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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

China,1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers - commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from "foreign devils." Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little…


by Gene Luen Yang

Overall Book Review:

Gene Luen Yang’s simple artwork and poignant writing style combine to tell the little-known story of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in a unique and moving way. This story is violent, but Yang’s gift of storytelling with images and words portrays wartime cruelties in a sensitive way. Readers may feel disturbed by the story, but these are not images that linger or damage; rather, they convey difficult ideas and events with true grace.

Don’t miss Boxers’ companion novel, Saints, to learn the other side of the story. With this alternate viewpoint, we learn that there are no winners in war. Boxers and Saints is a bleak look at religious fervor and the lasting damage it can inflict. 

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  None

Violence/Gore:  Characters slap each other on the face and head (10 times); characters punch each other in the face (2 times); characters tussle and fight with no injuries or minor injuries (2 times); a character returns from a trip with a bloody face; a character is held at gunpoint; characters’ homes are destroyed by a flood; characters are hit in the head with small rocks to get their attention (4 times); characters practice Kung Fu on each other (3 times); a character is kicked in the head with no injury (2 times); arsonists burn homes as punishment to lawbreakers; a character is struck in the back with a stick; soldiers carry a rebel’s head on a pike from town to town; in several extended scenes (3-6 pgs), characters fight, blood is spilt, characters are pictured dead in pools of blood, and bloody swords are shown (7 times); a sword comes down to kill a character (out of frame); a character scratches another character’s face;; a character is pistol whipped; a character is killed with a bloody sword slash to the neck; characters frequently refer to alleged practices of their enemies, including grinding up of human eyeballs for medicine and the use of menstrual blood in war rituals; a person is stabbed to death; a character is shown run through on a pike; a character is poisoned to death; a character is held at knife-point; a character comes out of an alleyway alone with a bloody sword, implying that he killed another character; a character is killed by an arrow to the head; characters set fire to a building filled with people (4 pgs); characters are found dead in pools of blood; bloodstains are seen on the ground; a character is found badly beaten and cut; a story is told in which a character martyrs herself and donates her eyes and hands to a loved one; several people are shot to death; a city is destroyed by fire; a character has his head held under water; a building on fire collapses–a character is known to have been inside; in an extended scene (4 pgs), several characters are shot to death and are shown lying in a pool of blood.

Sex/Nudity:  Characters hold hands; characters hug briefly; a character kisses another character on the cheek; two characters kiss briefly; a character thinks about women; characters are admonished not to think about women; a sexual allusion is made.

Mature Subject Matter:

Gambling, death of family members, political intrigue, war, natural disasters (flood and famine).

Alcohol / Drug Use:

A character is known to be a “drunk.”

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother would often find me curled up in a corner, avoiding chores with a book–or two. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a large selection of YA books. I had children’s books and adult literature to choose from. I’ve come to love YA fiction as an adult and read almost nothing else when I read for pleasure–any genre will do.