The Painted Boy

The Painted Boy

4.6 14
by Charles de Lint
     
 

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Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family's restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan-part human, part dragon, like his grandmother-he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal

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Overview

Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family's restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan-part human, part dragon, like his grandmother-he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay's heart. He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly-and very human-challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be. This is Charles de Lint at his best!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the American Southwest, de Lint's latest successfully blends Chinese and Mexican legends. Jay Li seems like a normal kid from Chicago, but he has a painful secret. At age 11 the image of a dragon suddenly appeared on his back and his grandmother Paupau, the family matriarch ("She's kind of like Marlon Brando in The Godfather"), revealed to him that they were both dragons. Now, however, he has dropped out of school and, with Paupau's encouragement, taken a bus across the country to the town of Santo del Vado Viejo. There he is pursued by gang members who work for the mysterious and possibly supernatural gang lord, El Tigre; Jay must make peace with the local otherworldly beings, master his powers, and defeat El Tigre. Although this contemporary fantasy is a bit talky (perhaps exacerbated by the journal Jay begins partway into the novel, through which he occasionally adds his first-person perspective on events), de Lint (Dingo) is a dependable performer, and this multicultural fusion of a gritty, modern setting with mythological elements should find fans. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Denise Hartzler
The Painted Boy, James Li, also known as, Jay is a 17-year old high school boy who was born into the Yellow Dragon Clan—a mystical family inheritance. Jay is a Chinese American transplanted from Chicago's Chinatown to the Arizona desert. The title comes from the dragon "tattoo" on his back, which emerged from his skin when he was eleven. Being an actual dragon, Jay is sent on his quest to protect mankind leading him to Santo del Vado Viejo, a town overrun by gangs. Once he arrives in town, he is on the run. The gangs mistake him for a member of a Chinese gang and chase him through town but Jay quickly disappears. Bearing witness to the chase, Rosalie takes him in. She befriends Jay and gives him a job in her uncle's restaurant and provides him a place to live. Life finally feels normal to Jay. However, after a few weeks, it becomes clear that he is there to discover his dragon nature and to free the town from the gangs. Encounters with the "cousins" (animal spirits in human form), the gang leader El Tigre, and the mysterious Rita move Jay into an uncertain future that he only half understands. Jay not only has to survive in the human world but also has to prove his worth to the Yellow Dragon Clan. Readers will delight in this moderately paced novel about power and responsibility, finding purpose in helping others, and self-sacrifice. Reviewer: Denise Hartzler
VOYA - Kevin Beach
Jay Li discovers at age eleven that he is destined to become a Yellow Dragon, an ancient clan of human/dragon guardians. Like his grandmother before him, he must go on a quest to discover his purpose and develop his powers. His journey takes him to a small town in the Arizona desert, to a small barrio overrun by gangs and inhabited by members of other animal clans. There he angers rival gangbangers and must face a series of dangerous challenges both in the physical and the spiritual realms as he struggles to contain his newfound and ever-growing powers as a dragon. Entwined in this story are his feelings for a young female musician and his desire to complete high school. Jay grapples with normal teen feelings as he also deals with the supernatural laws of the dragon clan. Can he keep the small town crime free and also keep his sanity? This is another well-paced urban fantasy by a popular and prolific author. All of the characters are well developed, and the story is a fast-paced read despite its length. While it may have one too many endings, fantasy genre readers will delight in this likable new hero and the unexpected Latino vibe of the setting. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—De Lint returns to the imaginary location of The Mystery of Grace (Tor, 2009) in this novel set in the American Southwest. Jay Li is a 17-year-old Chinese American transplanted from Chicago's Chinatown to the desert. The title comes from the dragon tattoo on his back, which emerged from his skin when he was 11. Jay is a member of the Yellow Dragon clan, and, thanks to a mystical family inheritance, an actual dragon on a quest to protect mankind. His quest leads him to Santo del Vado Viejo, a town overrun by bandas, gangs, where he is taken in by Rosalie and Anna. Shortly after his arrival, it becomes clear that he is there to discover his dragon nature and to free the town from the gangs. Encounters with the "cousins" (animal spirits in human form), the gang leader El Tigre, and the mysterious Rita move Jay into an uncertain future that he only half understands. The novel travels back and forth between omniscient narration and Jay's first-person journaling, and while the threads work together, they are sometimes repetitive and oddly juxtaposed. Minor discordant notes regarding cultural and local knowledge may jar readers familiar with the geographic areas or cultural communities; the mythologies of both Chinatown and Santo del Vado Viejo seem superimposed on the locales instead of emerging organically from them. Characterizations are sketchy, making it difficult to invest emotionally in the players. The moderate pace does not negate the dramatic action, however, and that may be enough for de Lint's fans.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL
Kirkus Reviews

A disappointing effort cobbled together from a number of mythologies and cultures, overlong and underimagined. Jay Li is a dragon: He looks like a 17-year-old Chinese American from Chicago, but, like his grandmother, he is a Yellow Dragon, which is the image that covers his entire back and grows with him. His grandmother has trained him hard but inscrutably, and she approves of his dropping out of high school and moving to a border town in Arizona, though he does not know why. There Jay finds work at a Mexican restaurant that feels a lot like his parents' Chinese restaurant. The town is held hostage by bandas—gangbangers—and several murders among his new acquaintances allow Jay to summon his inner dragon. He also touches the spirits—called the cousins—of fox, snake, coyote and jackalope in the desert and in el entre, the between. It's a mythos mashup, sometimes in Jay's whiny, adolescent voice and sometimes in that of the omniscient narrator, and there is too much telling rather than showing. De Lint is usually much better than this. (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670011919
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
11/11/2010
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
8.78(w) x 11.80(h) x 3.15(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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