Reviews for Boxers & Saints : Boxers


Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
*Starred Review* In American Born Chinese (2006), Yang spoke to the culture clash of Chinese American teen life. In Boxers--the first volume in a two-book set, concluding with Saints (2013)--about the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the nineteenth century in China, he looses twin voices in harmony and dissonance from opposite sides of the bloody conflict. Boxers follows a young man nicknamed Little Bao, who reacts to religious and cultural oppression by leading the uprising from the provinces to Peking, slaughtering "foreign devils" and soldiers along the way. Between the two books, Yang ties tangled knots of empathy where the heroes of one become the monsters of the other. Little Bao and his foil from Saints, Four-Girl, are drawn by the same fundamental impulses--for community, family, faith, tradition, purpose--and their stories reflect the inner torture that comes when those things are threatened. Yang is in superb form here, arranging numerous touch points of ideological complexity and deeply plumbing his characters' points of view. And in an homage to the driving power of stories themselves, Bao is captivated by visions sprung from lore: the spirits he believes possess him and his fighters. Much blood is spilled as Little Bao marches toward his grim fate, which is even more unsettling given that Yang hasn't fundamentally altered his squeaky clean, cartoonishly approachable visual style. A poignant, powerhouse work of historical fiction from one of our finest graphic storytellers. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Color by Lark Pien. Yang presents a "diptych" of graphic novels set during China's Boxer Rebellion. Boxers follows Little Bao, who learns to harness the power of ancient gods to fight the spread of Christianity; Saints centers on Four-Girl, who sits squarely on the other side of the rebellion. Yang's characteristic infusions of magical realism, bursts of humor, and distinctively drawn characters make for a compelling read. [Review covers these titles: Boxers and Saints.]

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #5
Yang's latest graphic novels are a "diptych" of books set during China's Boxer Rebellion of the early twentieth century. Boxers follows Little Bao, a village boy with an affinity for opera; Saints centers on Four-Girl, an unloved and unwanted child who perfects a revolting "devil-face" expression. They meet fleetingly as children, foreshadowing their respective roles in the conflict to come. Little Bao, with the help of an eccentric kung fu master, learns to harness the power of ancient gods, forming the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist in an attempt to rid China of the "foreign devils" who spread Christianity across the country. Four-Girl sits squarely on the other side of the rebellion. After repeat visits from Joan of Arc in mystic visions, Four-Girl comes to the conclusion that she, too, is destined to become a maiden warrior. She converts to Christianity, takes the name Vibiana, and strives to protect China against the Little Bao-led uprising. The inevitable showdown between the two characters leads to a surprising and bleak conclusion. While neither volume truly stands alone (making for a significant price tag for the whole story), Yang's characteristic infusions of magical realism, bursts of humor, and distinctively drawn characters are present in both books, which together make for a compelling read. sam bloom Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #2
Printz Award winner Yang's ambitious two-volume graphic novel follows the intertwined lives of two young people on opposite sides of the turn-of-the-20th-century Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao, whose story is told in Boxers, grows up fascinated by the opera's colorful traditional tales and filled with reverence for the local deities. Appalled by the arrogant behavior of foreign soldiers, Christian missionaries and their Chinese supporters, he eventually becomes a leader of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, fighting under the slogan "Support the Ch'ing! Destroy the Foreigner!" The protagonist of Saints--an unlucky, unwanted, unnamed fourth daughter--is known only as Four-Girl until she's christened Vibiana upon her conversion to Catholicism. Beaten by her family for her beliefs, she finds refuge and friendship with foreign missionaries, making herself a target for the Boxers. Scrupulously researched, the narratives make a violent conflict rarely studied in U.S. schools feel immediate, as Yang balances historical detail with humor and magical realism. Ch'in Shih-huang, the first emperor of China, and Joan of Arc serve as Bao's and Vibiana's respective spiritual guides; the rich hues of the protagonists' visions, provided by colorist Lark Pien, contrast effectively with the muted earth tones of their everyday lives. The restrained script often, and wisely, lets Yang's clear, clean art speak for itself. This tour de force fearlessly asks big questions about culture, faith, and identity and refuses to offer simple answers. (bibliography) (Graphic historical fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
China's Boxer Rebellion is the unlikely backdrop for this graphic treatment of young villagers on the opposite sides of history. Bao wants to drive out the white devils that poison his country with opium and Christianity. Four-Girl is an unwanted daughter who finds purpose in the missionary life. Their stories collide in a moment of grace that could only be penned by the Printz Award-winning author of American Born Chinese. (See Best Graphic Novels, p. 31.) (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 September #2

History clashes with the idealizations of fiction in these interlocked tales of teens caught up in China's Boxer Rebellion between 1897 and 1901. Who is "right"? The Western missionaries who preach the Christian gospel but whose ranks include bandits and exploiters? Or the boxers, who call upon their pagan gods to help kill the Christian intruders and their Western protectors? Little Bao is a peasant lad whose village suffers at the hands of the missionaries. Inspired by visions, he joins in violent rebellion with thousands of other angry and hungry Chinese who deplore the greedy Westerners. But in another village, unwanted Four Girl finds a home and new name--Vibiana--with Christian missionaries. Through Bao and Vibiana, we see how no crusade is "pure." VERDICT This excellent two-part graphic novel teaches history through a double-lens narrative, showing how factors interact to create unwanted tragedies by both sides. The winsome, magical-realist art of Yang (American Born Chinese) plays ironically against the bloody conflict enhanced by artist Lark Pien's colors. Heartbreaking and sometimes funny, this boxed set is for teens and adults interested in international politics and people's rebellions.--M.C.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 August #2

