Saints | Gene Luen Yang | Book Review

Why Did I Read This Book?

I think the thing that keeps reading fresh for me is reading from a variety of genres. One of my favorite literary mediums is the graphic novel, and so when I saw Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and his Saints companion graphic novel books on Netgalley I knew I had to read them. First, I have read one book of Yang’s previously, American Born Chinese, and utterly enjoyed what I read and actually found a deeper meaning. Second, Saints takes place during the Boxer Rebellion in China and it features a part of the past that my history buff self is not entirely familiar with. Friends, I feel like I actually learn something from Saints without feeling like I was being force-fed knowledge, if that makes sense. Don’t get me twisted, learning is great, but I am not a lecture fan.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang | Good Books And Good Wine

What’s The Story Here?

Saints is about this girl called Four-Girl who pretty much has the worst luck of all time. Her family doesn’t really like her as much as they should because she’s unwanted and ended up being a girl and all. So, Four-Girl goes seeking happiness outside the home and outside the path her family sets for her. She finds hope and happiness through Christianity, a relatively new religion for her region. Unfortunately, her compatriots think this to be a traitorous thing, and unfortunately there’s this whole anti-Christian sentiment going on (with good reason as you will learn with Boxers). You see, Christianity is where Four-Girl makes a name for herself — as Vibiania. Yet, the strife between the Christians and the Boxers will totally come to a head as East and West clash in Saints and of course — Vibiania is caught in the middle.

How Is Four-Girl’s Character Development?

If you look at the cover and use your wonderful brain, you might notice a golden-armored figure. That figure is Joan of Arc who plays a pivotal role in Vibiania, Four-Girl’s development as a character. You see, Vibiania has a tough road ahead of her. She has to choose between nation and faith. She has to decide what is right. It’s hard deciding where to place your loyalty and unfortunately that could mean you die in the end — like Joan Of Arc. Y’all, I really liked the trajectory this book took. Like, it goes the full nine yards and is not afraid to go to some dark and interesting places. I thought that Vibiania’s choices seemed perfectly logical given the story line.

What Did I Think Of The Artwork?

I actually really enjoyed the art within Saints. It’s clean, crisp, and not confusing to parse out what is going on. Yang uses some muted colors to strong effect. As I have not had an art class in 13 years, I can’t tell you with expertise about technique or different terms. All I can tell you is that I found the art in the panels to be reader friendly and easy to follow. Sometimes I will read a graphic novel and be like what the heck just happened because they can jump around fast, not so with this book.

Who Would I Recommend Saints To?

First, I want to give fair warning that Saints is not a condemnation of Christianity. Instead, it shows the religion as something that gives Vibiania peace and meaning. If you are someone who gets upset over portrayals of your religion, just think as you read this book about the historical impact Christianity has had on non-Western civilization – both good and bad. I thought this book was fair in that portrayal. I would totally recommend Gene Luen Yang’s Saints to those who are fascinated by history, religion and it’s implications. I think that this set belongs in history classrooms and high school libraries. It’s something that I found a bit instructive, but also a book that you could easily digest and parse out themes, meaning, and discussion within the classroom setting.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Other reviews of Saints by Gene Luen Yang:

Stacked – “It seemed a bit too abrupt to me

Books by Gene Luen Yang:
American Born Chinese

About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. This book is absolutely phenomenal! A great view on religion without coming off as too “in-your-face.” Love it.

  2. Is it weird that I didn’t request this on Netgalley because I want to buy it? I enjoy Gene Luen Yang’s work and the setting is in the center of my historical interest, so it’s just right up my alley. I’m really glad people have been enjoying it, because I like spending my money well.
    Liviania recently posted..Review: The Coldest Girl in ColdtownMy Profile

  3. Books like these make me itch to be a teacher.
    Meghan @coffeeandwizards recently posted..[review] MaddAdam by Margaret AtwoodMy Profile

  4. I really want to read this one. I’ve read Yang’s work in the Avatar series, but I haven’t had the chance to branch out into his other books. I’m glad that this one turned out to be a great read with great artwork.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted..Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne RiceMy Profile

  5. Totally agree with you. This one was my least favorite of the set, but it was still really cool. And I really love the way Yang brought the religions to life with magical realism and how he showed the good sides (how the help people cope) and the bad sides (driven to wars w/ faith that god will save you).
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted..Audiobook Review: Fortunately, the MilkMy Profile

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