Image: A girl with long dark hair and a school uniform kneels and punches the ground. A red and orange ball of fire glows behind her as rocks fly up from her fists. Text: "A demon invasion is no excuse for bad grades. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. A novel by F. C. Yee."

Young Adult Book Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee


Synopsis

Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.

But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches.

Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.


Details

  • Title: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
  • Series: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, Book 1
  • Author: F. C. Yee
  • Cover Artist: Vincent Chong, illustration; Alyssa Nassner, design
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • ISBN: 1419725483
  • Publication Date: August 8, 2017
  • For Ages: 13+
  • Category: Young Adult
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

Review

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo starts off at 70 mph and never slows down. It’s a thrill ride fueled by adrenaline and snark, with intriguing characters and a magnetic heroine. Genie is a strong-willed, hot-tempered high school sophomore. She does everything she can think of—like getting perfect grades, volunteering, and using her above average height and strength to destroy opponents on the volleyball court—to boost her chances at getting out of her hometown and into Harvard. When an unusual new student shows up in class, however, she learns that she has a destiny beyond the Ivy League: the gates of Hell have been breached, and she is fated to use her otherworldly gifts to help Sun Wukong the Monkey King (AKA Quentin, her new classmate) defeat the escaped demons and save the world.

Though the story moves lightning fast, the characters—both mortal and immortal—are richly drawn and create some interesting and surprising dynamics. Genie’s relationship with her dad is especially rich and complex, changing over the course of the story as Genie’s perspective evolves regarding free will and her priorities in life. The book also tackles questions of morality and duty, using the Chinese pantheon to make some intriguing points about how much we owe to each other (and to ourselves) and what it really means to be human.

Genie’s struggles with body image, racism, and her ability to be “good enough” affect both her mundane life and her demon-slaying duties in ways that will ring true to a lot of people. Genie attends a competitive high school in Silicon Valley, and despite her constant striving for the perfect college-ready résumé, she finds out from her admissions counselor that she doesn’t have a good shot at getting into Harvard. In a devastating moment, she realizes that her counselor’s college contacts told her that “there’s only so many Bay Area Chinese they’re willing to take.” And Genie’s self-consciousness about her height affects her ability to access some of her mystical powers; this reluctance to take up any more space than she already does was a painfully familiar feeling to me, as I’m sure it will be to many people (especially people of color) who have been told that they’re “too big” or “too much” for the world.

Genie faces all these obstacles and more—seriously, she has to fight a LOT of demons—with fierce determination, brave introspection, and rapid-fire sarcasm. She’s a memorable and fascinatingly human character, and I’m excited to say that I have absolutely no idea what she will do in the sequel. I can’t wait to find out, though. With thrilling action and a hilarious voice throughout, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a fun ride and a perfect summer read.


Rating

So many demons! I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins


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