Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Yang delivers another beautifully illustrated and entertaining novel in two parts, each addressing differing sides of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of the late 19th century. In Boxers, Little Bao leaves his small village to lead forces against the “foreign devils” – troops and missionaries from other countries sent to westernize China. During his quest, Little Bao and his followers learn to transform into gods during battle, and soon begin targeting not only the “foreign devils”, but the “secondary devils” as well – Chinese citizens who follow the Christian faith. In Saints, Yang tells the story of “Four-Girl”, one of the “secondary devils”, who believes God chose her to be a maiden warrior for Christ.

I really enjoyed Yang’s Printz winning American Born Chinese, so I was excited to get my hands on another of his works. The new book didn’t disappoint! As I was unfamiliar with the Boxer Rebellion, Yang’s novel was a good way for me to learn about that time in history. The plot is entertaining, the illustrations amazing as always, and I appreciated how Yang’s characters, though they lived over a century ago, still face modern problems. Little Bao struggles to find a place in his family, and then must battle his own beliefs to determine how far he will go with the rebellion. Four-Girl finds herself labeled as useless and is intent on proving herself in a man-centered world. You can easily compare these characters to your own life, which makes the novel easy to read — it doesn’t feel like a history book!
As good as the novel set is, I will say the Saints is definitely the weaker companion. I enjoyed it because it showed events from a different character’s point of view, but I don’t think I would have liked it on its own. So, if you find a copy of Saints without Boxers at your library, don’t read it first! It’s worth the wait.
Rating: 4/5
*National Book Award Finalist
This one has a book trailer! Click here to see it.
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.
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