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.