Author: Kevin Kwan
Age Range: 18+
Published: By Doubleday on June 11th, 2013
Content Warning: Tough love parents, anxiety
Format I Read: Audiobook
Grade: Exceeds expectations
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the ‘It Girl’ of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should – and should not – marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
I picked up this book solely because it was getting a movie adaptation with an amazing cast. Adult contemporaries are not my cup of tea at all, but this one promised shenanigans with a dash of romance, so I was willing to give it a try.
This is arguably the most fun I’ve had while reading an adult book to date. It gave me the first taste of the crazy lifestyle the world’s richest read. But I could relate to the book because of its distinct sense of Asian-ness. The characters were mostly over-the-top caricatures and exaggerations of Asian and rich people tropes. However, I wish women had gotten a better portrayal because sometimes the stereotypes were applied without nuance.
The plot gripped me from the start and soon enough I was addicted to the plight of Rachel and Nick. I had no idea whatsoever where the story would go but I enjoyed the fact that it was a character-driven book. The main leads were quite passive though, so I was much more invested in the lives of the other characters. Astrid especially stood out to me and I preferred her point of view the most. This book also introduced me to the wonder of Singapore for the first time in a fictional narrative and I quickly fell in love with it. It only showcases certain parts of it but I liked whatever I read and it made me curious to visit it just for all the street food. The writing style was ordinary and didn’t get in the way of the story but I felt that it was a little clumsy at times. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience but not a memorable one. I liked it enough to finish the series as Rachel and Nick’s story ended abruptly in this one but I wouldn’t count it among my all-time favourites.
If you’re looking for a funny, breezy and superficial read with Asian rep, this book is for you. Pick your favourite romantic playlist to go along or some plain old guitar strumming if lyrics distract you. As for the food, there is so much drool-worthy variety in the book that it’s really difficult to read if you’re hungry. Grab whatever is nearest but my personal preference is caramel popcorn.
Have you read the book or watched the movie? What diverse reads would you recommend for Valentine’s Day? Any bookish tradition that you follow around this time of the year? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.