Three very different stories. One simple desire. To fit in.
Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl.
Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again.
The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there's no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They're going to have to find a way--if they want to fix the disasters their lives have become.
This book! I was skeptical when I found out a graphic novel won a Printz award (hello, prejudice), but I totally understand why now. Gene Luen Yang, author of Level Up, has officially become an author that I want to follow through every publication. His humor, art, and ability to weave a complex and emotional story is simply astounding.
I enjoyed Jin's story and the tale of the Monkey King, but every time Chin-Kee took a chapter, I was super uncomfortable (as was intended: he flagrantly inbodies every negative Asian stereotype ever believed). But by the end, I was completely won over. I believe there was even a moment when I gasped at the page, astounded and delighted by what Yang had done.
All three stories tell of someone who wants to escape themselves and be something more. But the lesson they each must learn is to be comfortable and happy with who they are. An admirable lesson for us all.
Five out of five transformer toys.
Release Date: September 2006
Reading Level: Ages 5+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: GRAPHIC YAN