ARC AUGUST Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Published by: Amulet Books

Date of Publication: August 8th 2017

Genres: YA Fantasy/Mythology/Re-telling

Pages: 336

Format: eGalley

*HUGE Thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and F.C. Yee for the eGalley of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo in exchange for an honest review

   

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…

This has to be one of the most fun and adventurous plots I’ve read all year long & I was so thankful for so many reasons! many have compared this to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series which I have much love for. I can say that there are some similar feels but that goes for much of mythology, we can always find similarities. For me, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo stands apart for the following reasons:

1. A relatable Chinese-American heroine who is first and foremost just a student in High School trying to get into an Ivy League College before she starts juggling school & slaying demons

2. The story originates from the Chinese tale Journey to the West telling the story of Sun Wukong aka The Monkey King…I love all re-tellings however, I have never come across Chinese Folklore in Young Adult so this was a MUST READ!

3. The inclusion of Chinese culture specifically as it pertains to education and expectations. The pressures at home to over achieve bore so many similarities to those in Latinx culture. The fact that Genie wasn’t a child prodigy, she simply didn’t have a skill to set her apart in college applications & that alone made her very relatable…

The opening has us meet Genie Lo as she is meeting Quentin aka The Monkey King for the very first time. She witnesses him getting beat up by a group of guys in an alley & intercedes. She doesn’t know what to think of him when he shows up as the new kid in her class who just won’t let up on following her around. He speaks oddly enough but more than that, it’s what he is saying…he speaks of a greater power lying within her. Genie is someone who believes in Science and the things he is saying & more so doing are supposed to be impossible. Quentin doesn’t give up until he has made her question all that is real. Encounters with demons that leave her fighting for her life make her realize he isn’t lying and that the world may very well be in danger. Embracing her new found powers, Genie sets about to restore normalcy in California one demon at a time…

Genie Lo stole my heart with her sass but it’s the temper when she thinks you’re trying to take a jab at her that really made me care for her. She’s very self aware and makes no apologies for what sets her apart. Described as being very tall with a body that isn’t considered very feminine, Genie plays to her strengths. She’s part of a volley ball team not because she’s very good at it but because it’s a sport where her body is an asset & it looks good on college applications. Her moments of honesty really resonated with me & my own memories of High School. In Genie I saw a lot of my own self & it was refreshing seeing her not trying to change who she is for anyone.

Quentin aka The Monkey King got a ton of laughter out of me! he dished out as much sarcasm as he got from Genie. I enjoyed the moments where he pointed out all the hoops students had to jump through just to get a higher education. He of course is a supernatural force & school is not really an obligation lol. Quentin teaches Genie to fight all the while knowing he hasn’t told her the full story of who she really is…

Yunie-Genie’s BFF has to be one of the best BFF’s I’ve come across in YA! she is HILARIOUS!!! & also has no hairs on her tongue. She had me from the moment she referenced her Ovaries upon seeing Quentin’s handsome self walk into their classroom smh HAHA!

Genie’s Mom is by no means what you’re probably used to seeing from parents in Young Adults. As a matter of fact, she reminded me of my own in many ways. Genie’s mom is a single working mother trying her best to keep her daughter goal driven. She also doesn’t have any chill when speaking her mind & seeing her conversations play out with Genie felt familiar. Her heart is in the right place, she just has high expectations for her daughter. There are some moments when she speaks about Genie’s appearance that may make some uncomfortable, for me this was very relatable coming from an old school home that encouraged education but also an ideal marriage. Genie fortunately has tough skin & knows that her mothers ideals aren’t her own & loves her nonetheless.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is fun, adventurous, packs a punch, and will leave you rooting for this heroines victory! The time I spent in its pages sparked so much interest in the Chinese tale from which it was inspired that I found myself researching on the side for my own growth. This is when I know I’ve come across a good book, when it leaves me wanting to dig deeper. This book was highly enjoyable while still imparting the reader with an inside look to a small aspect of Chinese culture. I was also a big fan of the humor throughout, so many LOL moments that I truly lost count (like I said, a very fun book haha). I also enjoyed the progression or development of Genie & Quentins relationship all throughout. It felt more realistic to go from truly not trusting Quentin to friends to something more than just friends. I only docked it 1 star because the writing in the beginning felt like it was trying to find its footing. It started off with a very middle grade feel and towards the middle/end, it makes its mark as Young Adult. I’m very much looking forward to more from this author who lends an authentic diverse voice to this genre.

*Please check out these Own Voices reviews: Read Think Ponder & One Way or an Author

Hello Readers! yesterday was Genie’s Book Birthday, did any of you get to grab a copy? & if you’ve already read it please share some non-spoilery thoughts down below 😉


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Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

*HUGE thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and Riley Redgate for the eGalley of Noteworthy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

In another case of “The Goodreads Blurb Does It Best” lol, I’ll try my best not to reiterate what’s listed above. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate is one of the most unique Young Adult books I’ve come across in a long time. I knew I had to request it when I saw it pop up on Netgalley simply because I am a big fan of the Pitch Perfect movies & most recently the Pentatonix. As a matter of fact I am listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Pentatonix while typing up this review 😉 Acapella as a whole has always interested me possibly because as mentioned in this book, there’s humor in it. The idea of a student cross dressing in order to join a all male Acapella group & leading a double life…sounds exhausting no? Jordan Sun manages to pull off try outs for Kensington’s uber popular & exclusively all male Acapella group the Sharpshooters securing the 8th spot in the group.

