Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Epic Crush of Genie LoTitle: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F.C. Yee
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books
Availability: Available now!

Summary: 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… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Way back in 2016 (feels like a millenia ago, huh?), this tweet by Zen Cho about a new book came across my dash. And because I’m easily persuadable, I was immediately on board. The bit about the heroine becoming powerful enough to “break through the gates of Heaven with her fists” was my jam.

Imagine how psyched I was when, over a year later, the book came out and I saw mentions of the monkey king. Sun Wukong in YA lit? Hell yes. Get me some toast, because this was even more my jam. I know I say this a lot, but this book did not disappoint.

The heroine Genie Lo is a super motivated elite SF prep student with her eyes on nothing but the prize – Ivy League glory and a better life. When new kid on the block Quentin Sun shows up and tell her that she’s really someone straight out of Chinese mythology, she has to step up to bat to defend the people she loves against a host of monsters. Genie’s character – cynical, motivated, yet unwaveringly protective of her friends and family – is what drives the story and kept me reading through the night. And it was awesome to see how she clashed and then worked with Quentin.

Speaking of Quentin… I’m not going to spoil anything. But, also, that reveal of who Genie was? I laughed, then had to take a reading break while I digested what had happened. That was amazing.

Basically, this is a must-read for everyone. But if you’re Chinese American (or, like me, Taiwanese American), this is a next level absolutely-no-excuses-must-read. There were so many moments that I knew all too well — like the relief of seeing your mom get to have a meaningful conversation with someone else in Chinese and be happy. Not only that, I’m from the Bay Area and attended a super competitive, majority (86%!) Asian school growing up. What Genie was going through was a hauntingly familiar creature.

Now I’m just rambling. Look, just put The Epic Crush of Genie Lo on your reading list. You’ll love it, I promise you. And if there’s going to be a sequel, someone tell me ASAP.

Recommendation: Buy it now!

Coming Soon – Group Discussion of #NotYourPrincess

We’re happy to announce a group discussion for next month. We’ll be reading #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. These are the same editors who brought us Dreaming in Indian [my review here] and Urban Tribes [our discussion here], so you know it’s an excellent compilation of Native voices.

Summary: Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.


Our plan is to read the book now and start our group discussion near the end of September. In mid-October we’ll post our discussion. We hope you’ll join us in reading and share your thoughts with us next month or on Twitter as you read.

Interview with Axie Oh

Everyone, please welcome debut author Axie Oh to Rich in Color! We’re thrilled to have her here–I absolutely loved her novel, Rebel Seoul, and you can read my review here.

Rebel Seoul is one of the newest offerings from Tu Books, and you definitely need to check it out:

After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

I knew the moment I read the synopsis I would love it. Now on to the interview!


Rebel Seoul was one of the winners of the New Visions Award. Can you tell us more about why you decided to enter the contest and what it was like to work with the staff at Tu Books?

I first heard about the contest at ALA in 2014, where I was given a brochure at the Lee & Low booth. I had begun to query REBEL SEOUL (titled something else at the time), and was getting a lot of feedback along the lines of: “dystopia is dead.” This was before WNDB really took off, so I accepted this as fact (now, I would argue – yes, maybe there are a lot of books set in American dystopias with white protagonists, but very few with POC protagonists in a non-Western or even Western setting). When I got the brochure, I really loved Tu Books’ mission statement to diversify children’s literature. I was also inspired to write REBEL SEOUL in part after reading Cindy Pon’s short story “Blue Skies” in the Tu Books’ anthology DIVERSE ENERGIES. So when I sent in my cover letter with my application, I comped my book to that short story! Since winning, everyone at Tu Books has been super supportive and awesome. I’m really proud, honored and grateful to be a part of their list. P.S. Cindy wrote a beautiful blurb for REBEL SEOUL!

Science-fiction often gives an author the opportunity to extrapolate upon the present to reshape the world. What drew you to creating a militaristic world like Neo Seoul? What were your favorite parts about building this world?

This is exactly it – I extrapolated upon the present. In the world of REBEL SEOUL, Seoul is divided into Old Seoul and Neo Seoul, and I based that concept on Seoul’s present-day geography, as Seoul is naturally divided by the Han River. North of the Han River is Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace) and some of the older parts of the city and south of the Han River is the Gangnam district and some of the newer areas, hence Old and Neo (New). All the landmarks and districts are the same. Seoul has a very extensive subway system and lots of taxis and shopping areas and billboards, so I just made that all “futuristic.” Really, I did no world building. It’s all there already!

