I’ve been eyeing Kevin Kwan‘s Crazy Rich Asians for several months. Book addict that I am, I go to book stores pretty regularly, and Crazy Rich Asians has been featured on Barnes & Nobles’ display shelves at least all of this year so far. A few weeks ago, I finally decided I couldn’t wait any longer, and I bought it. I started reading it that same day, and wow, what a ride this book has been!
First I will say: This novel is so much more than what I’d anticipated! The summary doesn’t even do it justice. The blurb on the back would lead you to believe Crazy Rich Asians simply centers on this young couple and how the girlfriend is stunned by her boyfriend’s rich family. While that’s partially true, there is way more going on here. We follow tons of characters and diverging plot points. Indeed, you’ll probably need to reference the family tree – helpfully provided at the front of the book – multiple times as you start reading.
But don’t be scared off. The characters each have big personality, so differentiating between them isn’t difficult. On top of that, their witty banter, snarky thoughts, and overall extravagant lifestyles and out-of-touch perspectives make for a novel that is over-the-top, quick-paced, hilarious, and multi-faceted. And at times, it’s even profound and poignant and dives into bigger issues.
Crazy Rich Asians opens with the best prologue I’ve ever read. I won’t spoil it here, but it was an encouraging start to the book, and it set the tone for how on-point the rest of it would be.
From there, the novel principally focuses on Rachel Chu, a New Yorker with a wonderful boyfriend named Nick Young. But he’s kept a small secret from her about his family. When she goes to Singapore to spend the summer with him, attend his best friend’s wedding, and meet his relatives, she has no idea what to expect. Traditional, modest family? Nope! Nick’s family is extravagantly wealthy… as in, billionaires. With a “B,” not an “M.”
What follows is an unbelievable plunge into the richest people you can imagine. They live in giant mansions that don’t even show up on GPS. They own their own private jets. They don’t blink an eye at impulse-buying a small piece of jewelry costing millions of dollars. They own not one, not two, but dozens of properties – some to live or vacation in, some to rent out.
Rachel is in over her head, and many among Nick’s family and friends do not approve of her. Not only is she looked down on for being an American-born Chinese (ABC) rather than a “real” Asian woman… she’s also poor. They think she’s a nobody and a gold-digger, and some people in Nick’s circle conspire to break the couple up. But Nick is rapidly moving in the opposite direction, ready to propose marriage to Rachel.
In addition to the dramatic story unfolding between Nick and Rachel, there are also plenty of other key characters. Some are going through their own dramas and issues. Others are moving pieces in the chess game that is Nick and Rachel’s relationship. We meet Nick’s cousin Astrid, facing marital issues with her distant husband. Another cousin, Edison, is far less likable, yet fun to see in every scene. Nick’s mom, Eleanor, is on a mission to learn more about Rachel… and potentially expose some dark secrets in her past.
Crazy Rich Asians has a lot of moving parts, plot points, and characters. It can be confusing at first, but the book is so good that you just muscle through it until you’ve got everyone straight. It clocks in at over 500 pages, and yet each one flies by. This book is comedic gold, rich (pun intended) in its descriptions, and full of personality.
I *loved* Crazy Rich Asians. It’s engrossing and satirical, but it also opens up worlds I know nothing about. I got to learn about a subset of Asian culture, and I got to see just how wealthy billionaires are. I still can’t really imagine having that much money, to be honest, but this novel made their luxurious lives 1% more comprehensible and entertaining.
Luckily for me, Crazy Rich Asians is the first in a trilogy. I’ve already purchased China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems to read next, so stay tuned for those reviews!
And even luckier: The story doesn’t end there! Crazy Rich Asians has been made into a movie!! It stars Constance Wu as Rachel, Henry Golding as Nick, and Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor, and features other big names like Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Gemma Chan. It comes out in August and I cannot wait! Be sure to read the book before you watch the movie 😉