Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5
“American Born Chinese” a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang is a winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and is a National Book Award finalist. The genre of this book is realistic fiction, and the recommended audience is 13 and up. This story follows three characters (Jin, The Monkey King, and Chin-Kee) as each of their stories become intertwined in a journey of learning to be happy with themselves.
Jin Wang is the son of immigrants who moved to America from China. When he is in third grade, his parents move to a new town. At this new school, Jin faces many challenges, one of these being discrimination. Teachers at his school can’t even say his name right, people assume because he’s Chinese he was born in China, and the other kids make racist comments. Jin feels very frustrated because he wants to just blend in with everyone else, but he can’t because people only see him as who they think he is based on his race. Eventually Jin becomes so obsessed with trying to be like everyone else he begins to change his appearance and pretends he is someone else until one day he actually changes into someone else named Danny. When this happens the character Chin-Kee is introduced.
Chin-Kee is supposed to be a living representation of all negative Asian stereotypes and makes life very difficult for his cousin Danny who thinks of him as a nuisance. Danny can’t stand to even be around Chin-Kee because all he sees when he looks at him are things that make him embarrassed. Chin-Kee’s character is supposed to be incredibly offensive, and I think the reason the author put his character in the story at all is to make a point. I think Yang is trying to show people the stereotypes they have subconsciously embraced, and I believe he is trying to make readers aware that anyone can have them, even those who should know better.
The Monkey King - based on one of the oldest Chinese fables - is the ruler of all monkeys and a master of the four heavenly disciplines of Buddhism. One day, the Monkey King starts to believe that he doesn’t want to be a monkey; he wants to be a god so that he will have the respect of everyone in the land. Like Jin, as he becomes someone he isn’t, the Monkey King forgets who he is and loses all his honor. SPOILER: Later on in the story, Jin discovers that Chin-Kee was actually the Monkey King in disguise, his purpose to remind Jin who he is.
An important theme in this story is self. All of the characters in American Born Chinese have some part of them that represents self or self-discovery. Jin’s character represents not liking yourself, Chin-Kee represents the part of yourself you don’t like, and the Monkey King represents learning to appreciate who you are in order to keep moving on in life. A quote early in the book captures this well. “It’s easy to become anything you wish… so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul” (Yang 29).
Overall, I found this story very intriguing. All of the messages were really interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction and anyone who likes complex stories or fables. The only thing I did find hard about this book is that some of the stories and parables within took me a while to understand and sometimes there was so much going that I got confused.
The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, with art by Ellen Forney, is a New York Times Bestseller and a Nation Book Award winner. The genre of this book is realistic fiction, and the recommended audience is 14 and up. The story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a 14 year-old who has lived his entire life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, drawing comics to help him process the world, which helps him deal with a life full of struggles and pain.
Junior has never been very hopeful. Since he’s grown up in poverty, he doesn’t have a lot of hope for his future, and believes he will end up living the same lives as his parents and the people before them. Junior worries about living like his parents because they both constantly struggle to get money, one is an alcoholic and the other is recovering, and they’ve lived on the reservation forever. He doesn’t think he will ever have a lot of money or ever be able to go to college. One day there is an incident at school where Junior ends up throwing a book at his teacher out of frustration, which later leads to his teacher coming up to him and telling Junior that he must leave the reservation. His teacher says that he doesn’t want Junior to give up and that he wants him to keep fighting for a better future. “The only thing you kids are being taught here is how to give up. Your friend Rowdy, he’s given up. That’s why he likes to hurt people. He wants them to feel as bad as he does” (Alexie 42). After this, Junior decides to take a leap of faith and go to an all white high school off of the reservation in a town called Reardan. When Junior tells his best friend Rowdy that he’s leaving, Rowdy gets upset and calls him a traitor. Throughout the story you get to watch Junior grow as a person and learn many important life lessons. The theme of this story is hope and there are many examples of it in the book.
When Junior decides to go to Reardan, he discovers that the people there have expectations for him, and he starts to realize he should expect things of himself and discovers hope. Junior learns that regardless of what other people say or the situation he’s in, he should always expect better for himself. An example of this is when he decides to try out for the basketball team and ends up on the varsity team. Since he’s part of a team, he discovers that people have high expectations for him to do well. “...[A]s they expected more of me, I expected more of myself, and it just grew and grew...” (Alexie 180). The Reardan high school was very different because everyone there seemed to be pretty sure of their secure futures. Junior realizes that just because he may be different then the people at Reardan doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve a good future as well.