The militaristic world came from a childhood spent watching a lot of sci-fi anime, which oftentimes have plotlines of war or rebellion. Again, I extrapolated from the present, like the idea of mandatory military service, which is a requirement in South Korea for males. In my alt-future, it’s a requirement for all citizens.

My favorite parts of building this world were those moments when I could extrapolate from what already exists, where I could add in a scene that felt true to me that I hoped would resonate with others. One of my favorite scenes I put into the novel is when Jaewon goes through the funeral home of a hospital (funeral homes are often in hospitals in Seoul), and he comes across a mother mourning her son. The whole scene is something I’ve experienced in my own life during memorial services, and I wanted to show through the scene a love and reverence for the moment.

One of the things I really admired about Rebel Seoul was that the characters all had rich lives before the start of the story. Tell us more about Jaewon and Tera’s development as characters.

With Jaewon, I was inspired by Korean dramas. He’s pretty typical of protagonists in high school K-dramas, a loner with a heart of gold. I think the appeal of these characters is that we can trust and put our faith in them. Although they make mistakes and stumble, they never give up, and this gives us hope as viewers. I wanted to channel this feeling with Jaewon. I began with this character archetype and then layered him with a family, friends, history and dreams. As for Tera, her characterization came more from anime. She’s similar to a lot of characters in sci-fi/mecha anime, like Heero from Gundam Wing or Soma Peries from Gundam 00. She’s a government experiment, trained and manipulated since birth for a “greater purpose,” but coming into her own person, discovering her own dreams and desires.

Jaewon and Tera are one of my favorite battle couples in YA. Who are some of your favorite battle couples, romantic or not?

Minho and Thomas from THE MAZE RUNNER. I’ve only read the first book and seen the films, but I love their friendship, and how together they protect the group. Will & Lyra from His Dark Materials. I love them both so much as individuals. But together, they’re unbeatable. Not YA, but I love Relena & Heero from Gundam Wing. I love how they’re both strong individuals with their own goals and motivations, yet in times of vulnerability, seek each other for warmth and comfort.

Family, both biological and of the found/friendship/soulmate variety, had a huge impact on Jaewon and his motivations throughout the novel. Why did you place so much weight on these relationships in Rebel Seoul? What interested you in those types of stories?

Again, going back to K-dramas and anime, K-dramas often focus on family and close friendships, and anime on found families and soulmates. These are themes that come up in the media I love and consume, so it felt natural as I wrote the story to incorporate them into REBEL SEOUL. In general, I love all types of relationships – I didn’t specifically start off thinking, okay I’m going to have a bromance or a team of four very different individuals who come together as friends and partners – it just sort of happened! And K-dramas always have four main characters (two leads, two secondary leads), so that formation came naturally into my storytelling.

If you could pilot any giant robot (whether from Rebel Seoul or another fictional universe), which would it be and why?

Gundam Deathscythe Hell!!! This is the upgraded gundam Duo Maxwell pilots in Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, the animated film following the television series. It’s just so cool! It specializes in stealth and close combat. It wields a large SCYTHE and has bat wings and cloaking armor that allows it invisibility. Plus, I love Duo. I feel like if I took a “which gundam pilot are you” character quiz, I would get him.

What books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to this year? Or that have already come out this year?

It hasn’t come out yet, but I read and loved FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao. It’s an exciting and thought-provoking villainess origin story inspired by the evil queen in Snow White and Chinese court dramas. Looking forward to: WARCROSS by Marie Lu, STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman & TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse.

Some books I already read and loved: WANT by Cindy Pon, I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maurene Goo and THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F. C. Yee!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Rebel Seoul or your other work? What can we look forward to from you next?

Right now I’m working on a YA fantasy inspired by a Korean folktale. Fantasy with a dash of romance were always my favorite kinds of books as a teen (think: BEAUTY by Robin McKinley or HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones), so I’m indulging that love of mine, and combining it with the culture and myths that I grew up with!


Axie Oh is a first generation Korean American, born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California – San Diego and holds an MFA from Lesley University in Writing for Young People. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her puppy, Toro.

You can find out more about her at her website or follow her on twitter.

