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Boxers by Gene Luen Yang


by Gene Luen Yang

Other authors: Lark Pien (Colorist)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Boxers & Saints

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Boxers is a graphic novel that tells about the Boxer Rebellion in China. I learned a bit about history, but I don't think the book will really stick with me. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Summary: Boxers and Saints are two complimentary books that each tell the tale of a young person on one side of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

In Boxers, in 1898, the Chinese countryside is terrorized by foreign devils and their soldiers who are raiding villages, destroying shrines, and killing peasants. After this has happened in Little Bao's village, he begins to train with a kung-fu master, Red Lantern, and so do several of the other young men. They learn the secrets of summoning the power of the ancient Chinese gods when they fight, and form the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, dedicated to wiping out the foreign devils to protect the Chinese people from their depredations and influence.

Review: This is really embarrassing, but before reading these books, the only thing I knew about the Boxer Rebellion was that it was when Spike had killed his first Slayer on Buffy. (In hindsight, my "World History" classes back in high school were really much more European history.) But even though Yang's version has a number of mythic/supernatural/fantasy elements to it, I think it gives a quite clear picture of what the conflict was about, and how it played out, in a way that's more complex and nuanced than you might ordinarily expect from a YA graphic novel. As you're reading each book, you first come to the conclusion that its protagonists are clearly in the right, and that they're being unfairly persecuted… but the lengths that each side is willing to go to in order to do what they think is right makes you less and less sure. Ultimately, we're left feeling like neither side is entirely in the right or in the wrong, but both wind up being changed by their violence, and both ultimately wind up a high cost - no happy endings here. It does wind up feeling very balanced, with no taking of sides - not something I'm used to encountering in my history/war stories.

The two stories are relatively independent but intertwined - Little Bao and Vibiana (from Saints) encounter one another briefly in childhood, and then again as adults in the thick of the rebellion - but they really need to be read together in order to get the whole perspective and the whole story. I don't know if there's an official recommended order, but I read Boxers (which is substantially longer) first and Saints second, which worked out well - I think knowing who Little Bao is and what he's doing with the Boxers is more important for understanding Vibiana's story than the reverse. I also liked Boxers's story a bit better, although this likely because it was a longer book, so it was more developed, and there was more action, and essentially more plot to Bao's story than to Vibiana's. I also thought the supernatural elements were better integrated in Boxers than in Saints - it made more sense to me that Bao would be summoning ancient Chinese gods than that Vibiana would be seeing Joan of Arc. But taken together, these books are present an interesting, engaging read that brings up a lot of interesting ethical questions about the nature and cost of war. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: They're pretty violent, so maybe not for younger kids, but I think these books are a really worthwhile read for anyone who wants to learn more about the Boxer Rebellion, or who is interested in a balanced perspective on what war and peace really costs a country and an individual. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Aug 4, 2015 |
Yang tells a tale about becoming a Boxer in 1890's China. Simple yet moving graphic style. "Saints" is the companion novel which is somewhat symmetric to this novel where a young woman becomes a Chinese Christian victim of the Boxer movement. Yang uses mythic figures in dialog with a main character to illustrate inner dialog. In Saints, there is Joan of Arc. In "American Born Chinese" there is the Monkey King. In Boxers there are the operatic gods and the Chin Emperor. He is so easy to read. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
A quick read that highlights the Chinese Nationalists perspective of the Boxer rebellion. The main characters turn into gods (which is a little confusing) that fight the "foreign Devils". Plenty of morals at play in this one, I.e. Don't forsake your history for small uncertain triumphs. Draws for kids: quick read, Kung fu, violent, easy to understand. ( )
  rdwhitenack | Jul 2, 2015 |
An extraordinary work of graphic historical fiction. Yang brilliantly draws readers into the complex issues of a major historical episode in a sweeping story that is completely engrossing and accessible. Boxers is the first of a two-volume work. The second volume, Saints, tells a parallel story set against the same events. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Luen Yangprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pien, LarkColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steen, RobDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Venable, Colleen AFCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to the Original Art Night Crew
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Spring is my favorite time of year.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In 1898 China, Little Bao has had enough of foreign missionaries and soldiers robbing peasants, and he recruits an army of Boxers to fight to free China from its oppressors.

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