Akata Warrior Book Tour + Giveaway!

AkataWarrior_BlogBanner“To learn is to live.” – Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

You know a book is amazing when days later, you’re still living in it. I love it when the book I’m reading becomes a part of my life, when the world is so immersive and the characters are so incredible and the story refuses to let you go. I truly feel like I’m living another life and for that space of time that book becomes my other reality. And now I am lost, having finished Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor.

Continue reading “Akata Warrior Book Tour + Giveaway!”

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Favorite Alex Rider Gadgets – Never Say Die Blog Tour

fullsizeoutput_1b22.jpegWhen I was in middle school (and some of high school), I used to be absolutely obsessed with spy / heist books. I loved them so much! Gallagher Girls, Heist Society, and of course the British teenage spy Alex Rider. I think he was actually one of my first book boyfriends. Lol. So you can imagine how sad I was when the Alex Rider series ended in 2011 with Scorpia Rising . . . and you can also imagine how I died when I found our Anthony Horowitz would be releasing a new Alex Rider book this year on October 10th! Then I got invited by Penguin Teen to participate in this blog tour for Never Say Die and read the book, got to the end, and died again!

So in honor of the 11th Alex Rider book, I thought I’d talk about 11 of my favorite Alex Rider gadgets, because how can you be a spy without the coolest gear ever? (Review at the end) Continue reading “Favorite Alex Rider Gadgets – Never Say Die Blog Tour”

Diversify the Verse

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 4.33.18 PMWe are now going into our fifth month of Diversify the Verse and I’m now just getting into talking about it on the blog because I’m terrible. Some of the material is recycled from our Instagram, but I wanted to also talk about my perspective and experiences on reading diversely. I know diversity in literature is also a very sensitive topic so if you have differing opinions, I encourage you to engage in a conversation with me if you’re inclined, but please be kind.

What is Diversify the Verse?

Diversify the Verse is a book club created by me and Alex  (@TheBooksBuzz) based on both Instagram and YouTube. Each month we read a diverse book, so a book with diverse characters (POC, disabilities, mental illness, LGBTQIA+, etc.), or a book written by an author who would identify as diverse, or an own voices book. On Instagram we give book recommendations for whatever diverse theme our book fits into all month. Then at the end of the month we host a live show on YouTube and discuss!

This whole idea came about because Alex and I are both booktubers and we were inspired by the Booksplosion book club run by Christine, Jesse, and Kat on YouTube and the idea of doing a live stream discussion about our monthly book. We wanted to do something different from them and we are both such huge advocates for diverse books, so we thought we’d combine the two and out came Diversify the Verse.

There are so many different kinds of books out there because there are so many different kinds of people. We hope that through this book group, we can inspire readers to pick up a book they wouldn’t normally lean to and learn something new whether it’s about their own culture/background or someone else’s.

Why should we read diverse books?

Diversity in books, movies, tv, and everything, just embracing diversity in life, is really important to me. As an Asian-American growing up, it was always really tough to find books with Continue reading “Diversify the Verse”

A Day in the Life of a Music Major


I love being a music major. I love music and it’s incredible ability to bring people together and to tell stories. I love that music allows me to be creative and expressive. I love performing and being on stage. I love the community music fosters. But I’m not going to lie, people don’t give music majors enough credit. My fellow classmates are some of the smartest, dedicated, hardworking, loving, and open people I know. When they say STEM majors require a lot of work, I could bet you that music majors are putting in even more time into their practice and studying. As a computer science double major, I, myself, would say I put in more time into music than anything else. So I just wanted to write a post about what my daily life was like this past spring semester and specifically, I’m a Bachelor of Music: Performance Major studying piano.

The thing about college is that you don’t usually have the same classes and schedule everyday. At my school we mainly have Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes and then Tuesday, Thursday classes. With my insane 20 credit load (16 is average), my schedule was all over the place, but I’m going to give an example of my average Wednesday (my busiest day) and my average Thursday.

Wednesday

6:30 AM – Wake up

6:50 AM – Eat breakfast while making lunch

7:15 AM – Leave the house and drive to school Continue reading “A Day in the Life of a Music Major”

Spring Reading Wrap-Up!

