Double Review: Gene Luen Yang graphic novels

9781596432352
Level Up
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
Level Up tells the story of a first-generation American whose father wanted him to go to medical school, which he struggles against the whole way. Four angels/spirits come to talk sense into him and he attends med school. But one night he snaps and the angels turn into Pacman ghosts and he is Pacman. Upon eating each ghost, he unveils a layer of his father’s desire for him to go to medical school, and he continues. However, Dennis is very talented at playing video games and eventually drops out of med school to make a living at playing video games. By the end he discovers a way for his video game skills to assist him in med school and realizes that he wants to help people. Yang’s simple text along with sparse drawings by Thien Pham makes this a quick, easy read but a powerful storyline and a new twist on the “my parents are forcing me to live their own dreams” experience.
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American Born Chinese
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
American Born Chinese has a similar feel, with fantastical elements from Chinese culture in the story of the Monkey King to help along the main character’s development. Jin Wang wants to reinvent himself between junior high school and high school as Danny, but finds fitting in difficult with the yearly visits from his overly cartoonized cousin Chin-Kee. I found it a little hard to follow, even when the storylines converged, but it was enjoyable. Again, Yang’s simple text, accompanied by illustrations by Lark Pien, made for a quick read (though I was bogged down a bit in the Monkey King scenes – maybe it would have been easier to follow if I were already familiar with the fable).

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