As you well know, I’ve introduced a steady supply of graphic novels in my reading diet for the past few months and I’ve been enjoying the regular break from straight text. But because I still haven’t acquired the taste for graphic novels involving multiple volumes (except for Fables, which I’m planning on collecting via the annual deluxe editions), spandex-clad characters or ka-pow effects, I’ve been seeking out one-volume graphic novels to add to my growing collection.

I came across Re-gifters on BookMooch, looked it up and saw that it’s gotten good reviews, and had to have it shipped to my mom in California (because the moocher only sends to the US) and then waited for her to come home before I could get my hands on it. It turned out to be worth all the trouble!

Re-gifters, a graphic novel by Mike Carey, illustrated by Marc Hempel and Sonny Liew, features Dik Seong Jen, a.k.a. Dixie, who kicks major ass in the Korean martial art of hapkido in inner-city LA.

Dixie is the daughter of a proud Korean immigrant family that barely gets by, but her parents scrape up enough funds to send her to the hapkido dojang, because they believe in the importance of keeping their ethnic tradition alive in their children.

Dixie shows high promise in hapkido training, but is distracted when she develops a crush on a fellow student named Adam. When the big hapkido tournament comes up in their neighborhood, Dixie blows her $100 entry fee on an extravagant birthday gift for Adam. This opens a whole can of worms for Dixie, as the entry fee was hard-earned by her parents; her family, her hapkido teacher, and their Korean community are counting on her to make them proud in the tournament; and she wants to prove herself in hapkido as well.

It’s definitely a lot for a girl to handle, but Dixie has a few more tricks up her sleeve, and readers will read panel after panel in this delightfully quirky comic to see how Dixie sorts it through (and you’ll find out why it’s entitled Re-gifters somewhere along the line).

I liked Re-gifters because it’s not your typical coming of age story; I like the fact that it gives us a peek into a different culture, and shows a teen trying to balance  staying true to her roots with teenage issues, like love and friendship.

Dixie makes a great “spiky” heroine:  tough talking, with  a volatile temper to boot, but she manages to stay likeable because the introspective development of her character gradually strips down her tough exterior and shows us what she feels inside: giddyness around Adam, guilt at getting to go to hapkido while her younger siblings have to make do with old toys because there’s no money left over for new ones, fulfillment from hapkido training, concern for her best friend Avril — the whole spectrum of teenage emotions!

I also like the message it sends to young girls on self-confidence, family, friendship, and dealing with teenage crushes, without being preachy or too cute about it. The story is simple but engaging, and even in black and white the illustrations appear to jump out of the page.

Dixie kicks ass, and she’s not even wearing any spandex! Yay!

***

Re-gifters, trade paperback, 5/5 stars

Book #49 for 2010

[amazonify]::omakase::300:250[/amazonify]