20 books, not bad. This spring semester of university was absolutely insane for me and I was in a reading slump and a life slump, so I’m actually surprised I got 20 books in between the months of February and May and I loved all of them. Most of the books I actually read during May, which is kind of funny since that’s when finals are, but I did a lot of binge and marathon reading.  A lot of these books are actually rereads and I’ve reviewed them in the past either in a blog post or in a YouTube wrap-up so I’ll add the link for those. And also, you can find more information about how I review on my about page.

(RR) = reread

Fantasy / Dystopian:

Winter – Marissa Meyer img_7614

Review in February Wrap-Up Video (7:10)

Wintersong – S. Jae-Jones 4

I think my favorite part of this book is the world it’s set in. It’s so alluring and enchanting and immensely dark, which I guess is why it’s so alluring and enchanting. The story and the characters on the other hand . . . there were many parts that kind of confused me and parts where I was like “why?” and Liesl really annoyed me because she just kept measuring her self-worth based on others opinions of her, which I guess was part of her arc, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle whenever she’d start talking about it again. But in the end this book really broke my heart and I did enjoy it and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Continue reading “Spring Reading Wrap-Up!”

Books for Writing 1 : Crafting Characters

A piece of advice I’ve gotten from pretty much every author who is asked how to become a writer is to read as much as you can. Although most of the time I’m searching for another answer since I’ve heard it so many times already, I have to agree that it’s good advice.

I always find it really helpful to have books I can go to when I’m having writer’s block or if I’m writing something I just have no idea how to approach. I also find that after reading certain books, they find their way into my own writing somehow and help transform it. A friend of mine asked me to help her edit the novel she’s working on and I found myself frequently recommending books that have similar elements to her story or are good examples of things I think would help her writing. So I thought it may be fun write a post sharing some of the books I like to go to when I need help with all of you. I’ll try my best not to spoil anything.

Because there are so many influential books that come to mind, I’ve decided instead of writing one super extremely long post, I will write multiple long post. I am by no means an expert in writing in any way, but I wanted to also include some of my own tips for whatever subject the post discusses. Feel free to comment your own or let me know if any of this is at all helpful. 🙂


Crafting Characters

If I were to talk about what I think are my strengths and weaknesses, crafting characters would probably would fall under both. In some of the stories I’ve written, the characters just come to me. I have their whole history figured out, their relationships with others, their likes and dislikes, their voice. In others, it takes me long while to figure out who they are. I’m a big pantser, meaning I like to write without an outline, and most of the time the characters will reveal themselves to me as I continue to write.

Although, one of the things I did do when I started my latest fantasy novel is make character charts for my three leads, which I should really update because now there are arguably 4-5 leads. On this chart I list their age, appearance, qualities (negative and positive), skills / abilities, fears, ambitions / wants, background / history, important people in their life, and their family. Admittedly, I’ve forgotten to look back on it, but I think it was really helpful in the earlier stages when I had no idea really what my book was going to be about.

Another thing I did with this fantasy novel was create character playlists, which I may share with you later (I’ll link it here if I do). In this book there is the protagonist, I’ll call her MC, then there is the prince, and then there is the other guy. For MC and the other guy, it was easy. MC gets a lot of power, dark. and angry music, so a lot of Fall Out Boy, Sia, and Halsey to name a few. For the other guy, he gets some overlapping angry music, but a lot of break up / sad love songs. Poor guy. So he gets FOB, Adele, Troye Sivan. Then for the prince, I still am working on his playlist, but he’s got Mumford & Sons and Green Day so far.

If those doesn’t work, all I can say is just keep writing. Eventually you’ll figure it out. 😉 Now onto the books!

Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi:

  • Juliette’s transformation throughout this book is just incredible and not only do we see it in the things she does and says, but we also see it in the writing. We meet Juliette at the beginning the series when she’s been isolated in prison for 264 days and is bordering on losing her sanity. She’s very afraid and kind of filled with guilt and self-hate, but throughout the series we see her grow and transform into a strong and confident leader.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken:

  • This is another series where the main character transform from a very afraid, very quiet, very broken person in the beginning and finds so much strength throughout the series. Ruby’s character arc and her growth does not happen without set backs. There are many parts in these books where she closes herself off and she makes some not so great decisions, but I greatly admire how Alex was able to create and develop such a complex character.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas:

  • This is the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, but I’ve chosen this book because Feyre’s transformation throughout it is so inspiring and so well done. I’ll try spoil the books for you, but at the beginning of this book Feyre is going through some really serious PTSD and a lot of guilt. She really is not in a good or healthy place and she’s really broken but throughout the book she begins to heal. She begins to find herself again and love again. Even in life, I find her strength inspiring. All the things she’s endured, all the things she’s overcome, reading her story, even though it’s fictional, reminds me of the strength we all have to persist and carry on and succeed.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:

  • The characters in this series have my heart and so does Leigh Barudgo’s writing. One of the things I love the most about this book is how we are introduced to the characters. The main cast is built from six different people, all criminals, all morally gray, and all with very complex pasts. I love how as we read, their histories are slowly revealed to us and in such an organic way. It’s like flashbacks but the flashbacks are so seamlessly woven into the story that you don’t even realize you’re being taken out of the present story line, if that makes any sense. Either way, it’s genius and has been a great help in my own writing.

Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas:

  • I know for some people, they feel like the characters have changed too much throughout this series, that in the later books, they seem like they’re not the same characters at all, but that’s what I really like about Throne of Glass. Five books, six including the prequel, have been released for this series and so much has happened since Throne of Glass. To me, I would be surprised if our characters stayed the same, so that is why I’m also including this series under character development. I think what SJM excels in general at creating characters. There are so many characters in this series, a huge main cast, and also many supporting and minor roles, but somehow she’s able to make them all very individual and unique and complex. It’s something I find really interesting and something I really admire, the fact that she can have so many characters in this series and still get them all straight. Also, I know it’s not the same for everyone, but I’m genuinely interested in all the characters. For some of them, it took while for them to grow on me, but by book 5, I’ve really developed a love for all the main cast and I feel no urge to skip over any of their POVs.

Thank you for reading! Next up, I’ll talk about beginnings!

Love Always,

Belinda

 

Winter Reading Wrap-Up!


This is so overdue but I wanted to do a wrap-up of the books I read over my winter break between Fall and Spring semester. So in total, I read 15 books from mid-December through the end of January. I honestly enjoyed all of them and gave them either four or five stars.

Some of these have I’ve reviewed on my Top 16 books of 2016 so I will link those to that post. Most of the other books I’ve also talked about in my January Wrap-Up video on YouTube. You can find more information about my reviews on my about page.

Fantasy / Dystopian:

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell img_7614

City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare img_7614

The Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling img_7614


I finally read the first Harry Potter book and realized that I really have been missing out all these years. I really enjoyed reading this book and the gorgeous illustrations in it. It was so cute and fun and now I finally understand some of the HP world!

Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs img_7614

I really enjoyed this end to the trilogy. It’s probably one of my favorite endings because it was absolutely perfect! This may also be my favorite of the three books. I loved how we get to explore more of the relationship between Emma and Jacob. I also loved where Jacob’s character arc went. We get seeing him grow and really embrace his role as a leader and protector of Peculiars. Also the setting was really interesting in this book. They venture into Devil’s Acre which is a punishment loop and seems to be a place filled with every terrible thing that Ransom could come up with, but it was loads of fun to read.

Empire of Storms – Sarah J. Maas img_7614

This book was a roller coaster of emotions and feels! I loved it! I have my book talk linked if you want to watch me talk about my thoughts…and practically summarize the entire book.

