The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – Chinese folklore + A protagonist that slays schoolwork AND demons = My new favourite book

Summary:

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

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…

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

After finishing this bookI thought to myself, certain as hell: No book has never EVER made me this happy. Do you know those books where you felt like it was written for you? The Epic Crush of Genie Lo felt like that book for me. Yes, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is my new favourite book! But not as in, five star tier favourite. I’m talking about, forever in my heart tier of favourite (I even made a Goodreads shelf for this).

When I first heard about this book in January this year, I was beyond ecstatic. It was pitched to be about a girl, ‘who wonders if she’s qualified enough to gain admission to an Ivy League school, then becomes powerful enough to break through the gates of Heaven with her fists’. How cool is that? I read this book with the highest of expectations; I felt like my hopes and dreams were riding on this book. And oh boy, this book and Yee delivered and surpassed all expectations that I had.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a seamless combination of action, folklore, romance (yes, romance!), and comedy. It follows sixteen year old Genie, who, like some sixteen year olds, are thinking and aspiring to get into a top-tiered college to secure her future and success. From this fact alone, I related to her instantly: here was a character who, like me, was working hard to get into a good school. It’s such a mundane, everyday aspiration, but it matters so much, and how much it matters shines through in Genie’s narrative. However, things get very interesting following the arrival of a new transfer student, followed shortly by demons straight out of Chinese folklore. Suddenly, Genie has to balance maintaining her high-achieving streak at school and fighting demons. Why does she have to fight demons though? You’ll have to read to find it – and I promise the reason why is bloody awesome.

I grew up with Chinese folktale stories. I remember going to my grandparents’ house and watching Doraemon (I know Doraemon is Japanese, but still!) and the Journey to the West cartoons (even though I had no idea what was going on because I couldn’t understand Mandarin, but the images were good enough) and learning about Nüwa, Chang’e, or Kwan Im MaThe Epic Crush of Genie Lo incorporates a certain folktale into its story, and for those who are familiar with it, you’ll begin to pick up on the small clues throughout the beginning. However, if you’re not familiar with the folktale, don’t worry – everything will be explained (and, might I add, it’s explained brilliantly)! Reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo was such a pleasure and a wonderful experience, particularly so for me and other readers familiar with the original folktale, because it gave this small memory of my childhood a renewed sense of meaning. Not a lot of books can do this, but The Epic Crush of Genie Lo sure as heck did that for me.

Genie was such a fantastic character, and I related to her so much. Not only was her narrative voice hilarious and so charming, she was angry. I was an angry teen, and when that anger is confounded by other things like confusion and uncertainty for the future and the heavy cultural expectation of being restrained in emotional expression, I was as ripe as volcano ready to explode. In this sense, Genie’s perspective was so refreshing. And, of course, Quentin: the strange but charismatic transfer student who becomes so much more in unexpected ways. I adored the relationship between Genie and Quentin; it was developed, funny, and they made such a dynamic duo. The other characters in the story were warm and funny in their own ways and I loved getting to know them. Furthermore, the family dynamics were a rare gem – complex, thoughtful, and a little tongue-in cheek. 

But my goodness, Yee’s storytelling was what made this story so stellar. As mentioned earlier, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo has elements of comedy, and that shines through in the storytelling. Where there was exposition, it was done in a way that was absolutely hilarious and fun to read; no one moment of this book was boring. I cackled so much while reading it, and even shared some snippets with my family who – despite how stoic some of them are! – laughed as well. Perhaps it’s strange to say, but the comedy felt like a small part of home – whatever that is – familiar, warm, and a little nostalgic. Moreover, if you have geeky or nerdy humour (like I do!), then you’ll appreciate the small references throughout. Truly, the writing in this book was fabulous. I enjoyed reading this book so much.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is as its name suggests: Epic. Easily one of my favourite books this year – and is definitely in my top two books, ever – The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a unique and fantastic book that I never knew I needed. I am so grateful for this book’s existence, and I am so excited for everyone to read this awesome book. Don’t sleep on this book, everyone! Read it now, thank me later.

Rating: 5 / 5

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A girl’s life gets turned upside down following the appearances of a new transfer student and demons from Chinese folklore in her town, and she becomes more powerful than she could have ever imagined.

Perfect for: Readers who grew up with Chinese folktales and mythology or would love to learn more about it, who love comedy, action, and a purely fun book.

Genre: Young adult, fantasy/mythology, comedy, action

Recommended? ‘If I could ask you to read one book, ever, it’d be this one‘-level yes.

Trigger/content warnings: None


Let’s discuss!

  • What were some folktales or stories that you grew up with? Has someone done a YA retelling of them?
  • Are you going to read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? (Tbh there’s only one right answer. 😘)
  • What is your favourite book of ALL time? (Because Genie Lo may be mine, equal to Not Your Sidekick.)
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34 thoughts on “The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – Chinese folklore + A protagonist that slays schoolwork AND demons = My new favourite book

  1. I love anything that has to do with mythology, especially the Greek gods. Do you have any other recommendations that has to do with mythology? In that genre, so far I’ve only read Percy Jackson. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo seems really interesting; has to be put into my tbr list. Favorite will always go to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I’m looking to add something alongside that. You’re review has me excited about all of mythology.

