Monday, January 13, 2014

REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: spoilers

With a title like that how could I not pick up the book? The last adult contemporary book about Asian characters I read was the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and that was less than 10 years ago. I actually saw the movie before I read the book. Even though adult contemporary is not my cup of tea, I liked Joy. I had hoped to repeat that experience, and I got it with Crazy.

Like Joy, Crazy had multiple viewpoints, multiple plot lines, and plenty of drama. Different from Joy and predictably, most of the characters in Crazy were shallow and unsympathetic. As many reviews of Crazy pointed out, and this review will also, the book constantly name dropped, brand dropped, and beat the reader over the head with how “crazy rich” and highly connected these characters were. There was a lot of info-dumping. A lot. Let’s not forget the footnotes in almost every chapter (was there even a chapter without footnotes?). I managed to finish the book in a day by skimming the parts that didn’t interest me. Without a doubt, the book was overwritten. Usually, I hate that shit, but in this book it was kind of charming. The book was a fountain of knowledge in Singaporean culture, which made the book highly re-readable. What really entertained me was the family drama because it was like watching one of those trashy reality TV shows.

I didn’t bother keeping track of the characters and their relationships to each other. Thankfully, the book regularly stated how each character were related to one another so I was rarely lost and when lost, only momentarily. All I cared about were couple Rachel and Nick, and Nick’s cousin, Astrid.

+ Rachel and Nick

I loved Rachel. She was the character I most related to. Nick, I was not a big fan of. Right from the get-go, I wanted Rachel to break up with Nick, no matter how nice the guy was, because I saw the trainwreck Nick’s family had in store for her a million miles away and was mad that Nick didn’t. I could not believe after two years of dating, him visiting her family many times, but him never once talking about his family, Nick suddenly “introduced” her to his family as one would “introduce” a deer to a pack of wolves. Yes, let’s take an Americanized Asian-American middle-class girl to visit your super traditional, demanding, old money, multi-generational, bloodline-obsessed family who is quick to look down on outsiders and rich people who aren’t “crazy rich” enough. That will go well.

What frustrated me the most and put a stick up my ass was how offensively naive Nick was in regard to his family and Rachel. When Astrid warned him about the culture shock and he didn’t heed her, I wanted take the stick out of my ass and whip him with it. There was absolutely no excuse for that kind of naivety. I couldn’t believe he actually said he thought she would fit in with his family and friends and win them over with her winning personality (she did have a winning personality but not the point). My gawd. I wanted to upgrade my whipping stick to a fold up chair.

+ Astrid and Michael

Even though Astrid and Michael had been married for five years, they continued to face the same problems as Rachel and Nick. Like Rachel, Michael was middle-class. But unlike Rachel, I didn’t pity him. Not an ounce. I had no pity for a coward who couldn’t simply communicate his problems to his loving wife who would have done anything to make things better. I wanted to kick him in the shin for how much he hurt Astrid. Rachel had bigger balls than Michael, telling her lover straight off how large and suffocating the differences of their worlds were.

Even though Eleanor, Nick’s mother, and her co-conspirators were the villains because they wanted to wreck his relationship with Rachel, it was really “nice” Nick and coward Michael that made me see red. It wasn’t their background that made these guys jerks. It was how they acted upon it that did. Nick denied the reality of his background, and Michael had an inferiority complex with his.


+ the ending

The ending was abrupt. Many things were left unresolved. Rachel dumped Nick but he made a grand gesture by quickly reconciling her with her mother. I would like to blame Nick’s family for causing the rift between two women but Rachel’s mother had a long time to tell Rachel the truth about her “dead” father. Rachel deserved the truth no matter how painful it was for her mother to share it.

Nick chose to fight for a chance with Rachel over money and his super snobby family. The way the book left things between Rachel and Nick was optimistic. I like to think Nick and Rachel got back together.

Astrid. I’m not sure. I want her to be happy, but she think happiness lies in getting Nick back. I think she should move on. Specifically, I think she should move on and back to Charlie, her first fiancĂ©. Charlie was the only one to recognize she was having personal problems and stood by her. Michael was so low of a coward he concocted a scheme to make Astrid think he was having an affair so she would dump him because he didn’t even have the decency to break up with her himself. I didn’t know there was a worse way to break up someone than over an impersonal short text message, but there you go. To add insult to injury, one of the problems he had with Astrid was how no matter how much money he could make, he would never make ever enough to cover the cost of more than one dress whenever she, as a fashionista and the It girl, goes shopping with her money. What the fuck? He couldn’t stand the thought that his wife had more money than him? If there was any chance I could sympathize with Michael, there it went. The last fuck I give.

Like Nick, the book left Astrid fighting for her love. Unlike Nick, I don’t really care if she succeeds or not because Michael isn’t worth it. Still, as someone invested in Astrid’s happiness, I like to think Michael finally sees how high his head is up in his ass and do a lot of self-flagellation.


I rate Crazy Rich Asians 3-stars for I liked it. The book was more than about Rachel and Nick, and Astrid and Michael. I only chose to focus on these characters because they were the characters who most interest me. Despite the loose ends in the ending, I enjoyed the bubble gum book. I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel.

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