Reviews for Saints
Booklist Reviews 2013 September #1
*Starred Review* In American Born Chinese (2006), Yang spoke to the culture clash of Chinese American teen life. In Saints--the concluding volume in a two-book set beginning with Boxers (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. Saints follows Four-Girl, an outcast in her own family, who embraces the Christian faith spreading through her country and places herself in the dangerous path of the Boxers. Between the two books, Yang ties tangled knots of empathy where the heroes of one become the monsters of the other. Four-Girl and her foil in Boxers, Little Bao, 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, Four-Girl is captivated by a vision sprung from lore: a young Frenchwoman clad in golden armor, Joan of Arc. Much blood is spilled as Four-Girl marches toward her 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. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #5
Yang's latest graphic novels are a "diptych" of books set during China's Boxer Rebellion of the early twentieth century. Boxers follows Little Bao, a village boy with an affinity for opera; Saints centers on Four-Girl, an unloved and unwanted child who perfects a revolting "devil-face" expression. They meet fleetingly as children, foreshadowing their respective roles in the conflict to come. Little Bao, with the help of an eccentric kung fu master, learns to harness the power of ancient gods, forming the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist in an attempt to rid China of the "foreign devils" who spread Christianity across the country. Four-Girl sits squarely on the other side of the rebellion. After repeat visits from Joan of Arc in mystic visions, Four-Girl comes to the conclusion that she, too, is destined to become a maiden warrior. She converts to Christianity, takes the name Vibiana, and strives to protect China against the Little Bao-led uprising. The inevitable showdown between the two characters leads to a surprising and bleak conclusion. While neither volume truly stands alone (making for a significant price tag for the whole story), Yang's characteristic infusions of magical realism, bursts of humor, and distinctively drawn characters are present in both books, which together make for a compelling read. sam bloom Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
China's Boxer Rebellion is the unlikely backdrop for this graphic treatment of young villagers on the opposite sides of history. Bao wants to drive out the white devils that poison his country with opium and Christianity. Four-Girl is an unwanted daughter who finds purpose in the missionary life. Their stories collide in a moment of grace that could only be penned by the Printz Award-winning author of American Born Chinese. (See Best Graphic Novels, p. 31.) (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2014 January/February
Gene Luen Yang has created these titles as companion graphic novels that parallel two stories set in China in 1898. They cover very controversial episodes of modern Chinese history. Little Bao, Boxers, follows the development of an army trained in Kung Fu to fight the Foreign Devils. This army also took on the Secondary Devils-their own people. Within Saints, Four-Girl finds Christianity; she lives in a dangerous time and place for Christians. These graphic novels are not unlike the concept of yin and yang, how opposites are connected as these two graphic novels are. Both have fast-paced storylines with great illustrations providing a better understanding of the war between traditional Chinese beliefs and foreign Christianity. Readers would enjoy diving into a historical event in a very turbulent time for China. Deb Grove, School Librarian, Papillion-LaVista High School, Papillion, Nebraska [Editor's Note: Boxers is available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 August #2
In the companion to Boxers, Yang shifts focus to Four-Girl, a mistreated Chinese girl who decides to become a Christian despite the heavy cultural stigma it carries. Although her initial reason for converting is misguided (she's mainly a fan of the snacks she receives), she eventually embraces the religion and, inspired by visions of Joan of Arc, is spurred to become a "maiden warrior" for God. To prove her faith, Four-Girl (newly christened Vibiana) charges herself with defending Peking, which has become a refuge for foreigners and Christians from the approaching Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. As in Boxers, the climactic battle is brutal; established characters meet their demises quickly and unceremoniously. Read separately, the books are honest and revealing character studies of two differing Chinese perspectives during the Boxer Rebellion. Together, they resonate electrically, partly due to their mirrored plots, but more so for capturing the historical context and dueling psychologies (the group vs. the self, national pride vs. spiritual pride) that underlie this political and cultural conflict. Ages 12-up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 July
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, MD [Page 106]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
VOYA Reviews 2013 October
Four-Girl is the unwanted daughter of a poor farming family in late nineteenth-century China who discovers acceptance and purpose with Christian missionaries. But unrest is fomenting in China's native population; soon rebels against Western influence will endanger foreigners and Chinese Christians alike. Throughout the novel Four-Girl has conversations with Joan of Arc through visions only she can see. These visions convince Four-Girl of the truth of the Christian God and shape many of her decisions. Parallels between Four-Girl and Joan are rampant throughout the novel, but Four-Girl ultimately decides on the path of peace rather than violence Yang uses his trademark clean artwork to introduce readers to a pivotal moment in Chinese history. Four-Girl is an unwanted female child whose family cares so little for her that she is not even given a real name. Readers will enjoy Four-Girl's perspective with her straightforward, wry observations and feisty personality. The historical elements of the story are fundamental to the events of this graphic novel, but secondary to Four-Girl's evolution into a young woman of faith and conviction. While there may not be wide teen appeal, readers interested in Chinese history or strong female characters will enjoy Yang's new graphic novel. Further reading suggestions are provided for teens who would like to learn more about China's Boxer Rebellion. Overall, the book is intriguing and thought provoking.--Rebecca Denham 4Q 3P M Graphic Format Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.