Review of American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Review of American Born Chinese by Gene Luen YangAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Also by this author: The Shadow Hero, The Map from Here to There
Published by Macmillan on 2007-10-30
Genres: Asian American, Comics & Graphic Novels, People & Places, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax. American Born Chinese is a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, an Eisner Award nominee for Best Coloring and a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

What can I say about American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang which has not already been said? I suppose if you haven’t read this Printz-winning graphic novel, I could try and sum it up for you. Basically there are three stories which interweave. There’s Jin Wang who is the new kid at a school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. There’s the story of the Monkey King. And then there is the story of Danny, a high school kid who is plagued by his cousin Chin-Kee. Eventually the stories interweave in a twist I totally did not see coming. Perhaps this is because I am the queen of oblivious.

Right-O. Out of the three interwoven stories in American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, I enjoyed the plot line of the Monkey king the most. The monkey king starts American Born Chinese, and well he’s all pissed off and angry because he was thrown out of a party for not wearing shoes, although the real reason he’s tossed out is because he’s a monkey. Yeah, so he’s really mad about not fitting in. Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in. I think we’ve all been there. It’s something universal to connect to. Also, I spent an unequivocal amount of time laughing while reading the monkey king’s storyline. Perhaps this is because I have the humor of a 12 year old boy. Perhaps it is because Gene Luen Yang is legitimately funny.

This is the part where I should state some things about the other plot lines. Okay, so the plot line of Jin Wang, the new kid. Well on Jin Wang’s first day, his teachers mess up his name, they introduce him as being from China, and his classmates are assholes. I feel like the classmates are always assholes. Perhaps this is a teen hormonal thing? I wonder if I was an asshole in high school. Ah, I digress. Well, Jin Wang makes some good and bad decisions. He’s kind of a douche at times, but the type we cheer for because we want him to succeed. He’s basically just like a real middle-schooler. (He’s in 7th grade, I think). Oh, and there’s a girl. I shall remain mum on that part though.

Next up, is Danny the white high school boy with a cousin. Yes, we all have those embarrassing relatives. Personally, I have more than my fair share (love you all, but seriously did you need to appear on Judge Judy?! I wish I was kidding). Anyways, Danny’s cousin ChinKee is basically the most stereotypical Chinese caricature. You know those negative images of Chinese you have from old movies, with the teeth and the queue? Well, that’s ChinKee, and surprise he’s really great at school. Oh and he performs a homage to William Huang of American Idol Fame. Obviously, Yang has a point with ChinKee. And I think you need to figure it out for yourself while reading this magnificent book.

The art inside is full color, which I can appreciate after perusing black and white mangas. I’d say the art is relatively simple, it’s not beautiful like most manga, but it’s not too comic-booky. Like it’s not Alan Moore comic book type. There’s a few action scenes with onomatopoeias. (I never thought I would use that word in the real world, see kids education will help you blog with big words!) Oh and the pages feel glossy, so it’s a fun book to pet. Also, for a full color graphic novel, the price tag is only 8.99 according the back cover, so it’s really cheap for a graphic novel. I would definitely pick it up if you collect graphic novels and Printz winners and YA books and PoC books.

While reading American Born Chinese, I recommend drinking jasmine tea. OMG it’s so good and if you have a friend or something going to China, implore them to pick you up some. Or, I think you could just get it at the grocery store. Either way, a delicious Chinese tea, for a fabulous reading experience. And if you dislike this book, it’ll only take about 3 hours of your life to read. Not too bad considering time you’ve probably squandered on other books.

This book was read for: PoC Reading Challenge; The Graphic Novel Challenge; 100 Books a Year Challenge; Young Adult Challenge

Other Reviews of American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang:

Helen’s Book Blog
The Book Zombie
Frentic Reader

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. This is still one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. Such a great use of the graphic format and I love the full color panels.

  2. MissAttitude says

    Thanks for this review! So glad to hear that you liked it and I'm intrigued by your drink mention, jasmine tea sounds good.

    Well-written review, you made me want to go out and buy the book and find out more about ChinKee (hmm Chink is a derogatory name so I think I can tell where that storyline is going) and the monkey king and see the colorful drawings! It'll be my first graphic novel. i'm determined to get it within the next few weeks 🙂

  3. Monkey King was my childhood hero <3
    this has been on my wishlist for months now, I'm really hoping to get my hands on a copy soon =D

  4. @Katie: I'm glad you enjoyed American Born Chinese so much! Graphic novels FTW.

    @MissAttitude: Call me oblivious because I never put together that term with ChinKee's name. Well, it certainly fits into Yang's purpose of ChinKee.

    @ninefly: This is a definitely a book which would make a great addition to any collection. I hope you get your hands on a copy soon too!

  5. Ooh, this sounds really interesting! I am going to read more graphic novels this year! I will!

  6. I need to read this again. Such an amazing book!

  7. Lovely review! Heard so much about this one.

  8. A Bookshelf Monstrosity says

    I met Yang at a library conference last year, and besides being very intelligent and literarily gifted, he's damn funny as well! Great review 🙂

  9. MissAttitude says

    In a way I'm glad you didn't recognize the term since it's very hurtful.

    The book sounds hilarious.

  10. This sounds fantastic! I'd vaguely heard of it before reading your review but had no idea it was a graphic novel. Thanks for the great review and Jasmine tea recommendation.

  11. Monkey king was my favourite person in my childhood! But what I see from the text is that you seem to use the model of monkey king to create a new person, right?


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