Published August 8th 2017 by Amulet Books
Format read: ARC via publisher
Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.
Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…
Because that was pretty much how I finished The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. This is a debut novel that only meshes essential Chinese culture and tradition, but also manages to be witty and entertaining as hell.
Debut author F.C. Yee introduces us to Genie, a tall, academically driven and sporadically awkward Northern Californian, who is not feeling too pleased about Quentin, the new kid in town. Because Quentin isn’t just weird, he also happens to be Sun Wukong, a fabled Chinese monkey antihero, who also brings demons and chaos to Genie’s small town.
There are many things to love about Genie Lo, beginning with Yee’s integration of Sun Wukong in the book. Early on, Quentin describes Sun Wukong as being well-regarded in China as Batman is in the Untied States, which is absolutely true. I grew up watching an old, obscure 1986 Chinese series about Sun Wukong and the Journey to the West, so it was nice seeing how effortlessly Yee has brought the (hero of many young childhoods, into YA mainstream.
(Because let’s face it, how you can not love a monkey who gets the best of all the gods?)
Outside of the incorporation of Chinese mythology, Genie’s story is a solidly heartwarming fish-out-water tale, without any of the usual recriminations or hesitations that come with such a journey. Genie’s different from the get-go, and she accepts it. It’s a difference that she wields effectively, particularly after she starts coming into her own destiny as a demon hunter.
Though Yee’s characterization of Lo is occasionally a tad light sometimes – her journey is more of a snapshot of her life, verses a thorough look at the inner workings of her life – it totally works, given the context of the story, and the zippiness of Yee’s writing. He nails Genie’s sarcastic, funny voice with aplomb, and also builds a credible secondary cast that is bitingly funny, and charming, to boot. There’s also definite care in how Yee chooses to define how Lo has become the person who she is now – a sidenote about her father was touching – and makes the story even richer.
The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which suggests that there are more books to come. I can only hope that’s true – Yee has built a fun, fascinating world, which deserves plenty more future visits.
All in all, I highly recommend The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, full stop.