TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel, "American Born Chinese," won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. The Printz Award was created to recognize excellence in teen literature, and "American Born Chinese" is the first graphic novel to win this honor.
The novel features three seemingly unrelated stories that intersect in really interesting, unusual ways. The first story revolves around the Monkey King, who according to Chinese fable ruled all the monkeys on Flower Fruit Mountain. Here, the Monkey King is furious after he's refused entry to a party of the gods because, as a monkey, he doesn't wear shoes. In the course of transforming himself into a deity, the Monkey King gets so wrapped up in his own arrogance that he ends up trapped for hundreds of years at the base of a mountain. Meanwhile, we watch as Jin Wang, who was born in San Francisco, enters Mayflower Elementary School as only the second Asian child in his class. Jin encounters open prejudice from his classmates, who taunt him about eating dogs and having buck teeth. As Jin ages over the course of the story, he reluctantly befriends a student from Taiwan (whom he derisively calls an "F.O.B." — fresh off the boat), tries to make himself more like his white classmates, and falls for a white girl named Amelia. The third seemingly parallel story involves a white teen named Danny and his horror and embarrassment when his Asian cousin Chin-Kee — a character who embodies every awful Asian stereotype — comes to visit his school.
To be honest, I'm not sure if this was in fact the best teen novel of the past year. Having said that, it's certainly a unique, funny, touching story of being different. The artwork is very well done, and some of the wry expressions on the characters' faces made me giggle out loud. Like me, I think most readers will be quite satisfied with the way the three individual stories eventually merge together. I would recommend this book for all readers in middle school or higher, regardless of whether they're already graphic novel fans.