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Monday, October 12, 2015

Wonderfully Weird Graphic Novel by Gene Yang!

Yang, Gene (2004) Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order  San Jose, CA: SLG Publishing.

Opening Lines:  "Food is the key to dreams.  I first realized this at Maggie Johnson's fourteenth birthday party last year.  We stayed up until four in the morning gorging ourselves on oreos, potato chips, and cottage cheese."

Loyola Chin, a sophomore in high school finds that by experimenting with what foods she eats before bedtime, she can go different surreal vivid places in her dreams.  She eventually discovers that when she eats cornbread before bed, she goes to a high mountaintop and meets a kind of spiritual guide named Saint Danger.  Saint Danger shows her how to look out at the world from the mountaitntop and discover things that are actually happening, like her friend Maggie out on a date with the boy she likes: Devon.  Saint Danger seems nice, if a little odd.  Meanwhile, Maggie has a falling out with Devon, and, needing a ride home, offers to help Gordon, who has always wanted to date Loyola.

This is where things get a bit odd.  Saint Danger tells Loyola that when she wakes up, she needs to plug the television into her nostril.  She does and a robot takes her to the Order of San Peligran, which Saint Danger is the leader of.  She meets him for real, instead of in a dream, and they kiss.  While Gordon tries to figure out how to get her attention, Loyola starts to suspect that Saint Danger may be out to destroy the world.

If that plot summary seems very odd, that its because it is.  But underneath the dreaminess and confusion, it is the story of a nerdy guy who loves a girl who doesn't notice him because she is in love with someone else.  And in the end, it is quite a wonderful book.

If you have read Yang's American Born Chinese or The Shadow Hero or Boxers and Saints and enjoyed them, and if you have an offbeat sense of humor, I would encourage you to have a look.  Or if you have students who fit the above description, you might get this book for your classroom library.  There are a couple of moments when Loyola's flirting with Saint Danger gets a little suggestive, it is not the sort of thing most parents would object to.  Young readers who are not so creative in their sense of humor, though, will probably have trouble getting into this one.  While some very bright middle school readers would like this one, it is probably best for high school.

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