Monday, October 7, 2013

Boxers and Saints

Today I will be reviewing Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, the writer ofAmerican Born Chinese. It's a two book story about the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. Boxers is from the point of view of Bao, a leader of a group of Boxers. Saints is from the point of view of Vibiana, a Chinese Christian convert.

The story for Boxers is that Bao's town is being modernized by "foreign devils" or Western Christians. Bao's father goes to complain to the town magistrate in response to a Westerner smashing a sculpture of a god that was important to the village. On the way, he gets into a fight with a group of foreign solders. He comes home beaten and bruised. It becomes clear that Bao's father not only received physical damage, but mental damage as well. The author shows this by having Bao's father sit in a window with
scrubbily lines in word bubbles above his head. After four years, a man comes into town who knows Kung Fu and is a member of the Boxer Rebellion. He trains all the teenage boys in town and secretly trains Bao who is too young to be allowed to learn Kung Fu. Bao becomes a Kung Fu master and leads a group of vicious Boxers who transform into gods of the Chinese Opera when they fight.

The story for Saints is about a girl who is unwanted at home and converts to Christianity because her Christian acupuncturist shows her kindness. Soon after she converts, she is visited by Joan of Ark. Joan represents a role model. When the local French priest moves to a fort that protects the Christians from the Boxers, she follows him and he becomes a stern father figure for her. She is given the duty of being a teacher for the fort's orphans.

I think that the characters in Saints are more likable. As for the people in Boxers, I lost all sympathy for them in the first quarter of the book. They murder truckloads of men, women and children, Chinese and Western alike. Throughout most of the book, I felt like Bao deserved to die. No matter how regretful or hesitant he is, his bloodthirsty side always wins out. He may imagine that there is an Opera God telling him that he's doing a righteous thing, but that god is a figment of his imagination.

The art in these books is wonderful. I liked it a lot. It looked very similar to American Born Chinese. I loved how Saints is all black and white, except for Joan of Ark, who is bright gold. I also liked all the bright colors in Boxers, especially when the Boxers transform into opera gods. 

 Boxers and Saints are both very, very good. I've already re-read them 10 times. They're very dark, but I like dark. I would suggest that you read Saints before you read Boxers, because the ending to Saints is spoiled in Boxers. Also, Boxers and Saints are definitely not books for small children. There are some very violent scenes in both of them. I would give Boxers and Saints 4 Chinese Operas out of 5.


  1. This is another great review, Milo. And I love the word "scrubbily." I'm adding it to my vocabulary immediately. Can't wait to see what you read next!

    I assume you know that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, which is a town in Normandy, France. There's a cheesy little wax museum dedicated to her there, and you should check it out if you're ever in France.

    All the best, Drew Kristofik

  2. Great review, Milo! I'm in the middle of both Boxers and Saints (I didn't heed your advice about reading Saints first, but I haven't gotten to the spoiler yet). Before reading Boxers, I had no idea what the Boxer Rebellion was. I had heard of it, of course, but it's great to get some detail and some context about what it was all about. Also, it's great to be brought into the thinking of why someone might embrace a foreign culture or foreign religion.

  3. This is really useful - thanks, Milo! I liked American Born Chinese, but wasn't sure about picking up Boxers & Saints. I'll probably grab it at the Comic-Con this weekend, and I'll be sure to read Saints first!

  4. Thanks a lot Milo - another great review although I wonder why you did not give it the full 5 - you seemed to like it a lot? Will keep my eyes open for it although few of these titles make it to the shelves out here in our small town

  5. Thank you fr the review, Milo! I'll keep my eye out for this book!

  6. "Scrubbily" is the best word ever.