Friday, 11 May 2018

Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've shelved this as both "YA" and "supers", because the protagonist is 16 and the overall feel is of a supers novel. The youth of the protagonist doesn't at all mean immaturity, though, and the superpowers are connected to the classic Chinese "folk novel" Journey to the West.

I happened to read a version of Journey to the West recently, and it was interesting to see a modern disapora Chinese take on it. I have to agree with Genie Lo's assessment that Tripitaka was pretty pathetic.

Genie herself is the reincarnation of someone who features heavily in Journey to the West - exactly who is a surprise to her and to the reader, so I won't spoil it. But she is also very much a modern Chinese American teenager, dealing with parental and internalized pressure to excel, get into a good college, and get a good job, not least so that she can move away from the Bay Area and therefore her mother.

There is a minimal amount of high-school angst, which is kept in the background; Genie is not so much angsty as angry, and takes no crap from anyone, least of all Sun Wukong the Monkey King. Despite her attraction to him, which is leavened pretty strongly with irritation.

Her voice is a delight. "This was a car accident, and now burning clowns were spilling out of the wreckage," she remarks at one point. There are a good few unexplained Chinese terms; Wikipedia was my friend here, though I did read some of the book on a plane where I couldn't look up words and phrases on Wikipedia from my Kindle. None of the Chinese was essential to understanding the story, and the emotional tone of the reference, if not its exact meaning, was always clear from context.

The editing was mostly good, though a few more commas might not have gone amiss, especially to avoid "let's eat Grandma" errors. There were sometimes exclamation marks and question marks ending the same sentence; I put this down to voice, though it's technically questionable. Neither of these things diminished my enjoyment enough to drop a star.

Overall, the pacing was compelling; the balances and interactions between plot and character, high schooler and superhero, and eastern and western were well judged, and produced a book that had some depth to it; and I enjoyed the main character's voice so much that I felt five stars were justified.

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