Happy New Year! I will soon start talking about the new and shiny 2019 titles but before that, I thought I should talk about one last title from 2018 that I think deserved more attention, the delightful and fun The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee.
I only found out about this novel when I was googling F.C. Yee after it was announced he is writing a novel in the Avatar the Last Airbender world about Avatar Kyoshi (BE STILL MY BEATING HEART). I read about The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, thought it sounded cool, and to my utter pleasure it was better than I was expecting. It is in fact, one of the best, most fun books I read last year.
Inspired by the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, it follows the adventures of Eugenia “Genie” Lo, a Chinese-American teen who one day discovers she is one of the legendary Monkey King’s companions of old, reincarnated and memoryless. She learns this when Quentin Sun, the obnoxious teenage manifestation of the Monkey King himself, shows up at her school to tell her that she is the only one who can help him save the world.
Exactly just which of his companion she turns out to be is not only a cool twist but also part of what makes this story so exciting, adding a welcome facet of self-determination and agency to Genie’s arc.
And what a great arc it is! It is one that involves not only learning how to use her fantastical powers (she must save the world from a plethora of demons bent on killing the Monkey King, who had previously imprisoned them), but also one that involves making hard choices and trade-offs. Genie learns about the place of women in the myths, about being an empowered being with duties (with great power comes great responsibility), and about gatekeeping and the fairness (or unfairness) of heavenly beings.
I love that there is a great physicality to Genie’s powers (the epic crush is an actual thing in the novel) as well as a good amount of philosophy about how to use them. This is a rich novel in so many ways: it is diverse, it is fun, it is funny, it is thought-provoking and it also includes a great deal of personal development for Genie when it comes to her family, her best friend, her school/academic life.
Not to mention Genie’s wonderfully dry, snarky narration: Her voice is one of the reasons the story works so well, especially when it comes to the love-hate relationship and her out-of-this-world chemistry with Quentin.
I truly, epically loved this one—and I am super grateful that 1) Avatar Kyoshi’s story is in good hands and 2) I have more Genie Lo to look forward to as there will be a sequel, The Epic Will of Genie Lo. The only thing that is not epic is that there is no release date yet.
In Booksmugglerish: 9 epic crushes out of 10.