Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Expected publication date: August 8, 2017
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…” (Summary found on Goodreads).
I received The Epic Crush of Genie Lo at Yallwest in an ARC giveaway and was also able to meet the author, who signed my copy! This trip to Yallwest brought me my first ARCs and I couldn’t be happier and more excited! I was a little wary about the summary for this book because it sounded like A LOT got crammed into something so small and it also appeared to be beyond ridiculous.
Ridiculous isn’t the word I’d use to describe it now. Maybe relatable or funny or epic (pun intended). I come from a high school very similar to Genie’s, with the majority of the students Asian (though I myself am Caucasian), a high amount of academic stress, and not really any free time to live our lives. Most YA books I’ve read don’t catalog these experiences accurately. Main characters are A+ students, but never study, and sometimes you never even see them take a class. They ditch school to make out and somehow never get in trouble. My school…it’s not like that. I’ve never seen something in a book that realistically portrayed the high school experience I’ve had. But this did it. Genie manages to kill demons, battle issues with her family and friends, and do college applications. She consciously worries about what her mom would think about her actions, such as a new tattoo appearing on her arm. Where has this book been my entire life?
I couldn’t put it down once I got into it. The plot was new and riveting. Everything about this book is unique. I’ve never read something with Chinese mythology before and I found it fascinating (though the long bits about the folklore dragged on occasionally), but it was slightly disconcerting to know what Genie actually was. For those who’ve read the book, you probably understand what I mean…
I also loved that the majority of the characters are Chinese because it’s not often you read a book like that. Most of YA is either diverse with a lot of different races (not bad!) or mainly white. This was exciting and refreshing. It’s such a breath of fresh air to read about a culture not like your own or not like what’s usually featured in novels.
These pluses come with a few faults though…
Yee’s novel lacked much depth. The biggest struggles Genie faced were friend problems, which felt more middle-grade in character. I’d say this book is for the younger end of YA, even if the readers wouldn’t relate to the school life. I also never really felt “high stakes” or threat to the characters. It just felt really immature at times and I was left underwhelmed. Maybe that was just me, so I wouldn’t take this review and not read it because of this. There’s a high-likelihood of liking it. It’s fun, adventurous, and exciting. It just wasn’t for me.
I also found the characters lacked development or anything to keep me attached to them. I didn’t care about Genie or Quentin (the only emotion I felt about him was ANGER–that dude does not understand boundaries). Genie seemed real, though, with her struggles and personality. I just didn’t like her. She was compulsive, irritating, and fiery. It seemed that anger bubbled off of her and she never failed to express her opinions about anything. Admirable traits, I will admit, but I couldn’t connect with her and I have never loved hot-headed characters. Maybe it’s because I do not relate–at all–because I’m far too logical for my own good.
I recommend checking this book out once it hits shelves! It might not have been my cup of tea, but I do not regret reading it. I still enjoyed it very much!