Boxers | Gene Luen Yang | Book Review

Why Did I Read This Book?

Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite graphic novel writers and artists. I feel like his stories have deeper meaning and just really resonate with me, even if the symbolism maybe goes over my head. Recently, I read Saints and so, because I am a bit obsessive, I absolutely had to read Boxers because it is a companion to Saints. Also, the book is all about grassroots revolution and history and that kind of thing is really, very fascinating to me.

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang | Good Books And Good Wine

What’s The Story Here?

In 1898, the foreign devils, so white people and Christians are roaming the countrysides of China and basically causing a ruckus. They are stealing things. They are destroying the idols that the Chinese people worship. Basically, they are being awful. Some do not take kindly to this, but don’t quite know how to fight back or what to do. Until, you know, much of the nation of China revolts against these invaders via the Boxer Rebellion. Boxers is about Little Bao, a young man who is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. It chronicles the turning point for Little Bao, all the way up to how he becomes a leader and stands his ground, gathering an army all the way up to the capital city of Peking and the final show down.

How Is Little Bao’s Character Development?

Here is the part where I admit to you, dear reader friend, that I kind of want to steal Gene Luen Yang’s brain. Seriously the man is brilliant and works that brilliance into his books. I say all this because I think how Little Bao develops as a character is simply genius. He starts off as timid and quiet. Then, a man called Red Lantern comes to town and basically challenges Little Bao’s assumptions. Red Lantern teaches the men of town to fight back, and he teaches Little Bao kung fu as well. Gradually, Little Bao changes. He gets to the point where he is able to teach his brothers and consequently other men, to inhabit the body of a God in order to fight the white devils. Y’all, it is just so interesting and maybe I don’t entirely get the significance because I am dense, but I just loved it. I loved seeing Little Bao develop confidence and a conviction in his cause and his crusade. And I guess, to me, the progression was just so logical and on point.

What Did I Think Of The Artwork?

Again, I really like Yang’s artwork. His pictures are crisp and clear. The movement between panels is fluid. I liked the different action bits. However, Boxers does get violent and that is reflected in the images.

I thought I would show you guys some screen shots from the book:

Boxers page art

This is a spread of two pages, I love the use of color here — very beige and subdued.

Boxers graphic novel art

I blew this up a bit, for sizing purposes, but I really like how colorful this is and the symbolism of the men turning into gods/powerful ancestors. Artistically, I think this is cool. And look at those vertical lines of power! Love it.

How Does Boxers Compare To Saints?

Honestly, I think that Boxers is a better read than Saints. It’s longer, for one, so there’s a stronger level of detail. I also identified more with the motivations behind Boxers — basically the whole grassroots revolution part. I loved that. It felt very David vs. Goliath to me. Yet, there are a few parts where the two stories converge and we see Vibiana in Boxers. I will state that I am glad I read this duet of books as they do compliment each other very well and do a superb job illustrating both sides of history.

Who Would I Recommend Boxers To?

I really want these books in history classrooms — especially those classrooms that might not have time to delve fully into the Boxer Rebellion. The thing about teaching, at least from what I remember when I got my degree in it, is that you have to stuff so many events into so little time, so there’s not really the space to get into details sometimes, which sucks because you end up leaving the more fascinating bits out in order to hammer Kellogg-Briand into your student’s brains. I just, I think reading and talking about this box set would make an awesome extra credit assignment. I think that if you like stories of revolution, culture, history, and insurmountable odds, you should read Boxers by Gene Luen Yang.

Disclosure: Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Other reviews of Boxers by Gene Luen Yang:

Waking Brain Cells – “I found Boxers to be the more interesting of the two
Estella’s Revenge – “I gulped these books down in two days
Stacked – “harrowing in its violence and heartbreak

Books by Gene Luen Yang:
American Born Chinese

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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. Okay, so I totally didn’t comment on this in my review, but you are SO right about Little Bao’s development. He starts as this really sweet devoted boy. But then he witnesses that needless violent and gets sick of being bullied, by his brothers and the town and the white devils. Then he descends into the madness of dogma. Scary stuff.