Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
“Remember, every treasure comes with a price.”
I have been meaning to read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan for a while now, and since I saw the trailer for the movie coming out in August, I decided I needed to read it before seeing the movie. I think I can sum up my reaction to this book with this: Holy cow, these people have way too much money. There are so many designer name-drops and discussions on which yacht or private plane is best. It is insane. But at the same time, so utterly delightful. Nick Young is the heir to the Young fortune, but he currently lives in New York as a history professor at NYU. He invites his long-time girlfriend, Rachel Chu, to spend the summer in Asia with him, specifically to meet his family and attend his best friend’s wedding. Little does Rachel know that Nick is basically royalty in Singapore. When Rachel and Nick get to Singapore, Rachel is completely flabbergasted at how wealthy Nick’s family and friends are.
When Rachel and Nick get to the airport, they are shown to a first-class cabin on Singapore Airlines. Rachel is a little caught off guard by their accommodations, but assumes Nick just decided to splurge a little for their holiday. However, when they get to the hotel in Singapore after a dinner with Nick’s best friend, Colin Khoo, and his fiancé, Araminta Lee, Rachel quickly realizes Nick has not been entirely truthful or very forthcoming about his family background. Throughout the story, we get different points of view from various members of Nick’s family, mostly focusing on Nick’s mom, Eleanor, and his cousin, Astrid. Eleanor catches wind that Nick is bringing his American girlfriend home and promptly flies into a tizz, trying to figure out information about her and thwarting any of Nick’s long-term plans with 'this girl'. Meanwhile, Astrid Leung Teo is the “It” girl in Singapore. She always has the best designer outfits and always gets access before anyone else can even see them. She hates being photographed, which just increases her appeal and star power. However, her husband Michael comes from a middle-class background, and things seem to be strained in their marriage, even though Astrid is just now realizing it.
As Rachel meets more of Nick’s family and friends, she quickly feels out of her element, but she also feels like she cannot really talk to Nick about it. Some of these relatives, and more so, Araminta’s friends (who are truly the worst), are perfectly nice to Rachel’s face, but behind her back, call her a gold digger and some other not-so-nice words. Eleanor even works with one girl, Francesca, to get rid of Rachel, and I cringed for how heinous this woman was to poor Rachel. Every character, with the exception of Rachel (and occasionally Nick and Astrid), is truly unlikeable. None of them really cared about anything other than appearances, money, and their lifestyles. They are all truly horrible people; yet in spite of how awful they all are, it was incredibly fun to read about all of their antics.
As much as I felt badly about Rachel being thrown to the wolves, I did think she was a touch naive. I completely understand her not knowing while they were back in New York because Nick lived a relatively normal life, but as soon as they landed in Singapore, I feel like Rachel should have picked up on some things. I am not giving Nick a free pass because he absolutely should have prepared Rachel for his family, although he does sound like a pretty amazing boyfriend otherwise. I really loved Rachel and Nick’s relationship, you know, except for the lies of omission. It is a wonder how Nick turned out the way he did, considering his meddling mother and grandmother. His father seems like he’s a pretty decent person, but he mainly spends his time in Australia, away from Singapore, away from all those ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. One of my favorite things about the book was Kwan's footnotes. Kwan grew up in Singapore, so Crazy Rich Asians is a satirical look at the ridiculous wealth of his fellow countrymen. His footnotes added another layer of humor and wit to the book, and many of them made me laugh.
I loved reading Crazy Rich Asians. It was such a fun reading experience. I am super pumped about the movie. The guy playing Nick is extremely attractive, so that’s already a plus. But I am excited to see an all Asian cast in a major Hollywood movie, and also what I hope is the return of the rom-com! I cannot wait to see this insane book brought to life.
If you are looking for a fun and light read, definitely pick up Crazy Rich Asians. There are two more books in the series, so I’ll definitely be picking those up sometime soon. I am interested in hearing more about Astrid; she is such a compelling character. I truly enjoyed every moment of Crazy Rich Asians. I give it 4 stars!
Let me know your thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians and if you have any other similar recommendations.