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22 January 2008 @ 11:11 am
AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang (4 stars)  
Finalist for the National Book Award and 2007 Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult literature, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE is one of the most acclaimed graphic novels to hit the shelves. Three seemingly different stories weave together at the end for a satisfying finish.

STORY #1 -- The Monkey King of Flower Fruit Mountain attends a party but is refused entrance because he isn't wearing shoes. This rejection spurs a quest for identity and power that leads to martial arts, battles with the creator of the universe, and a very long curse.

STORY #2 -- Chinese American boy Jin Wang has moved to a new school and wants to fit in. The friends he makes and the girl he pursues help solidify the feeling he has that he is different and might never assimilate. He and the new boy Wei Chen Sun bond over Jin's Transformer toy, highlighting the proverb that "it's easy to become anything you wish, so long as you're willing to forfeit your soul."

STORY #3 -- Danny's cousin Chin-Kee comes to stay with him and attends his school for a couple of weeks. The conflict he brings is one of the funniest parts of the novel. Answering all the questions in class, peeing in friends' drinks, eating dead cats for lunch, and speaking with the stereotypical accent are just the beginning.

A modern fable of greed, pride, and belonging, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE is worth the quick read. While I'm not convinced it deserved honors above THE BOOK THIEF or THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING: TRAITOR TO A NATION, the award does give credence to graphic novels as a valid literary genre. It's a solid book, an enjoying read, and a welcomed addition to the young adult literature.

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