Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians
Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publication Date: 6/11/13
Pages: 416
Genre: Romance / Fiction
How I Found It: It's been popular the past few years.
Date Completed: 1/20/16

Summary: Rachel Chu doesn't know what she's getting into when her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, invites her home to Singapore for the summer. Turns out, Nick is from a family at the peak of Asia's elite wealthy. Their world of private jets, shopping sprees, and elaborate parties is one into which Rachel may not fit.

What I Thought: This book was just fun. It's basically pure fluff. It would be an amazing beach read, so it's almost too bad I picked it up in January.

I enjoyed peeking into this luxurious world. Here in the West, we've seen glimpses through shows like Gossip Girl or my obsession with casual interest in royalty. I do not think we give a lot of thought to the wealth of the Eastern Hemisphere, though. Let's be realistic, we tend not to give a lot of thought to anyone outside our borders. It's a major fault of ours. If you've read the blog for long at all, you know one of my favorite things about reading is the education it offers, particularly about cultures and experiences so different from my own.

Ahem. *sidesteps soapbox*

So anyway, this book offers a really interesting look into a world with which us Americans are largely unfamiliar. Thanks to technology and industry shifts, Asia is experiencing some extreme wealth. I mean, there have always been rich families there, as there are nearly anywhere in the world, but the influx of cash since WWII has upped the game for Asian socialites and top-tier families. 

Kwan has two major plotlines running throughout the book. First, boy meets girl; boy's ultra-wealthy family doesn't approve. Second, ultra wealthy young wife seeks satisfaction in shopping and jet-setting as her marriage crumbles. Both are equally interesting and engaging and together, they offer a great picture of the highs and lows involved in the wealthy lifestyle.

Kwan is funny and irreverant, not afraid of breaking out stereotypes and slurs as he rolls back the curtain on the ugly racism, classism, and snobbery rampant in many of these rich families. He makes it easy to tell who's on the "good side" and who has been sucked into the abyss of 'I'm-so-rich-I-don't-need-manners-or-kindness.' Sidenote: I hear Donald Trump was elected president of that particular black hole. 

This book was so different than what I typically read and, interspersed with the massive amount of 100 Best Novels reading I have been doing so far this year, it was a delightful break. It made me laugh, cringe, route for young love, wish for an insane amount of money with which to travel the world, and also judge anyone who can spend so much on such irrelevant things. It also made me think of one of my sweet, high-school friends who is currently living in Singapore with her husband and his family; I'm pretty sure she's not immersed in the ultra-rich culture seen in the book, but it did make me want to talk to her about the country and the culture there. I love seeing how food obsession is basically a national pastime. Sounds like a place I would enjoy.

I was surprised with the way the book ended and it made me excited for a sequel. I appreciate that Kwan, as with the writers of one of my recent favorites The Royal We, did not opt for a cookie cutter happily-ever-after where everyone gets along and any lingering issues have been resolved. Nope. Things end tentatively happy, but still plenty messy and uncertain. I love that. These characters aren't perfect and neither are their lives, despite how things may seem on the outside. My generation is all about transparency and authenticity. It's no wonder our romances are beginning to move away from those cliché endings of sunshine and rainbows. 

If you're looking for a light, fun, on-the-edge novel, I recommend this one. As I said, Kwan does not shy away from the slightly scandalous, but it fits so well with the over-the-top lifestyle of these characters and it makes the down-to-earth moments of the protagonists that much more loveable. Think of this one as cotton candy: it's sugary, unhealthy fluff, but it's awfully fun to sample.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: I doubt it, but I plan to read the sequel.
If You Liked This Try: The Royal We / The Selection series / Austenland

A Reduced Review: Kwan's look at Asia's ultra-rich is funny and slighty-scandalous in the best way. It's a perfect summer read or a way to infuse your winter days with some glittery sunshine. 

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