This book has a very interesting perspective because I have not read a lot of stories about the modern day life of an Indian or what it’s like growing up poor. Junior talks a lot about his struggles and opinions on life. He not only criticizes white people, but is also not afraid to shy away from sharing his many critiques of his fellow Indians. What makes Junior’s perspective really unique is how he processes life using his drawings. When he talks about what he experiences using his drawings, Junior isn’t afraid to be brutally honest with his opinions and thoughts.
I thought that this story was very enjoyable and interesting, and I will rate it four stars out of five. I believe that books like this are very important to read and educate people because at school when I was studying how Indians lived, we never talked about how they actually live now. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, reading about the lives of people who don’t have a lot of representation, and reading about characters with a different and unique perspective.
“Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a graphic novel following the main character Freddy Riley, a highschool girl who’s girlfriend, Laura Dean, won’t stop breaking up with her.
Laura is popular, good looking, and supposedly the perfect girl. But Freddy’s been trapped in a toxic relationship with her, and always ends up coming back to her despite their many break-ups. Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, tries to get her out of this relationship many times, but Freddy grows cold towards her instead. Freddy’s other friends, Eric and Buddy, are also concerned for her. She seeks help from a journal columnist, Anna Vice, and Seek-her, who is a curious medium. Freddy is told to break up with Laura, but doesn’t know how. “I think I know now why the words “‘love’” and “‘punch’” go together so often. Seriously, it’s a punch.”
Laura never seems to devote herself to Freddy and often leaves her alone at parties while she dances with someone else. Laura can also be rude, but Freddy’s convinced herself that Laura makes her feel good. When she and Doodle head out of a party, Freddy meets Vi working at a donut shop. Later in the story, Vi and Freddy become friends and Vi gives her the push she needs to fix her current situation.
While this is happening, Doodle is going through a rough time and needs Freddy around. But she’s so caught up with Laura she doesn’t realise Doodle feels the way she does. Freddy finally realizes she needs to pay more attention to the person who cares about her and less attention to Laura.
This series has been praised by many authors and was definitely worth reading. I enjoyed the characters and the story seemed very real. It’s a really good book, and I liked it a lot.
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-time, by Mark Haddon, is a national bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Book of The Year Award. The genre of this book is realistic fiction, and the recommended audience is age 13 and up. This story follows Chrisopher Boone, a 15 year old with Asperger’s syndrome. Christopher lives in Swindon, England with his father, and his pet rat, Toby.
Christopher has always enjoyed the color red, dogs, space, math, and mysteries stories (specifically Sherlock Holmes). Little did he know that one day he would be writing a story about his own mystery. One night as Christopher was walking around, he discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been killed with a pitchfork. Determined to figure out who is responsible for this murder, Christopher embarks on a journey that teaches him about self-discovery, bravery, and the truth.
A prominent theme in this story is bravery, which is something that Christopher learns a lot about throughout the book. An example of when Christopher had a lot of bravery was when he was trying to question people on his street to see if they knew who killed the dog. This was a huge feat for Christopher because he does not like talking to people, especially strangers. “I do not like strangers because I do not like people I have never met before. They are hard to understand.” Another example is when Christopher has to travel to London, which is also difficult for him because he’s never traveled on his own and there are many things that could go wrong.
Overall, this story could be enjoyed by many different people, but you might enjoy it especially if you like realistic fiction or mystery. There is nothing that I disliked about this book and I’m only giving it 4 out of 5 stars because I wish the ending was longer.
I would rate this series: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Today I’m reviewing, “Behind The Scenes!!!” by Bisco Hatori, the author of the famous manga “Ouran High School Host Club.” The story’s protagonist is the very anxious and pessimistic Ranmaru Kurisu.
After just settling in to his first year in college, Ranmaru is caught off guard by zombies near the area he’s relaxing in. They’re not real, granted, but despite that fact Ranmaru is still frightened. Ranmaru later finds out it was a movie shoot for his college’s group, the “Art Squad.”
In order to repay the group for messing up their shoot, its seemingly hostile leader, Ryuji Goda, says Ranmaru has to help fix and clean up their props. Ranmaru has always been very crafty and artistic, unlike the rest of his family. Seeing his skills, Ryuji lets him join the Art Squad. The following books consist of Ranmaru and the group’s different film projects and people they meet along the way.
The other characters in the story are Ruka Enjoji who is a third year economics major, and is a kind and caring character who always tries her hardest to make sure everyone’s okay. She is also part of the Art Squad.
Another character is Maasa Rokubu, a gore obsessed second year marketing major also in the Art Squad. She’s one of my favorite characters, and she seems pretty creepy but is actually very kind.