Five books for you this week

We have five books that honestly look amazing. Which ones are on your TBR list?

Warcross by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel
Cinco Puntos Press

Seventeen-year-old Jaya Mehta detests wealth, secrets, and privilege, though he has them all. His family is Indian, originally from Gujarat. Rasa Santos, like many in Hawaii, is of mixed ethnicity. All she has are siblings, three of them, plus a mother who controls men like a black widow spider and leaves her children whenever she wants to. Neither Jaya nor Rasa have ever known real love or close family―not until their chance meeting one sunny day on a mountain in Hau’ula.

The unlikely love that blooms between them must survive the stranglehold their respective pasts have on them. Each of their present identities has been shaped by years of extreme family struggles. By the time they cross paths, Jaya is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies and the stunningly beautiful Rasa thinks sex is her only power until a violent pimp takes over her life. Will their love transcend and pull them forward, or will they remain stuck and separate in the chaos of their pasts?

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This elegant novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine Books

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds… or risk losing them all.

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh
Tu Books

After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

Book Review: Little & Lion

Title: Little & Lion
Author: Brandy Colbert
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: In Bookstores Now!

Summary: When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Review: I’m just going to say this from the start – I loved this book! I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading it because I loved Suzette so much. I loved her messiness, her doubts, her loves, but most importantly I loved the relationship she had with her brother, and the importance it had in her life. Little & Lion is not a light-hearted story by any means but it does have wonderful touching moments between Suzette and a number of other characters that make Brandy Colbert’s second novel a deeply moving story.

As I said before the heart of the story is Suzette’s (Little) relationship with her step-brother Lionel (Lion). The two are only a year apart and have an extremely close relationship. At the beginning of the book, their relationship is a bit in the awkward stage as Suzette is returning from the boarding school she was sent to by her parents while Lionel began the initial stages of treatment. Suzette feels like she abandoned Lionel and hopes that their relationship remains the same. I like that the story begins with Suzette and Lion together and we get a chance to see their bond pick up where it left off when Suzette left for school 9 months earlier. The easiness that the two had, the love for each other, just emanated off the page. The two share intimate secrets and truly trust each other so much that Suzette was the first to spot something was wrong with her brother when his mania begins to start after he stops taking his medicine. This decision brings much personal conflict for Suzette as she believes her brother is making a mistake, but because of the guilt she feels for being away while he was going through treatment she keeps his secret. It is Little’s love for Lion that is the heart of many of the decisions she makes and what really draws me to her.

While Suzette is dealing with her brother’s issues, she is also in the process of discovering her own sexuality, specifically realizing that she is bisexual. At her boarding school, she developed a relationship with her roommate, Iris, that unfortunately had a heartbreaking end. Suzette blames herself for the break-up, but also wonders if she was just attracted to Iris because of who her roommate was or if she is actually attracted to girls. Coming home further confuses her when she begins to have feelings for her close male friend Emil. The confusion, the questioning that Suzette felt was very real and written in a such a manner that tenderly shows the internal turmoil discovering one’s sexuality can be for a teenager. Luckily, Suzette is surrounded by a supportive best friend and a loving family, and because of this is able to safely navigate her feelings and explore this realization of herself. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say I like the choice that Suzette makes and feel that it is very true to her character and her growth throughout the novel.

I greatly enjoyed Colbert’s debut novel, Pointe, but I think I love Little & Lion more. I think what made me smile was that Colbert adds spots of “wokeness” where Suzette responds to racism, sexism, ignorance to bipolar disease, and the misconceptions about bisexuality. Those moments didn’t feel preachy at all, but an example of how folks should respond when faced with prejudice. What also made me smile was the all the wonderful touches to life in Los Angeles throughout the novel. As an Angelino (yes, that is what we are called) seeing all the local places and hidden gems mentioned just added to the beauty of the novel. All of these aspects combined made for a novel that I truly loved and stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I want to know what happens next with Suzette and travel with her in the next phase of her life.

Recommendation: Buy It Now!

Fall Reading List

There are seriously so many amazing books coming out this fall. These are just a fraction of the ones on my to-read list. What books by/about PoC are you planning on reading this fall?

Forest of a Thousand LanternsForest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Wild BeautyWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
Love grows such strange things. For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor
A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity. [Image and summary via Goodreads]