    • Hi there!
      Hmmm let’s see:
      – Timekeeper by Tara Sim incorporates a bit of Greek mythology, but it isn’t a big part of the book.
      – There’s also Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland that centers of Greek mythology as well.
      – The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi incorporates elements of Hindu mythology
      – The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho is also a good one too, has Chinese mythology.

      I hope that helps!

  2. I just finished reading this and really liked it, as well. I haven’t read Journey to the West, but I know enough about it that the mythological elements made sense to me, and I liked the mix of demon fighting with high school concerns about college admittance.

    • Hello Briana!
      I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it too!
      I liked that combination too. I feel like with a lot of these teens fighting to save the world, school fades into the background – but not for Genie Lo, which I loved so much.

      • Exactly! I also think it was a realistic depiction of what some students go through to get into college (though, naturally, that’s not everyone’s experience). A lot of YA seems to gloss over the college application process, and suddenly the protagonist is being accepted into Harvard, Yale, and Princeton as it wasn’t hard and they didn’t need to put much effort into getting to that point.

        • You can say that again! Getting into university was such a big and significant part of my life, and I wish YA books reflected that. But I feel like The Epic Crush of Genie Lo represents that experience reasonably well. 💛

  3. AWWW I love reading reviews of books people have fallen in love with <3 <3 And this looks so amazing! I don't know how a lot of teenagers in books save the world and yet still do well at school without going half the time. Which is one of the reasons why I love Harry Potter, haha. MUST READ THIS ONE.

    • Hi Emily!
      Heheheh yes I am head over heels for this book. I love it so much!
      Haha right?! I feel like with a lot of such books, school fades into the background, but Genie Lo balances both. It’s wicked awesome.
      I hope you get a chance to read it! It is sooo good and I cannot recommend it enough!

  4. I’m so, SO happy you loved this book so much – it made me even happier to read this review because I can feel ALL the love for this book in it <3 I've been curious about this one ever since you mentioned it on Twitter a little while ago and now it's a yes, yes YES, I should add this to my TBR right now. Thank you for the beautiful review! :)

    • Hi Marie!
      Aw, thank you!! I’m so happy you felt that love because this book means so so much to me.
      YAY I hope you get a chance to read it! It’s very fun and very funny and I think you’ll like it if you feel like something a little different and entertaining.

  5. Of COURSE I’m going to read Genie Lo it sounds amazing! It was already on my tbr but you made me want to run to the bookstore and pick it up. Except I doubt they’ll have it since I live in The Netherlands and it’s not really a popular book #rip. Hopefully I’ll be able to find it online (once my book buying or actually buying anything ban is over 😂)

    I always love reading your reviews because they’re interesting to read and well-written, but your love for this book shined through and I’m so happy for you that it resonated so much with you!

    • Hi Michelle!
      YAY! So happy that you want to pick this book up! It’s not out til the 8th of August, but I’m going to preorder sometime between now and then. I hope you’ll be able to find a way to read it though!

      Aw, thank you so much! I’m so glad that my love for this book shines through in my review – that’s what I was going for and I’m glad. I hope you get a chance to read it! It’s truly a fantastic book.

  6. I have to read this book now. I marked it as tbr when I saw fangirling about it on Twitter but this review makes me want to pick this up ASAP! Thanks so much for pinging this on my radar 💕

    • Hi Marianne!
      Awww thank you! This book really did make me happy and I felt like I was reliving my childhood in a new way, you know? I hope you get the chance to read it, Marianne! I love this book so much. 💛

  7. Honestly you already know my thoughts on this book BUT YES TO ALL THIS REVIEW. Yes to the spectacular story, spectacular writing, spectacular characters, and spectacular romance. This book holds a special place in my heartttt <3 I absolutely cannot wait to see where Yee takes us in the sequel.

  8. This is a truly epic review! I’ve never been so convinced to read a book from one review as I have with this one. It’s really great to hear that this is a fantasy YA where the protagonist still cares about school. It feels so important and makes the story more real because they are dealing with real and relatable things, and that always drags me deeper into a story. Also I’m a big fan of mythology even though I know very little (and even less about Chinese mythology in particular) but I’m excited to read more of it in YA so this sounds right up my street. Also I need more YA fantasy books in my life that *feel* different – with entertaining storytelling that doesn’t follow a pattern I’ve seen before. Genie Lo sounds like it might be one of those books for me.
    Again, amazing review, and I’m glad you have a new favourite book!

    – Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads

    • Hi Helia!
      Ahhhh I’m soooo pleased that you want to read this book even more now. 💛
      It indeed is a book unlike anything I’ve personally read. It balances a lot of elements together, and it definitely comes from a very genuine and authentic place.
      I think it’d be fun even though you aren’t familiar with Chinese mythology! The exposition is soo fun to read, and it’s hilarious too.

      Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy this book if you get a chance to read it! 💛

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