The Young Elites – Marie Lu 4

Finally after all these years, I’ve finally read The Young Elites series! I really enjoyed these books. The first one I thought was okay, I just couldn’t really connect with the characters and I felt like I couldn’t grasp who they were. But most of that changed with the Rose Society, and The Midnight Star completely destroyed me. I finished it at 2:30AM one night and was sobbing. They’re so different from anything I’ve ever read because it takes anti-hero another level and I have never read a book where I feared all the characters to some extent. Adelina, Enzo, Teren (*shivers*), Giulietta, Maeve, they’re all terrifying. But I think what I loved most about this series was how morally gray everyone one was. No one was innocent, no one was inherently good, and that was so interesting to read. The world was also just wonderfully crafted with it’s own mythology, history, literature, and art.

The Rose Society – Marie Lu img_7614


The Midnight Star – Marie Lu img_7614

Passenger – Alexandra Bracken img_7614


I reread Passenger in preparation for Wayfarer because I’m so terrible to remember what I read and honestly, the first time I read it, I got confused every other page. And whenever things started to make sense, I’d turn the page and be confused all over again. This time though, I absolutely loved it! I feel like all I do on Bookstagram these days is talk about this series. This time around, I just realized how much I love the writing style. Crazy things happen as Etta, our protagonist, is thrown on a treasure hunt through time in order to save her mom, and I love how the writing allows us to see everything going through her mind. It’s detailed and sometimes slows down the pace, but I love how it makes everything feel so real. I also am in love with Nicholas Carter. He is a dreamboat!

Wayfarer – Alexandra Bracken img_7614

Wayfarer I think was even better than Passenger. I absolutely loved it. So much happens in this book and we get to see so much character growth in everyone, including Sophia. We also get to meet some new characters and travel to amazing places. And the ending is wonderful! I only wish this series was longer because I’m already missing everyone and this incredible world of time travel.

Scarlet – Marissa Meyer img_7614

I really love the Lunar Chronicles series. So many great characters with a diverse cast and a setting that brings the reader around the world and into space. At first I was hesitant about whether I’d like these new character since even though Cinder and Kai continue to be main characters throughout the entire series, we add in Throne, Scarlet, and Wolf in this book, but I grew to really love them. Thorne is hilarious. He’s rather incompetent and slightly pathetic and a such huge flirt, but he’s so much fun! I love how strong of a character Scarlet is, strong, smart, and incredibly brave. After her grandmother gets kidnapped, she sets out to rescue her. And Wolf, although menacing and huge, is such a softy who loves Scarlet’s homegrown tomatoes. I absolutely love him!

Cress – Marissa Meyer  img_7614

Sci-Fi:

Gemina – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff img_7614

This was an audiobook reread because I absolutely love this series and the audiobooks are incredible. They’re voiced by a huge cast and we also get sound effects and even music in this one because of the annoying Lollipop song. lol. It took me a while to connect with the new characters Hannah and Nik, but I grew to love them and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next!

Contemporary:

Royally Screwed – Emma Chase 4

Ghost – Jason Reynolds img_7614

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw is a young black boy running away from life, the past, and bullies at school, and ends up joining the track team.  Ghost is a boy who tries to do the right thing, but somehow ends up always doing the wrong thing as he tries to navigate life. But throughout the book he learns from it and he begins to grow up and gain confidence in himself. I loved all the characters and how family is redefined in this book. Ghost’s mom, Coach, and Mr. Charles are all incredibly supportive and loving, as are the friends he makes on the team. It’s so honestly written with important themes and filled with Ghost’s hilarious narration. And after recently reading All American Boys, I will just read any book written by Jason Reynolds.

 

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

Love Always,

Belinda ❤

Royals & Rogues : Fairyloot November Unboxing!

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When I found out that the Fairyloot theme for November 2016 was Royals & Rogues, it immediately captured my attention. They they hinted that it would include items from Throne of Glass, A Court of Mist and Fury, Red Queen, and The Wrath and The Dawn, and decided I had to have it. But by the time this realization dawned on me, they sold out. Luckily I randomly got up at four AM the morning single boxes came on sale and was able to snag one. 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the unboxing:

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The first item is a Queen of Books mug designed by Read At Midnight and I absolutely adore it! Right now it just sits on my shelf, but I’m hoping to actually use this mug in the future with the tea they included in the box. Named Royals & Rogues, it’s loose leaf Earl Grey from The Tea Leaf Company and they even included filters. I’m a tea lover, even though most of the time I’m to lazy to make it, but I didn’t have Earl Grey in my collection before, so I’m really happy to have received it in this box. Now I can make London Fog tea!

