Book Review: American Born Chinese
by Jack Alessi
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. It puts a twist on the classic story of an adolescent trying to fit in and be accepted despite his or her differences. The difference between this novel and the many stories similar to it is that it covers three seemingly separate stories. Of course they will eventually collide, but how?
The story deals with the concept of people of Chinese descent living in America and the challenges they face with fitting into normal American society without losing the connection they have with their homeland and culture. More specifically, it is about middle school and high school aged kids facing these challenges as opposed to adults. The tried and true formula works somewhat. The theme is clear and easy to relate to for those who may be facing the same issues. However, it is quite predictable (until the ending), and just not very interesting to read about. Girl problems, problems with fitting in, and problems with parents are written about so often that it isn’t very exciting anymore to read about, and that makes the novel difficult to enjoy for those who can’t exactly relate to the character’s lives and struggles.
The three separate stories are not confusing, as it may seem. However, one of the stories seems like pointless filler and the other two seem unrelated for the larger part of the book. The story of Chin-Kee (yes, that is his real name) provides some humor that breaks the monotony of the book, but at points seems tasteless and mind-numbing. The story of Jin Wang is the “main” story, but its importance seems reduced by the constant setting and character changes to a separate plot.
Despite its awkward format and the fact that the plot leaves something to be desired, the story does have its moments, whether it be through its clever illustrations or humorous wordings. It is also satisfying to read the ending that ties everything together, and it adds some purpose to the three separate stories. While I would not recommend the book to most readers, adolescents struggling with fitting in and having problems with race and culture will most likely enjoy the book it is so relateable, and all readers may find some humor in the book despite its flaws.
Jack Alessi is a BHS News contributor