The Painted Boy
by Charles De Lint
published Nov 2010
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.
photo and summary from goodreads
Charles De Lint has been a favorite author of mine for a while now, and seeing this book on the shelf was the happiest surprise! He does a great job mixing fantasy within realism and he does not make a misstep in this one.
1. You know that saying from Spiderman that goes “with great power comes great responsibility” ? That same saying applies here. I think someone even brings up that Spiderman reference in the book! Anyway, Jay has great power and you get to see Jay grow as he understands his power and his responsibility.
2. It was cool to see Jay sort of glean bits and pieces from the different cultures mixed into this book. Jay is Chinese and moves to a dominantly Mexican town with a lot of grounding in Native American ideas.
3. One of the reason I love love love love Charles De Lint is because he suggests that life isn’t more than what we see. There is more going on underneath the surface of everything. It was cool to see the tensions in this book between day-to-day life and another magical world brimming next to it.
4. Set in a gang-ridden town there were a lot of interesting things about violence in here. This book wasn’t a preachy “DO NO HARM” kind of thing, but it was interesting (and kind of scary) to see what people were capable of and how everything is not necessarily black and white. Also, I found it fascinating to see the story behind why the gangs kept perpetuating.
5. There were a lot of cool quotes in this that I didn’t write down… So when you read this you’ll have to look out for them! Charles De Lint is super great with words (ha, I probably should have chosen a better descriptor for that sentence than “super great”), so not only are his descriptions breathtaking but he says a lot of cool truths about life and people.
Ultimate Review: If you’re looking for a book that will stretch the way you look at the world, this is a super great read to do that for you. Or, if you’re just looking for a book that’s fun to read you’ll find that here too!
My favorite books by Charles De Lint: The Onion Girl hands down. The Blue Girl comes next or The Mystery of Grace. His short stories are also beautiful too!