Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Gather 'round, friends. Come sit at my table because I've just put the tea on and I'm about to spill it all over the damn place. It took me two months to finish this series, and I have some major thoughts on how it ended and what Kwan did with some of the characters. Each book in the series is a very different sort of story. CRAZY RICH ASIANS, the best one by far, is more like an underdog love story of the kind that was so popular in the mid-2000s, in which the "plain" (read: beautiful) ordinary girl hooks up with the major hottie because he sees through her plainness to all the beauty that lies within (read: hot sex). It ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger so reading CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND is necessary for closure, even though it isn't really a romance anymore at this point but one of those gossipy potboilers of the type that were popular in the 1980s, where rich people behave badly just because they can, and to hell with the consequences as long as you look good doing it.

With the two previous books neatly adding closure to Rachel and Nicky's love story, I wasn't really sure what more there could be left to address for them in RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS. The quick answer is: not much. Apart from what I believe was a brief appearance in the beginning, Rachel basically disappears until around p.250 or so. In RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS, the family matriarch who disapproved of Nicky's marriage to Rachel, Grandma Su Yi, has a heart-attack and the entire family turns Tyersall Place into a circus ostensibly to care for her but with her last will and testament very much on their minds.

Eddie, in particular, reminded me very quickly of how much I hated him with his maneuvering to keep Nicky barred from entering the house. Eddie is basically human-shaped garbage on legs. Everything he said and did made me want to punch him. The other relatives, too, sink back into their odious ways as soon as the question of money comes up. Kitty, who had a Pretty Woman redemption arc in the previous book, starts up a rivalry with Colette Bing. Colette is also human garbage on legs. I almost warmed to Eleanor in the previous book because she did reunite Rachel with her father, but in this book her sleazy machinations to pressure Rachel into having kids were super creepy, especially when she invites her to a bible study group - only to try to have one of her friends give her an ob-gyn examination in a room they have set up just next door? -cue horror movie music-

Astrid and Charlie are given more air time in this book than Rachel or Nicky since their romance is the one filled with uncertainty now with both of their ex-spouses making as much trouble for them as possible. I did not like the Isabel subplot and Michael proved that he was even more of a creep than I'd imagined in this book. I also didn't like what happened to Colette at the end of the book. Isabel and Colette were both terrible characters, but I don't really like it when physical or psychological trauma is treated like "justice." There are better ways for characters to get their comeuppance.

I did actually warm to Su Yi a bit in this book and the scenes with her were surprisingly touching. I also liked Carlton's romance with Scheherazade (although "Scheherazade"? Really?). Oliver came off looking like much more of a worm in this book, and I kept wondering what had happened to Connie. Some people didn't like the fighting about what to do with Tyersall Place but I felt like that was pretty realistic and handled well, especially since it is true that because of property values something like that never would be or could be built again in Singapore. Not everything needs to be bulldozed.

RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS was a definite downgrade in terms of quality and felt more like straight-up trash than the smart, snappy CRAZY RICH ASIANS. I feel like the author probably could have stopped at two book, or even the first book (if he had written in that happy ending) instead of padding Rachel and Nick's future out across two books and then throwing in a whole bunch of other random stuff about the family in for the lols as Rachel gets to know her dad. This book felt entirely unnecessary but trilogies are in and I'm guessing the author wanted to cash in on that as much as anyone. It was the perfect thing to read while sick because it didn't require a whole lot of thought but I can definitely see why so many people who read this felt cheated or disappointed.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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