She goes on to live on campus as both Jordan and Julian successfully since for the most part, she has no friends on campus. After her in school boyfriend broke up with her, Jordan realized that she had made him her center focus & that with him gone, she is pretty much alone on campus. Jordan has a small group of gal pals back in California, but life in New York attending Kensington Blair has pretty much isolated her from them. Attending Kensington also hasn’t been without it’s challenges, Jordan’s parents are struggling to keep food on the table & we see her spend holiday breaks alone on campus to avoid burdening her parents with the cost of travel. Jordan’s dad is also disabled & the subpar healthcare system in the United States is briefly touched upon. We see Jordan going through her day to day routine while handling the very sobering reality that is her financial situation.

“The problem was the money this place asked us to drop on textbooks and supplies, even those of us on financial aid. A lot of other boarding schools were adopting full-ride scholarship options that paid for books, travel, laptops-the whole deal. Kensington hadn’t caught on yet. Every semester, I calculated my textbook costs, usually three or four hundred dollars, and prayed it was offset by the money my parents weren’t spending to feed me”

In getting accepted into the Sharpshooters as Julian, she finds a home away from home with a distinct group of guys. We get to see Jordan’s perspective as “one of the guys” when she’s dressed as Julian. Jordan’s insider pass grants her access to male friendships & bonds as well as the first stirrings of sexism in young males. As we see Jordan grow accustomed & more comfortable living as Julian, we see her question her sexuality & identity. Noteworthy touched on so many subjects that are not written about as much in YA making it a much more relatable read.

Noteworthy has to have one of the most unique and awesome cast of characters in YA at the moment…I’ve convinced myself of this lol. Starting with our main protagonist Jordan aka Julian a Chinese-American student attending a boarding school in NYC, I’ll be honest and say that it took me a bit to warm up to her during the beginning chapters. I almost felt like she was in a haze going through every day life which I pinned most of on her stress levels lol. It was hard to connect with her in the beginning but then you see her start to develop & show her personality and I started to look forward to her coming & goings. She does mention that as Julian, she feels a confidence that is missing as Jordan. The Sharpshooters are as follows:

Trav- leader of the Sharpshooters, also composes pieces for the group & takes his position very seriously (barely cracks a smile lol)

Jon Cox- is your typical popular guy with good looks & a little muscle only he is described as having an operatic voice

Mama or Theodore-My 2nd fave, Theodore was given the nickname Mama for his tendency to clean. He is described as a big lovable guy who also happens to be Jon Cox’s roommate & best friend. He’s described as having the type of deep voice you’d find in movie trailers

Nihal-hands down my FAVE of the group! Nihal is also a Tenor 1 like Jordan, he introduces himself as being Sikh & not Muslim, Indian & from Jersey who wears his turban. Nihal is very outspoken, sarcastic (LOVE!), and loyal

Isaac-Trav’s right hand man, is described as being a tall man bun rocking type of guy. He’s lively & often times the glue that holds everyone together

The 2 Rooks aka Freshmen Erik & Marcus- these 2 guys get stuck with all the grunt work since they’re freshmen & pretty much operate as one.
Riley Redgate gave each of these characters a distinct voice making it very easy to follow each one & learn their individual character traits. All very well fleshed out, these characters were a ton of fun 😉
 With Noteworthy, Redgate has gifted the YA genre with a magically diverse book. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel reading about a cisgender character cross dressing. These concerns are addressed when Jordan thinks of the Transgender community and how they’d feel if her secret of cross dressing for a spot in the group were to be revealed. In many ways, this book felt very much aware of the tough topics it was trying to grasp. I appreciated that it included many issues that we often do not see in YA such as socioeconomics, Healthcare, and disability as it pertains to the head of household. I also really appreciated the Chinese-American cultural experience we got a glimpse of through Jordan’s character. The fact that this is a Own Voices YA book only added to my love for it. On another note, I do wish that Jordan’s sexuality was explored a bit more because we were seeing her question her sexuality as well as the gender she identifies with.  This is one of the reasons I docked it a star, Jordan’s development towards the end felt unaddressed. The other reason would be strictly pacing which was a bit slow in the beginning. I’ve heard other readers say that Noteworthy is a much quieter read than it appears & I’d have to say that I agree. Around the 40% mark it does pick up & maintains until the very last page. I highly recommend Noteworthy to lovers of diversity & Acapella 😉

Have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy of Noteworthy?  if you’ve already read it, which character was your favorite? and why? <3<3<3