A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that F.C. Yee's The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is an urban fantasy set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where an overachieving high schooler discovers she has supernatural abilities to slay demons from Chinese folklore. The violence includes several battles between the protagonists and the demons they must slay and keep away from innocent humans (including a young child) that the demons want to consume. There's a smattering of strong language ("a--hole," "s--t," "douche bag") and a couple of kisses and discussion of romantic feelings, but it's all within the range of what middle schoolers can handle. Readers will learn about Chinese legends and mythology, including the Monkey King, the Jade Emperor, and various demons.
What's the story?
In THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO, 16-year-old Genie is determined to get into a top-tier school (Harvard, Yale, or bust) with her meticulous resume: straight As, regular volunteer work, a starting position on the varsity volleyball team. One day Quentin Sun, a handsome new Chinese student, appears at her San Francisco Bay Area private school and makes a stunning proclamation to Genie: "You belong to me." It turns out that's the truth, because Quentin's actually Sun Wukong, the immortal Monkey King of Chinese lore, incarnate in the form of a gorgeous (but short, since Genie is six feet tall) teen guy (complete with a hidden furry tail). And Genie, it turns out, is the reincarnation of his oldest friend. There's been a jailbreak in the Chinese hell for demons, and the demons are beginning to flock to the Bay Area -- precisely because of Genie and Quentin. Although Genie initially thinks Quentin is a delusional stalker, she eventually comes to terms with the truth (thanks to an earthly visit from two ancient gods) and agrees to join Quentin on his mission to defeat the bloodthirsty demons who want to feast on human flesh.
Is it any good?
Debut author F.C. Yee's urban fantasy is an entertaining page-turner steeped in Chinese folklore and set in the familiar, ultra-competitive world of overachieving San Francisco Bay Area teens. Genie is a hilariously confident and hot-headed protagonist. And while she's aware that on paper (in other words, a college application) she might seem like just one of thousands of Harvard-hopeful Asian teens, the author never reduces her to a two-dimensional stereotype. She might have been getting "perfect scores" since she was in utero (seriously), but Genie is not perfect. Her flaws are part of what make her such a well-rounded, complicated character. She wants to please her parents and get into a prestigious college, but she also wishes her mom would stop hounding her. She's not above being envious of her petite, beautiful, violin-playing prodigy of a best friend, Yunie, who's also Asian and whose full name is Eugenie, like Genie's is. And though Genie certainly has game on the volleyball court, she has no idea how to deal with the ridiculous romantic chemistry between herself and Quentin (yes, the Monkey King is sexy).
Speaking of the Monkey King, he's cocky but caring, and as Genie describes him "hot and infuriating and oddly supportive of [her] feelings." While his potentially romantic relationship with Genie might momentarily seem off-putting to some unfamiliar with Chinese folklore, it's just like the many best-selling paranormal love stories involving human characters who fall for shape-shifters, werewolves, vampires, fae, demigods, etc. Not to mention that Genie is not the average college-obsessed super student. She's supernatural, too, and in a way that makes her connection to Quentin completely, well, natural -- and for once it's refreshing to see sparks fly between a short guy and a tall girl. Yee manages to keep the expository passages fun, so those who have no background knowledge of the legends and fables will catch on quickly enough to understand what's going on -- even if they can't pronounce all the demons' names. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo works as a stand-alone, memorably amusing read. But fans can take heart: A sequel is in the works.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Is it suitable to the story and period setting?
Discuss the difference between urban fantasy set in the contemporary world and fantasy set in alternate universes or historical settings. Do you prefer one kind over the other? How is urban fantasy unique?
The majority of the characters are Asian, and the book explores themes and stereotypes about Asian teens and their parents. Does the fact that the author is Asian affect the book's authenticity?
- Author: F.C. Yee
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Friendship, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Amulet Books
- Publication date: August 8, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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