Some other Art Squad members are Tomu Tenba and Izumi Samura. Tomu is an energetic first year Humanities and Science major, while Izumi is a calm and friendly third year economics major.
I really enjoy this series. I have yet to read all the books, but I’m halfway through volume three. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys the “slice of life” genre. I can personally relate to Ranmaru in the way that he’s always thinking about past conversations and worrying that he could of said something wrong. This book is very funny, but it’s also very warm feeling. My favorite line in volume one is when Izumi says, “Ranmaru’s negativity might be some kind of talent.” I don’t know why, but that line cracks me up.
“the gods lie.”written and illustrated by Kaori Ozaki is a manga that takes place in Japan. The story follows Natsuru Nanao who is an 11 year-old boy who ends up spending his summer with Rio Suzumura, a tall and quiet girl. Natsuru lives alone with his mother who is a writer. He has a passion for soccer but is sad when his coach ends having to go to the hospital. The team gets a new coach, but Natsuru is not looking forward to soccer camp as much.
A few days before summer vacation, Natsuru finds a stray kitten. He brings it home to take care of it, but his mom doesn’t allow it, as she is allergic to cats. Natsuru brings the cat outside and runs into Rio and her younger brother, Yuuta. Rio announces that she’ll take care of the cat, but she had to stop for groceries first and asks Natsuru to tag along. Natsuru brings the cat to Rio’s house, and soon finds out that Rio and her brother live alone. Their father abandoned them and they don’t have a mother.
When Natsuru has to go to soccer camp a few days later, he packs all his things and goes out. He sits on the bench where his bus was supposed to arrive, and decides he doesn’t want to go. Rio and Yuuta find Natsuru who says he can’t go home because his mother thinks he’s at soccer camp. Rio invites Natsuru to live at her house. That’s how Natsuru spent his summer vacation. Eventually his mom finds out about soccer camp, and Natsuru has to go home.
My opinion: I really, really like this book. I wish there was a sequel, but at the same time I feel like the ending was just fine. This manga made me cry, so I’d have to say it’s a pretty sad story. Overall, it was written very well and the art is beautiful.
I rate this book: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk, is a New York Times bestseller and has also won various awards such as the Newbery Honor award and the Scott O’dell award. The genre of the book is historical fiction and the recommended audience is age 10 and up. This story follows the protagonist Annabelle, who is 12 years old in the fall of 1943 (during World War II), and lives a quiet and routine life in a small town in rural Pennsylvania.
Everything is normal until the day a new girl named Betty Glengarry comes and changes Annabelle’s world. As soon as Betty moves to town, Annabelle learns that Betty is not like the other kids. One day on her way home from school, Betty stops Annabelle and threatens to hurt her. Annabelle becomes scared and confused about if whether or not she should tell someone that she's being bullied. She starts lying to her family about something being wrong. The next day when she goes back to meet Betty, someone unexpectedly comes and defends her.
The person who defends Annabelle is Toby, a veteran from World War I who lives near her family’s farm, Betty is infuriated when someone gets in her way so she begins to try and frame Toby for multiple crimes. Most people in town think that Toby is very strange since he is quiet and reclusive and they begin to become suspicious. When Annabelle is the only one who knows the truth what can she do to try and clear Toby’s name?
One of the most prominent themes in the story is person versus self. Multiple times throughout Wolf Hollow, you will see characters who have to face some sort of personal challenge and go against what they think they should do. One example of this is when Annabelle’s friend Ruth is seriously hurt in an incident. Annabelle suddenly becomes scared and wishes that everything could go back to normal, but she has to overcome this and try to save Toby who has been framed for the crime. Another example is at the end of the book when Toby has to go way outside of his comfort zone and save someone even though it could be dangerous. This is a huge challenge for Toby because he has a lot of trauma from the war, which usually makes him avoid people.
Not every story has a moral, but this book does and it is definitely that you shouldn’t judge someone because of their appearance. An example in the story of this is how everyone thinks that Betty is innocent because she looks like an innocent little girl and that Toby is dangerous because he is dirty and dressed poorly. “Annabelle, you can stand there in your nightie and make all the proclamations you want, but I don’t see what we can do. It’s out of our hands. Betty’s not going to change her story. Why should she? Everyone thinks she’s the victim. And I can’t really blame them. She looks like one. And Toby looks like a villain, whether he is or not.”
I think that people who enjoy both historical and realistic fiction will like reading this book. In my opinion the story ends feeling very complete, and I am satisfied reading it. The story is very fast paced and keeps moving until the end. I would give this book 4/5 stars and would have given it 5 stars, but for one reason: I thought that Annabelle’s character was unrealistic when it came to how she just so happened to know all the answers to the problems.
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