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Boxers (Boxers & Saints) Paperback – September 10, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-Acclaimed graphic novelist Yang brings his talents to historical fiction in these paired novels set during China's Boxer Rebellion (1899-1900). In Boxers, life in Little Bao's peaceful rural village is disrupted when "foreign devils"-a priest and his phalanx of soldiers-arrive. The foreigners behave with astonishing arrogance, smashing the village god, appropriating property, and administering vicious beatings for no reason. Little Bao and his older brothers train in kung fu and swordplay in order to defend against them, and when Little Bao learns how to tap into the power of the Chinese gods, he becomes the leader of a peasant army, eventually marching to Beijing. Saints follows a lonely girl from a neighboring village. Unwanted by her family, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name until she converts to Catholicism and is baptized-by the very same priest who bullies Little Bao's village. Four-Girl, now known as Vibiana, leaves home and finds fulfillment in service to the Church, while Little Bao roams the countryside committing acts of increasing violence as his army grows. Mysticism plays a part in both stories, and Yang's spare, clean drawing style makes it clear that Vibiana's visits from Joan of Arc and Bao's invocation of the powerful Chinese gods are very real to these characters. The juxtaposition of these opposing points of view, both of them sympathetic, makes for powerful, thought-provoking storytelling about a historical period that is not well known in the West.-Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MDα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In American Born Chinese (2006), Yang spoke to the culture clash of Chinese American teen life. In Boxers—the first volume in a two-book set, concluding with Saints (2013)—about the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the nineteenth century in China, he looses twin voices in harmony and dissonance from opposite sides of the bloody conflict. Boxers follows a young man nicknamed Little Bao, who reacts to religious and cultural oppression by leading the uprising from the provinces to Peking, slaughtering “foreign devils” and soldiers along the way. Between the two books, Yang ties tangled knots of empathy where the heroes of one become the monsters of the other. Little Bao and his foil from Saints, Four-Girl, are drawn by the same fundamental impulses—for community, family, faith, tradition, purpose—and their stories reflect the inner torture that comes when those things are threatened. Yang is in superb form here, arranging numerous touch points of ideological complexity and deeply plumbing his characters’ points of view. And in an homage to the driving power of stories themselves, Bao is captivated by visions sprung from lore: the spirits he believes possess him and his fighters. Much blood is spilled as Little Bao marches toward his grim fate, which is even more unsettling given that Yang hasn’t fundamentally altered his squeaky clean, cartoonishly approachable visual style. A poignant, powerhouse work of historical fiction from one of our finest graphic storytellers. Grades 7-11. --Ian Chipman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Series: Boxers & Saints (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; 1st edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596433590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596433595
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Gene Luen Yang began making comic books in the fifth grade. He has since written and drawn a number of titles. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album - New. His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. Gene currently writes Dark Horse Comics' Avatar: The Last Airbender series and DC Comics' Superman. The first volume of Secret Coders, his middle-grade graphic novel series about computer coding, illustrated by Mike Holmes, will be available September 2015.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"What is China but a people and their stories?" That question, posed late in Boxers, is fundamental to graphic novels that retell legends of the country's past. This one is written in the style of a legend but recounts (in a fanciful way) an event -- the Boxer Rebellion -- that is really too recent to be legendary.

Boxers takes place in late nineteenth century China. Priests and foreign armies are disrupting village life with their arrogant, sacrilegious ways. Little Bao, who views his father as an heroic figure from the operas he adores, is dismayed when his father, on his way to seek justice from the magistrate, is beaten by foreigners. One day a man named Red Lantern comes to the village. He teaches young men kung fu and heals the disabled. Red Lantern seeks recruits to help him defend villages from the foreign devils. Little Bao isn't allowed to join them, but he takes Red Lantern's place as the student of a kung fu master and learns how to channel the gods -- a handy talent in a fight, particularly if you channel the god of war (although the Repentant Pig Demon is pretty badass too). Soon Bao is leading the Big Sword Society, following in Red Lantern's heroic footsteps. After a name change for the sake of coolness (although what male wouldn't want to be a member of the Big Sword Society?), Bao leads the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fist.