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And I think Read At Midnight also designed our bonus art print inspired by Wolf by Wolf! I haven’t read the book but I absolutely adore this print.

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Next there is the beautiful  Calipha Pocket Mirror designed exclusively by Bookworm Boutique! It’s inspired by The Wrath and The Dawn which is one of my favorite books ever (I’ve linked my review of it). I’ve dropped this mirror at least three times already and it’s fallen from the top of my bookshelf a couple times and it’s still in one piece!

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From one of my favorite book series ever, Alexis Lampley exclusively designed a Queen of Terrasen notepad for Throne of Glass. I don’t really use notepads for some reason, so I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but the art is beautiful.

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The item inspired by A Court of Mist and Fury, aka the book that destroyed my life, is a gorgeous tote designed by Lovely Owls Books, and it features one of my favorite quotes from the book. “That I will bow before no one and nothing but my crown.” Oh Rhys, how I love you!! Now I’m about to cry, just thinking of him. lol. I also don’t really use totes, so it’s just sitting in the box right now with most of the other items, but it’s so beautiful.

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Lovely Owls Books also designed one side of the Red Queen print, which says “Rise as red as the dawn.” The other side features wonderful artwork by Book Otter.

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And lastly is the November book Nemesis by Anna Banks! I admit, I wasn’t originally going to read this book, but upon re-reading the synopsis and now owning it, I’m so excited. I love history and this book is inspired by King Tut and it’s high fantasy with magic, mystery, romance, and action.  Included in the box is the book, a letter from the author, a drawing of a parani, and a book plate. And inspired by this book we received a scented spectorium soap crystal made by Craftyragamuffin, and it smells wonderful!

 

Here’s everything all together:

For my first Fairyloot, I’m really satisfied with everything in the box and the incredible kindness and service of Anissa and Michael. I’m not sure when I’ll be ordering another because I will say there kind of expensive, and shipping is insanely so, and I have no idea what I’ll really do with a bunch of bookish merch,  but I loved it!

Until next time, love,

Belinda

 

Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch


“People Come to Italy for All Sorts of Reasons, but When They Stay, It’s for the Same Two Things…Love and Gelato”

This book wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I liked it. I thought it was going to be a super cute and fluffy summer read that takes place in Italy, but it actually turned or to be kind of a mystery. Obviously, I didn’t read the synopsis carefully enough.

In Love & Gelato, Lina’s mom’s dying wish was for her to get to know her father so she moves to Italy for the summer to live with him. There, she is given the journal that her mom kept while she was studying in Florence and along with a boy named Ren, she sets out to figure out what went wrong all those years ago for her mother to leave.

I found the plot really intriguing. Because of the journal, it was almost like reading two stories at once, the present day story of Lina and the past story of her mother and I loved being able to see Florence through both of their eyes. While Lina is trying to solve the mystery of the journal, it also brings her all over the city and on a day-trip to Rome. I loved that element of adventure and I just loved seeing the culture there, because without a doubt my favorite part about this book was the setting.

I loved being able to read about the Italian countryside, Florence, the food, the language and the lifestyle. Every time a place is mentioned I’ll look it up and it was so much fun being able to experience Italy through Lina’s eyes. It definitely makes me want to live in Italy for a while or study abroad there.

Lina, I think was a great protagonist. She’s definitely still dealing with the grief of losing her mom and adjusting to the idea of actually having a father. But she is also very funny at times and she’s very curious and motivated. I did get a little frustrated with her at times because she would read a journal entry and all of these questions would arise that she would try to make sense of and she’d go out and get answers, but if she would just keep reading, I’m sure she would’ve gotten some answers… or she could’ve just asked Howard…

Ren is adorable. I like how he’s just that boy next door, but he’s also very fun and caring. He welcomes Lina into his group of friends and helps her out with the mystery of the journal. I think the romance between Lina and Ren is really genuine and I loved seeing it develop.

