Book Review · Books · Diverse Books · Graphic Novel

Book Review: American Born Chinese

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“All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.”

-Synopsis from Goodreads


I have heard such good things about American Born Chinese for literally years so I was very overdue to read this one. I am familiar with Gene Luen Yang’s work on the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel series, so I was eager to read something a little different from him.

This was a unique story that I think would be good for middle-grade readers who are new to the graphic novel genre. For me, it didn’t blow me away as much as I hoped it would. The storylines I enjoyed most were Jin’s and the Monkey King, I thought they were both perfect. However, the Danny storyline felt so random! Anyone else feel this way?

Although Jin’s classmates at school were being disgustingly racist to/about him and the other Asians students, I don’t feel like I saw enough of Jin being bothered by this, either internally or externally, for it to warrant the Danny alter ego storyline, or the outrageous depiction of a Chinese person that haunted him.

Was Jin haunted by the stereotypes surrounding his culture? I don’t know. It seems like this was implied but not shown explicitly. I see the importance of showcasing the horrible stereotypes that have been attached to Asians and how completely wrong they are, don’t get me wrong, but something about Danny’s story didn’t add up with the others. Ultimately it was kind of distracting.

I still plan to read more of Yang’s work in the future, especially Dragon Hoops which came out this week and is geared towards a bit more older audience.

Goodreads Rating: Four Stars

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