The story makes reference to ancient Chinese legends that are (fortunately for the Chinese history-challenged reader like me) chronicled in other fine graphic novels. Boxers offers some history of its own, taught to Bao in dreams by the first Emperor of China. And like every good legend, it teaches a lesson. Are the foreign devils really devils or are they just foreign?
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Format: Paperback
I'm very interested in Chinese history and have read about the Boxer Rebellion before. When I saw this set of books were about to be published I wondered what the Catholic-Chinese author would have to say and how he would say it. Being Catholic myself, I expected just a wee bit more from this book than it delivered however I came away from it quite satisfied. Boxers and Saints are stand alone books that can be read separately but the books need to be read together to experience the true impact of the novels, especially this one. I would recommend reading Boxers first, then Saints. I can see some people saying to read them the other way around because some things happen in Saints that are explained in Boxers but by reading Boxers first, one is hit with emotional revelations from that story as told in Saints. I didn't quite take to the use of St. Joan, hence my 4 star rating, as it felt clear to me Vibiana is not have visions of her, and I can't find any historical references of anyone having had visions of her; while if one knows the history, the Boxers actually believed they had magical powers from the gods and the Empress was led to believe so before she would agree to support them. Christ came across as a true vision to Vibiana, though. CRYPTIC SPOILER ALERT. It is extremely poignant that one person gives their life for their religion while giving the gift of life to another through that same belief.
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Format: Paperback
Back in grad school, I had my first experience with Gene Luen Yang's work when we read his most famous graphic novel thus far, American Born Chinese. Though disparate in subject matter, Boxers does have something in common with his prior work, the magical realism that Yang brings to bear even on historical or contemporary subjects. In Boxers, Gene Luen Yang manages to pack quite a punch with his spare prose and straight forward drawings.

Though I learned about the Boxer Rebellion in college, I'll admit that my memories thereof are limited at best. Based on extensive research (okay, I checked Wikipedia), Yang actually fits in the main historical points without being at all tedious or lecturing. Basically, Yang has perfected the ability to teach without seeming like he's teaching, which is ideal for the intended audience. He conveys the difficult times that led to the rebellion, the drought and the negative impact foreigners were having in China, through the lens of the life of one young boy who grows up to head the rebellion.

Little Bao did not start out as a remarkable boy. He lived in the shadow of his older brothers and had his head in the clouds, fancifully imagining himself the character in an opera. With Little Bao's optimism, to some degree never shed throughout his journey, Yang captures the wholehearted believe the Boxers had that they would be victorious. In no way did they imagine that their gods would let them lose or that foreigners could truly take over China.

Remember how I mentioned the fantasy angle? Well, in Boxers, the beliefs in local gods, the beliefs being challenged by the conversion to Christianity coming with the influx of foreigners, are manifested physically. Yang literally pits the old gods versus the imperialist forces.
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Format: Paperback
Saints is a companion graphic novel to Boxers, which takes on the opposite perspective: that of a secondary devil. This terminology may not be familiar to you, so allow me to explain. A secondary devil is a Chinese person who has converted to Christianity, thus aligning themselves with the foreign devils. Saints covers the same time period, but has only one moment with the same scene happening, though it does offer further insight into the events of Boxers just the same. Though they're companions, I do think reading them in this order does work slightly better.

In Boxers & Saints, what Yang really digs into are people's motivations. How does an unassuming Chinese boy grow up to kill his countrymen as a Boxer? Why would a young girl convert to Christianity, rather than sticking to the gods of her country? Yang doesn't set out to teach the reader exactly what happened; there aren't any specific dates or anything like that. Instead, he shows the feelings and the ways of thinking that led to the bloody battles and the hatred. Boxers & Saints are nuanced, subtle and thought-provoking.

The main character of Saints made a brief appearance in Boxers, as the girl young Little Bao wanted to marry when he grew up because her face resembled an opera mask. Four-girl, so called because she was the fourth child to the family and believed to be a devil and to represent death, has no true name and is not beloved of her family. She tries to get them to accept her, but all they see is how she falls short. As a child might, she begins to act out for attention, by making a devil face. Her mother, sick of the comments from others about Four-girl's devil face, takes her to a Doctor, who happens to be a Christian, and he convinces her to stop with the devil face.
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