Twofer: Raina Telgemeier – Smile / Gene Luen Yang – American Born Chinese
The first of my graphic novel two-for-one review posts! Today we’re doing full-color young adult coming-of-age graphic novels.
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Graphic Novel; Memoir
Started / Finished: 21 May 2010
Where did it come from? Borrowed from a friend.
Why do I have it? He handed it to me and said “here, you’ll like this.”
Summary: When Raina was in sixth grade, she tripped and fell while running up her front walk, and knocked out her front two teeth. In Smile, she describes the next four years of dental surgery, orthodontia, and most importantly, growing up that she had to undergo in order to find her smile – and herself.
Review: It’s a cute story, and one that definitely got a few wistful chuckles and a few outright giggles out of me. Although the coming-of-age moral is pretty universal, I probably would have identified with the story more if I’d had braces as a kid, but I was extremely lucky in that respect (don’t hate me too much; I make up for it by having terrible eyes.) I really liked the artwork; it’s pretty straightforward panel-based narrative, but I like Telgemeier’s style of drawing, and the book is really bright and colorful throughout. (You can see a sample at the author’s website.) So, overall, it was definitely an enjoyable read, and an interesting change of pace from my normal fantasy/sci-fi graphic novels, but not exactly life-changing. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you suffered through braces as a kid (or have them now!) and/or like memoirs in graphic novel form, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
First Line: “Smile!!”
Length: 234 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, General Fiction
Started / Finished: 23 May 2010
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was poking around the library, looking for more graphic novels to read during my brain-dead time, and I remember a lot of people raving about it, so I picked it up.
Summary: American Born Chinese tells three very disparate stories. The first is of Jin Wang, a young boy who is the only Chinese student in his school, who is isolated, picked on, and in love with a white girl who barely knows he’s alive. The second is of the Monkey King, a Chinese fable about a monkey who is not content to be merely a monkey, but who wants to be one of the gods. The third is a sitcom, in which Chin-Kee, the embodiment of all of the negative Chinese stereotypes, comes to visit his cousin Danny, and generally ruin Danny’s popularity… and life. And, in the end, it turns out that the three stories aren’t quite so disparate after all.
Review: This was an interesting book with an important message, but it never really grabbed me the way I wanted it to. The whole thing was done with an interesting blend of humor and seriousness, and of stereotypes blended with respect that made it more than a typical coming-of-age/racism-is-bad-mmkay story. The inclusion of the Monkey King mythology in particular was an interesting element. Although the book is obviously based on and arguably geared towards Asian-Americans, I don’t think it’s limited to only speaking about the immigrant experience. I think that anyone who’s ever felt marginalized will find the stories here relatable, and find something to take away. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: I enjoyed it well enough, but I suspect I’m not really the target audience; I think actual young adults may find it more compelling than I did.
Other Reviews: B&B Ex Libris, Bermudaonion’s Weblog, Bibliofreakblog, Book Addiction, Book Dweeb, The Book Zombie, The Little Reader, Ready When You Are C.B., Regular Rumination, Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Things Mean a Lot, Worducopia
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: One bright and starry night, the Gods the Goddesses, the demons, and the spirits gathered in heaven for a dinner party.