Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan | Book Review

Posted by Paula Nikolai Iriola & filed under Literature.

Kevin Kwan's debut novel: Crazy Rich Asians (Photo Courtesy of asiasociety.org)
Kevin Kwan's debut novel: Crazy Rich Asians (Photo Courtesy of asiasociety.org)

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Prior to reading Crazy Rich Asians, I was told that it might resemble an Asian-version of Gossip Girl. Once I finished reading Kevin Kwan’s debut novel, I decided that the description proved to be more than accurate. Except, in comparison to the likes of Chuck Bass and Serena Van Der Woodson, the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are, well, crazier. And richer (yes, it is possible).

The novel follows the relationship of Rachel Chu and Nicholas (Nick) Young. Rachel, an American-Born Chinese, travels to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding, completely unaware that her boyfriend is the sole heir to an outrageous amount of wealth of one of the richest families in Asia. She is thrown into a lion’s den of deceitful relatives, sly ex-girlfriends and intolerant members of high-society, as the wedding turns out to be the most coveted social event of the season amongst Asia’s extremely rich and famous. Kevin Kwan pulls the reader into a world filled with people you would love to hate and whose lives you would love to have — or so it seems.

The most alluring thing about the novel is probably the extravagant and lavish lifestyles of the wealthiest Asian families in Singapore. Imagine 388-foot yachts with an outdoor bowling lane on the top deck, $ 200,000 dresses (that is $ 200,000 per dress), a private jet with its own yoga studio, bachelorette parties on private islands, a dressing robe that ensures you do not repeat the same outfit twice, and a family estate so old, prestigious and guarded, that it is hidden from the Global Positioning System (GPS). The reality is that we are all drawn to luxury, regardless of how unattainable that amount of wealth is to you (let’s be real here). This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Nina Jacobsen, the producer of Hunger Games, recently obtained the film rights to Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel. Who wouldn’t want to see all that luxury come to life on screen?

Although the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are fictional, Kevin Kwan states that their lifestyles resemble the lives of the extravagantly wealthy families that can be found in Asia today.

Aside from all the glitz and glamour, the author also touches upon a number of important challenges that the members of this prestigious class of people are faced with. From maintaining “pure” bloodlines to orchestrating every marriage in order to keep the tremendous wealth within the reach of a handful of families, Crazy Rich Asians indicates the conflict between the old rich, overseas Chinese families and the newly rich, mainland Chinese families. More importantly, its story emphasizes that being rich does not guarantee bliss and that while some people may view money as a means to exercise their freedom without limits, the novel’s main characters are trapped by their wealth. In other words, Crazy Rich Asians tells the proverbial cautionary tale that money cannot buy happiness, and sometimes, #momoneymoproblems.

Although I felt that the ending left more to be desired due to the nature of Rachel and Nick’s obstacles, I loved Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians for its ludicrous personalities, wit, and the cultural education you receive with every page.  I would recommend this entertaining read for anyone who has ever wondered what life is like on the side where the grass is greener. Much, much greener.

About Paula Nikolai Iriola

Paula Nikolai Iriola
Paula Iriola is a fourth year undergraduate pursuing a History Major and Political Science Minor at the University of British Columbia. Born in the Middle East to Filipino parents, Paula's mind is currently on musicals.

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