This month we’re bringing you the first chapter from F. C. Yee's THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO. It's the pick of our our guest curator Kate Havas because:
The book is fresh, comedic, action-filled take on urban fantasy that incorporates the Chinese folklore of the Monkey King in a completely unique way.
Genie is a strong and insightful heroine who excels at both school and smashing things. If you're looking for a smart and angry girl, look no further.
The sparkling, irreverent voice sets you up for multiple laugh-out-loud moments. Thanks to the delightful tone, it's a quick read and breath of fresh air.
Will it be love at first chapter for you?
Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.
But when her hometown comes under siege from Hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches.
Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.
So I didn’t handle the mugging as well as I could have.
I would have known what do to if I’d been the victim. Hand over everything quietly. Run away as fast as possible. Go for the eyes if I was cornered. I’d passed the optional SafeStrong girl’s defense seminar at school with flying colors.
But we’d never covered what to do when you see six grown men stomping the utter hell out of a boy your age in broad daylight. It was a Tuesday morning, for god’s sake. I was on my way to school, the kid was down on the ground, and the muggers were kicking him like their lives depended on it. They weren’t even trying to take his money.
“Get away from him!” I screamed. I swung my backpack around by the strap like an Olympic hammer thrower and flung it at the group.
The result wasn’t exactly gold medal–worthy. The pack, heavy with my schoolbooks, fell short and came to rest at one of the assailants’ heels. They all turned to look at me.
I should have made a break for it, but something froze me in place.
It was the boy’s eyes. Even though he’d taken a beating that should have knocked him senseless, his eyes were perfectly clear as they locked on to mine. He stared at me like I was the only important thing in the world.
One of the men threw his cigarette on the ground and took a step in my direction, adjusting his trucker cap in a particularly menacing fashion. Crap, crap, crap.
That was as far as he got. The boy said something, his words lost in the distance. The man flinched like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and then turned back to resume the brutal pounding.
Finally my legs remembered what they were good for. I ran away.
I should have been worried that the assault and battery would turn into outright homicide, but I kept going without looking back. I was too freaked out.
The last sight I had of that kid was his gleaming white teeth.
“You shouldn’t have bothered in the first place,” Yunie told me in homeroom. “He was with them.”
I lifted my head up from the desk. “Huh?”
“It was a gang initiation. The older members induct the new ones by beating the snot out of them. If he was smiling at you the whole time, it was because he was happy about getting ‘jumped in.’”
“I don’t think there are gangs that hang out in the Johnson Square dog run, Yunie.”
“You’d be surprised,” she said as she thumbed through her messages. “Some areas past the Walgreens are pretty sketch.”
Maybe she was right. It was easy to forget in the bubble of Santa Firenza Prep that our town wasn’t affluent. A competitive school was really the only thing it had going for it. We were hardly Anderton or Edison Park or any of the other pockets of Bay Area wealth where the venture capital and tech exec families lived.
On the other hand, that kid couldn’t have been a gang member. It wasn’t the kind of detail you focus on in the heat of the moment, but looking back on it, he was wearing rags. Like a beggar.
Ugh. I’d run across a group of assholes beating a homeless person for kicks and wasn’t able to do anything to stop them. I groaned and dropped my forehead to the desk again.
“Flog yourself some more,” Yunie said. “You told a teacher as soon as you got to school and spent all morning giving the police report, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” I muttered into the veneer. “But if I wasn’t such an idiot, I could have called the cops right there.” The skirts on our uniforms didn’t have pockets. So of course I was carrying my phone in my backpack. That is to say, I’d been carrying it.
It was going to be a long haul, re-creating the notes from my AP classes. My secret weapons—all of the practice exams that I’d hounded my teachers into giving me—were gone. Studying by any method other than active recall was for chumps.
And my textbooks. I wasn’t sure what the school policy on replacements was. If the cost fell on me, I’d probably have to sell my blood plasma.
But while I’d never admit it, not even to Yunie, what hurt most wasn’t losing my phone or my notes. It was the fake-gold earrings I’d pinned to the canvas straps. The ones my dad had bought me at Disneyland, even though I’d been too young for piercings back then—too young to remember much of the trip at all.
I’d never see them again.
The bell rang. Something heavy fell past my head to the floor, and I bolted upright.
“Hey, jerk!” I yelped. “That could have hit me in the—whuh?”
It was my backpack. With all my stuff still in it. Minnie Mouses unharmed.
Mrs. Nanda, our homeroom teacher, stood by her desk and rapped her Educator of the Year paperweight to get our attention, punctuating the air like a judge’s gavel. Her round, pleasant face was even more chipper and sprightly than usual.
“Class, I’d like to introduce a new student,” she said. “Please welcome Quentin Sun.”
Holy crap. It was him.
Was it Love at First Chapter?
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F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and went to school in New England, but has called the San Francisco Bay Area home ever since he beat a friend at a board game and shouted “That’s how we do it in NorCal, baby!” Outside of writing, he practices capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, and has a day job mostly involving spreadsheets. http://www.fcyee.com