But I think my favorite character is Howard, Lina’s dad. He’s super adorable and he cares so much about Lina. He really tries to help her and get to know her. At the same time, he’s super over protective about boys and it is hilarious to see him and Ren together.

In the end, I kind of wished we got a little more, like an epilogue, or even a sequel. I felt like the book took place in such a short time span, and I really wanted to see more of Italy and more of Ren and Lina together with their friends. Some of my favorite scenes were of them with Ren’s friends because they come from all over the place and they have a really interesting dynamic. I’d like to see how their relationship develops and how Lina’s relationship with Howard develops.

So my rating for this book would be 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed it. It makes a great summer read, but at the same time I felt like some aspects could’ve been developed more.

Love, Belinda

American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang

 “It’s Easy to Become Anything You Wish…So Long as You’re Willing to Forfeit Your Soul”

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The first time I was ever assigned a book in school with characters I could relate to was in tenth grade. The book was American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Since then, I’ve read it another two times and met the author. As I get older and read it again, I’ve been able to pick out new things and find myself relating to the story in different ways.

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that tells three stories. One hails from the Chinese fable of the Monkey King who no longer wants to be a monkey, but a deity. Another is the story of Jin Wang, a child of immigrants, who moves to a new neighborhood where he’s the only Chinese-American student. The third story is about Danny, a white, blond haired, popular kid, who feels embarrassed and humiliated by the annual visits of his cousin Chin-Kee, a character who personifies multiple negative stereotypes about Asians. While the three stories seem independent, they slowly begin to parallel and intertwine was the book unfolds.

The story is told as a graphic novel, allowing Yang to play with different forms of storytelling through colored illustrations. The Monkey King is a kung-fu master. Multiple panels illustrate him practicing or fighting in the style of superhero comics, complete with sound effects and colorful backgrounds. Danny and Chin-Kee’s parts are reminiscent of television cartoons. The first time we’re introduced to their story, a title page with Chin-Kee’s head and the words “Everyone Ruvs Chin-Kee” appears as if introducing a cartoon. Yang then opens and closes each of their sections with wide location shots, underlined with applause. Chin-Kee’s panels are also underlined with laughter or applause. I think these styles add variety and set a distinct tone for each section. They definitely make it more entertaining to read and bring the characters to life.

A major theme of American Born Chinese is the pressure to assimilate. At the beginning of the book, the Monkey King is rejected from a party thrown by the gods just because he’s a monkey. He returns to Flower-Fruit Mountain humiliated and begins working on transforming himself to fit into their society under his new title of “The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven.” This pressure is also seen in Jin’s story. He begins to pack sandwiches to school after being bully about dumplings and tells Wei-Chen, his new classmate from Taiwan, to speak English because he’s in America. Reading these scenes stuck out to me because going through school, I definitely felt the pressure to assimilate. Consciously and unconsciously, I tried to fit in with my peers. I don’t remember facing blunt bullying about how I looked or things I did differently like Jin or the Monkey King, but there’s always that voice at be back of your mind telling you those are the reasons why the other kids don’t want to be around you. As the targeted audience is young adults, I think the book does a good job portraying what it is like to grow up as an Asian-American or what it’s like to grow up period.

American Born Chinese also centers it themes on stereotypes surrounding the Asian demographic. The character Chin-Kee embodies a multitude of stereotypes from his name, a homonym for the derogative name, “chinky,” for Chinese people, to the way he is illustrated and the way he talks and acts. About halfway through the book, I started to find it painful to read. Yang assaults you with all of these stereotypes to the point where you question if they actually exist, but the reality is that they do. I’ve seen them in real life, heard them used as humor on television, and I’ve heard them said to me. I think this book tackles stereotypes in a way that makes you confront them and I think it’s an important message for everyone to learn the impact they can have on others.

American Born Chinese, without a doubt, is my favorite graphic novel. I think it wraps important messages about stereotypes and racisms in a great coming of age story that is very accessible to younger audiences and will make an impact on older audiences. It’s a quick and fun read that I encourage everyone to read. On my third read, I would still give it 5/5 stars.

Belinda