Book Review: Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Saints cover imageFour-Girl would like to win the approval of her grandfather, who as head of her clan has deemed her so unlucky that she is named only by her birth order. No matter how she tries, her efforts go to waste.

Her encounters with an acupuncturist in another village expose her to a foreign priest and other Chinese people who have converted to Christianity. When life becomes too difficult in her home, she flees to a Christian orphanage for help. Four-Girl begins to have visions of Joan of Arc, and she believes that like Joan, she is called to do great things.

But when the Society of the Harmonious Fist surrounds the area she lives and threatens to kill all the Christians inside, Four-Girl must decide if she will stand with the Christians who have taken her in or against her countrymen.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel that examines life in China during the late 1800s in the context of the Boxer Rebellion. With his companion book, Boxers, Yang considers both sides of the conflict, where even the royal family was divided as to whether to follow the old ways in China, the side embraced by the dowager Empress, or allow foreigners to convert the people to a new religion and open China up to outside influence. The prince favored the latter approach.

Together these two volumes examine not just the historical event, but the forces that drive people to either embrace something radically different or rebel against it. I recommend them for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up.

The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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