With a superbly executed "diptych" of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. Raised in an impoverished rural village, Little Bao and his older brothers embark on a crusade to save China from Christian missionaries and other "foreign devils" who are perceived to be the cause of their country's woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao's recurring visions of a pantheon of Chinese gods, quickly escalates in violence and rhetoric. By the time Little Bao and his amassed army, dubbed the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, reach the occupied city of Peking, morale is strained and the line between right and wrong has blurred. Yang doesn't shy from the ensuing bloodshed (beheadings are not uncommon), yet moments of lightheartedness and potential romance humanize the combatants, even as their campaigns take on zealous dimensions. Yang's artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash. Ages 12-up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #4

Boxers reviewWith a superbly executed triptych of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. Raised in an impoverished rural village, Little Bao and his older brothers embark on a crusade to save China from Christian missionaries and other foreign devils who are perceived to be the cause of their country's woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao's recurring visions of a pantheon of Chinese gods, quickly escalates in violence and rhetoric. By the time Little Bao and his amassed army, dubbed the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, reach the occupied city of Peking, morale is strained and the line between right and wrong has blurred. Yang doesn't shy from the ensuing bloodshed (beheadings are not uncommon), yet moments of lightheartedness and potential romance humanize the combatants, even as their campaigns take on zealous dimensions. Yang's artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash. Ages 12‚up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.) Saints reviewIn the companion to Boxers, Yang shifts focus to Four-Girl, a mistreated Chinese girl who decides to become a Christian despite the heavy cultural stigma it carries. Although her initial reason for converting is misguided (she's mainly a fan of the snacks she receives), she eventually embraces the religion and, inspired by visions of Joan of Arc, is spurred to become a maiden warrior for God. To prove her faith, Four-Girl (newly christened Vibiana) charges herself with defending Peking, which has become a refuge for foreigners and Christians from the approaching Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. As in Boxers, the climactic battle is brutal; established characters meet their demises quickly and unceremoniously. Read separately, the books are honest and revealing character studies of two differing Chinese perspectives during the Boxer Rebellion. Together, they resonate electrically, partly due to their mirrored plots, but more so for capturing the historical context and dueling psychologies (the group vs. the self, national pride vs. spiritual pride) that underlie this political and cultural conflict. Ages 12 up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Boxers reviewWith a superbly executed triptych of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. Raised in an impoverished rural village, Little Bao and his older brothers embark on a crusade to save China from Christian missionaries and other foreign devils who are perceived to be the cause of their country's woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao's recurring visions of a pantheon of Chinese gods, quickly escalates in violence and rhetoric. By the time Little Bao and his amassed army, dubbed the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, reach the occupied city of Peking, morale is strained and the line between right and wrong has blurred. Yang doesn't shy from the ensuing bloodshed (beheadings are not uncommon), yet moments of lightheartedness and potential romance humanize the combatants, even as their campaigns take on zealous dimensions. Yang's artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash. Ages 12‚up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.) Saints reviewIn the companion to Boxers, Yang shifts focus to Four-Girl, a mistreated Chinese girl who decides to become a Christian despite the heavy cultural stigma it carries. Although her initial reason for converting is misguided (she's mainly a fan of the snacks she receives), she eventually embraces the religion and, inspired by visions of Joan of Arc, is spurred to become a maiden warrior for God. To prove her faith, Four-Girl (newly christened Vibiana) charges herself with defending Peking, which has become a refuge for foreigners and Christians from the approaching Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. As in Boxers, the climactic battle is brutal; established characters meet their demises quickly and unceremoniously. Read separately, the books are honest and revealing character studies of two differing Chinese perspectives during the Boxer Rebellion. Together, they resonate electrically, partly due to their mirrored plots, but more so for capturing the historical context and dueling psychologies (the group vs. the self, national pride vs. spiritual pride) that underlie this political and cultural conflict. Ages 12 up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 July

Gr 9 Up--Acclaimed graphic novelist Yang brings his talents to historical fiction in these paired novels set during China's Boxer Rebellion (1899-1900). In Boxers, life in Little Bao's peaceful rural village is disrupted when "foreign devils"-a priest and his phalanx of soldiers-arrive. The foreigners behave with astonishing arrogance, smashing the village god, appropriating property, and administering vicious beatings for no reason. Little Bao and his older brothers train in kung fu and swordplay in order to defend against them, and when Little Bao learns how to tap into the power of the Chinese gods, he becomes the leader of a peasant army, eventually marching to Beijing. Saints follows a lonely girl from a neighboring village. Unwanted by her family, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name until she converts to Catholicism and is baptized-by the very same priest who bullies Little Bao's village. Four-Girl, now known as Vibiana, leaves home and finds fulfillment in service to the Church, while Little Bao roams the countryside committing acts of increasing violence as his army grows. Mysticism plays a part in both stories, and Yang's spare, clean drawing style makes it clear that Vibiana's visits from Joan of Arc and Bao's invocation of the powerful Chinese gods are very real to these characters. The juxtaposition of these opposing points of view, both of them sympathetic, makes for powerful, thought-provoking storytelling about a historical period that is not well known in the West.--Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

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