Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Hi, let me tell you about this book. It was SO good and I say that honestly (#NotSponsored). But seriously, you know that I'm not afraid to take the utter piss out of an over-hyped book (see anything I've reviewed by Sarah J. Maas), so when I read something like this and say it's awesome, please know that I have absolutely no reason to lie. CRAZY RICH ASIANS is crazy good.

So what's it about? Well, the story itself isn't that original. We've all read and watched rags-to-riches chicklit, whether it's DEVIL WEARS PRADA (book or movie) or that mid-2000s classic, What a Girl Wants. There is something very satisfying about watching Jane Everygirl soar up the class system, sticking her nose up (very good sportsmanship-like, of course) at the people who oppressed and snubbed her when she was just a humble pleb. This is a story that nobody gets sick of. We, as a society, eat this story up like it's a nacho-cheese drizzled tray of curly fries at the fairgrounds.

No, what makes this story special is that it takes this tried-and-true formula and it sets it in Asia. And before you say, "What, what about MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA?" No, White Person (because you probably are a white person if this is your rallying cry). That is different, because MEMOIRS was written by a white dude from a white dude's perspective of what Asia is like. And as much as I enjoy that book (I did, guiltily), there is something vastly different about a book written by someone who is only observing a culture through secondary sources and someone who has experienced it firsthand, and is writing not just based on their observations but also based on what they, personally, experienced from within.

Rachel Chu is a likable, intelligent, girl-next-door type professor of Economics who has been dating her fellow professor/Singaporean boyfriend for two years. When one of his old chums is engaged to be married, Rachel is invited to accompany him back to Singapore as a guest of the wedding, but also to meet the fam. She's excited - THIS IS THE BIG NEXT STEP - but also a little afraid. Nick, her boyfriend, has never said much to her about his family before, and this worries her. And she should be worried, because they are basically the Carnegies of Asia. They have their fingers in all the pineapple pies, and want nothing to do at all with Rachel, the gold-digging interloper (in their minds).

What follows is several hundreds of pages of drama, running the gamut of conspicuous consumption and materialism, cheating and adultery, cruel hazing, superficiality, gossip-mongering, family drama, abuse, lies, and MORE. It should have been vapid, what with all of the name-dropping of luxury products and jet-setting, but it wasn't. The only other author who I've read that was able to do this "ennui of the rich and famous" style of writing was Jackie Collins, and based on what I've read thus far, Kevin Kwan is basically the Asian Jackie Collins, which was incredibly refreshing, because there are only so many times that you can read about rich white people living it up in London, New York, and Los Angeles, before you start to feel a little, well, bored.

Rachel is a really likable character and except at the end, when she starts blaming her mother for something that wasn't really her fault, I was constantly rooting for her and Nicky. I loved Astrid, Nick's troubled and gorgeous socialite cousin. I liked Peik Lin, Rachel's conveniently rich BFF (and advocate). I loved Rachel's Mom, Kerry, and her backstory at the end nearly broke my heart and left me teary-eyed. It just goes to show how much mothers will sacrifice for their children. That said, the only thing I didn't like about this book was the lack of closure. The book ends in a very inconvenient and unfinished spot (probably because there are two sequels), but it feels very anticlimactic since things are never really squared with Eleanor, Nick's scheming snobby mother, Francesca, the resident mean girl, and also between Nick and Rachel themselves, who are a constant will they/won't they? This was very disappointing and I felt like it wasn't fair to the reader. It wasn't fair to ME.

I desperately need to find out what happens next. The two sequels are already on hold at the libs.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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