Originally reviewed here
I'm having trouble coming up with a clever and enticing way to start this review, so I'm just going to be straight-up: everyone should read this. It's really solid, and I'm glad it won the Printz because I don't think I would have picked this up otherwise, and that would have been a shame.
Lang has somehow brought three seemingly unrelated stories together as a whole: one of the Monkey King, Chinkee the walking Asian stereotype, and Jin Wang, an American born to Chinese immigrant parents. While I'm still not 100% sure how I felt about the stories all converging together at the very end of the book (which I won't explain due to spoilers, but suffice it to say that it was kind of strange and was kind of jarring for me) the stories worked wonderfully on their own. They all had a common theme that wasn't preachy or in your face.
I was actually pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of the Monkey King's story. If you watch anime, people might immediately recognize some traits of the monkey king as familiar. A lot of manga writers draw inspiration from this story and it can be seen in characters such as Goku from Dragon Ball (who flies around on a cloud and has a staff that can extend indefinitely) and Goku from the manga/anime series Saiyuki (which draws even more heavily on the Monkey King's story, from him being trapped in a mountain to embarking on a quest to journey out west with a monk.) Anyway, it was great seeing the ORIGINAL story that inspired these characters, and it made me also mildly acquainted with the story from the get-go which resulted in me just having a lot of fun reading it.
The story of Chinkee was in equal parts horrifying and funny. Chinkee embodied every Asian stereotype I can think of (and a bunch that never even crossed my mind) and while it was funny in its satirical approach, it was horrifying because I'm sure people did and possible do still think that way.
I have to admit though that I found the art a little hard to get used to. There's nothing WRONG with it, but it's not a style I'm normally drawn to. It's very traditional in that it largely follows a four-panel layout, and that's fine, but the style itself is kind of -- I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like a jerk, but -- juvenile. And this really isn't just a story for younger readers. BUT, that's all just my personal tastes. There really is nothing wrong with the art, but I wanted to share my thoughts regardless.Final Verdict:
I really enjoyed this graphic novel. I found the ending, which merged the three separate stories together to be a little jarring, but regardless of that I would recommend this to anyone wholeheartedly. The art also wasn't entirely to my personal tastes, BUT STILL!! Read this. The three separate stories are really great, and relay a story about liking who you are and accepting your heritage without being preachy and in-your-face.