Book Review

Boxers – Gene Luen Yang

Boxers (Boxers & Saints, #1)

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boxers is the first of a two-part graphic novel series by Gene Luen Yang about the Boxer Rebellion in China. Although it is historical fiction, it has a hint of fantasy to it where the reader has to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy the story. Yang is a fantastic storyteller, so he is able to weave the narratively beautifully and engage readers, even if they don’t normally gravitate towards historical fiction. I felt that it was an incredibly approachable way to tell the story without it being dry.

As this graphic novel is based on a rebellion and a particularly bloody one at that it can be expected that this is a violent series. Although the art style isn’t overly gory, there are an incredible amount of deaths in this book whether by sword or bullet and would not be for the faint of heart. Even though it was realistic, I wish that less of the characters that we grow to know over the course of the graphic novel died – so that we could see their true development. It is true to the events of the Boxer Rebellion and there are book recommendations at the end to lead to further reading.

The main character in Boxers is Little Bao, a boy who loves the opera and the stories of the gods depicted on stage each Spring. We meet him in 1894 and part ways with him in 1900, after watching him learn and grow through struggles and triumphs. He begins the story as a likeable character that readers will connect to, unlike his brothers and we are able to experience his character development over the years. He learns from various teachers about himself, his people, and has to become a leader. It was also heartbreaking to see the repercussions of many of the decisions that he made, as you watched his innocence and childhood slip away.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about the Boxer Rebellion in an engaging format. I also like Boxers more than I liked its counterpart, Saints but it was interesting to see how the stories were interwoven and told two different perspectives of the same time in history.

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