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Saints by Gene Luen Yang
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Saints is the companion book to Boxers. It tells of the Boxer rebellion from the perspective of a Chinese Christian. This concept had so much potential. After reading Boxers, where Christians and foreign missionaries came out looking pretty bad, (although the Boxers didn't look so great either) I was interested to read the story from a different perspective. There are several scenes that appear in both books, and it seemed like a really interesting concept to see what led the characters to their respective decisions.

Somehow it just didn't really pan out for me. The characters didn't seem that well developed and I ended up thinking both sides were kind of mean and not feeling a lot of compassion for anyone. Maybe because it can be so hard in real life, in my books I like to be able to understand why people do such horrible things to each other and in the end think they are still good at heart. ( )
  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 Saints, Four-Girl is the fourth daughter, unwanted and unwelcome in her family. She finds acceptance and friendship with a local doctor and his wife, who also happen to be Christians. Four-Girl becomes a Christian and is baptized as Vibiana, but it's a dangerous thing to be in a time when the young men of the Boxer Rebellion are seeking to rid the country of Westerners and Western influence. But Vibiana - who has seen visions of Joan of Arc since she was a girl - is not content to be meek, but wants to defend her people against the rebels at any cost.

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 from Boxers and Vibiana 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 |
I can't wait to read the matching graphic novel "Boxers". This was a moving story about a young girl growing up in late 19th century China. From her alienation from her family she converts to Christianity just before the Boxer rebellion. The artist, Yang, does a wonderful job of conveying character, humor, and pathos. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Not a bad book, but would be very hard to understand without reading the first book, Boxer. ( )
  rdwhitenack | Jul 18, 2015 |
A parallel story and companion volume to Yang's extraordinary Boxers. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
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Dedicated to the San Jose Chinese Catholic Community
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I am my mother's fourth daughter, born on the fourth day of the fourth month, and the only one of her children to survive past a year.
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Vibiana, an unwanted fourth child, finds her name and identity in Christianity, but with the Boxer Rebellion in full swing and Chinese Christians facing death, she must decide whether her loyalties lie with her religion or her country.

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