Published by Amulet Books on August 8th 2017
Genres: young adult, fantasy
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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…
I’ve been seeing a lot of this book in my Twitter feed lately. People are raving about it, so I was really excited to read it as well. But…it didn’t live up to the hype. I found it rather disappointing, actually. It definitely read like the Chinese mythology version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with an ass-kicking female heroine and a male sidekick that was weaker than she was, and lots of Chinese demon slaying. Plus it was set in California–okay, a different part of California than Buffy, but still. There were some similarities. That was the GOOD stuff.
What I didn’t like? Just about everything else.
There wasn’t enough plot depth in the book and it felt rushed. The mythology and world-building was interesting enough, but there was no detail in the writing and no atmosphere. On top of that, there were clarity issues in the writing, and my least favorite thing of all is when I have to backtrack to read a scene over because the author didn’t make it clear enough what was going on, and this happened three times, at least. One of the scenes was a very major scene toward the end that involved major plot points, but honestly, I was ready for the book to be over at that point so I didn’t try that hard to understand it. I just moved on.
Besides all that, there was a lack of emotion in the book. I liked the characters a bit, but I didn’t care about them, and I wasn’t invested in their story. All the writing felt very surface to me, and lacked tension. I want my writing (and everything else) to be meatier. I want to feel like I am inside the pages, and a strong atmosphere with character depth helps me get there. I’ve read a lot of great young adult books lately that have had lots of depth and emotion, so I feel like this was just a case of maybe this book being not for me. It depends what you look for in your writing.
That said, I appreciate what the book tried to do, and I would definitely read more content about Chinese mythology, but this book just didn’t do it for me, I’m afraid.