Genre: Historical Fiction/ Graphic Novel
Year Published: 2013
Status: Has a companion novel titled Saints
Page Count: 325
Boxer by Gene Luen Yang is a really interesting concept. It is a historical fiction graphic novel covering the Boxer Rebellion in China. The Boxer rebellion occurred in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It was the rejection of Western influences including Christianity by the Chinese. Westerners were traveling in China and spreading, some may say pushing, their culture on the Chinese. This novel is from the perspective of a Boxer, and the companion novel Saints is from the perspective of the opposing force, the Christian Chinese. These graphic novels present both sides of the conflict, and the books match up together to make this awesome dual cover.
Bao is the youngest of three brothers, and is left out of most of his older brother's activities. As a child Bao witnesses the violence of the "Foreign Devils", Westerns that have traveled to China converting the population to Christianity and disrespecting Chinese culture, and "Secondary Devils", Chinese who have converted to Christianity. After someone he admires highly is killed by Foreign Devils, Bao gathers and leads an army to the capital city in order to wipe out the foreign influence.
What's so great about this book is that you don't have to have a lot of previous knowledge on the Boxer Rebellion in order to read and enjoy this book. I don't have a lot of knowledge on the subject myself, but I enjoyed this book. I thought the book did a great job of weaving Chinese culture into the novel. Another thing I admired about this book is that it didn't shy away from the violence of war, this book is not gory by any means, but it doesn't ignore the fact that death and blood are companions to war.
This book also covers a time range of six years, so the reader is able to see events leading up to the war and the progression of Bao's decision to fight and the violence in the country.
The art style in this book is simple yet very beautiful. The pictures are made of simple lines, and the color pallet is very natural and earthy, with pops of bright colors that really stand out. There are a few full page illustrations in this novel that are quite beautiful and help to move the story forward and convey the emotions of the characters.
I have read a handful of different graphic novels, and I have enjoyed them but I don't think they are my preferred medium of story telling. I often find myself underwhelmed when I finish one, or thinking that I would have enjoyed the story so much more as a novel, but I think a graphic novel was the perfect medium for this story, and I think reading the companion novel is going to bring this story full circle and tie everything together very nicely. I love the idea of seeing both sides of the war's justifications of the violence. These books really propose many tough questions about war. Which side was "the good side"? Is there a good side in a war? Is war ever justifiable? I think people tend to forget that innocent lives are lost on both sides of the battlefield during a war, and this book points that out.
I'll be picking up Saints very soon, as well as Gene Luen Yang's Printz Award winning graphic novel American Born Chinese. Have you read any of these? What's your thoughts on graphic novels?