Thursday, June 5, 2008

Re-Gifters (reviewed by Laura)

Re-gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel (Minx, 2007)

re-gift –verb
1. to give an unwanted gift to someone else; to give as a gift something one previously received as a gift; also written regift

Dik Seong Jen (Dixie) has a spiky exterior–her spikiness is a defense mechanism guarding against her powerful emotions–as she puts it, “I don’t show it, but deep down I’m really a passionate person”.

For many years, she has loved hapkido because she is proud of her Korean heritage and because she needs the physical outlet for what she cannot express in words. More recently, she has discovered that she loves (or at least has a huge crush on) Adam Heller. This crush is so powerful that it’s throwing off her ki (”the universal energy that some call spirit”), and, subsequently, her ability to fight her best in hapkido. She has been ending up swept off her feet (in more ways than one) in sparring sessions with Adam.

Paralleling Dixie and Adam’s storyline is Dixie’s run-ins with Dillinger and his crew. Dillinger’s spiky exterior as the tough Hispanic kid is countered by his actions–he defends Dixie against his gang who have derided her heritage by telling her to “walk on the Korean side of the street” and he helps her practice for the hapkido tournament. Most importantly (at least for the sake of the book’s title), he plays a role in the re-gifting–the Hwarang warrior figure really makes its way around to sundry recipients throughout the book. By doing so, Dillinger helps Dixie to reboot her Korean American pride in who she is and to re-discover her ki.

Dixie’s crush on Adam causes her to misplace her passion for a time and to muddle her decision-making so that she stands in danger of losing her spot in the National Tournament and in danger of losing control. She also risks losing everything else she holds dear–her ki, her self-respect, her best friend, her pride in her heritage, and her family’s trust.

In the end, Dixie sees clearly what she has to do, “No confusion. No hormones. No need to think twice.” The story really moves–the illustrators’ masterful use of line makes the hapkido sequences look real and the apt character facial expressions and body positions say a lot without the text having to say anything. When the character’s are speaking, their voices are consistent with their personalities and depictions. Re-gifters is a fun story that speaks to family and cultural expectations, unrequited love, friendship, perseverance, and competition all wrapped up in a complete package to give to the graphic novel fans out there as well as to those who like sports and/or multicultural stories. Re-gifters is not likely to be re-gifted, although it is likely to be loaned out its fair share.

Visit Cynthia Leitich Smith’s site for more children’s and young adult books starring Korean Americans or my list for Korean American Juvenile Fiction (includes works by authors Linda Sue Park, An Na, Marie G. Lee, and more). I recently reviewed Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent about a Korean boy adopted into a family with Italian ancestry. For more on the Minx graphic novel line, visit DC Comics site and view its Minx information or peruse the Comics Worth Reading site and read reviews of all the Minx 2007 graphic novels.

Cross-posted on my blog ((actually awhile ago, but I'm just getting around to posting here too).


Alessandra said...

This sounds like a great book that I'd like to read!

Bybee said...

I'm interested in it as well because of the Korean connection.

Nymeth said...

I hadn't heard of this book or author before, but it sounds great!