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.
After finishing this book, I 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 Ma. The 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
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
- 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.)