greatly with his established personality. I enjoyed Four-Girl and if I had choose I definitely liked Saints better than Boxers.

Four-Girl’s reasoning behind what she does and how she does it are more sound and believable. She was young and her family treated her awfully. Of course she found solace in a religion that forgave her “sins” even if they weren’t really hers.

Also her age made Four-Girl’s actions much more believable. Though I think Bao’s age was supposed to about the same as hers. I can’t honestly say if that’s true or not because I have no sense of the timeline in Boxers. Saints was a lot easier to follow in that aspect as well.

Honestly, these books are just not for me. I’m going to try to read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese to see if I just don’t like these or if maybe I just won’t happen to be a fan of his. I want to try more because I think it might have just been the plot and how it was executed that I didn’t like.

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