"Crazy Rich Asians" Book Review
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Adult Romance/Humor
Crazy Rich Asians makes Jeff Bezos’ finances laughable. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. That man’s net worth is $112 billion. He just chooses not to drop it on dresses worth more than my house and rooms practically made of gold. But who does? That’s right, folks: crazy rich Asians. Written by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is funny, culturally informative, and makes these people look so rich it could only be fiction.
Crazy Rich Asians is the story of Nick Young, a member of one of the richest families in Singapore, which is something he chooses to keep from his girlfriend Rachel Chu. He can’t hide in New York City with her forever, though, because his best friend Colin is getting married, and he’s the Best Man. So, he invites Rachel to attend the wedding with him, hoping that she’ll fall into his world easily. But why would us readers want it easy? Thank you, Kevin Kwan, for understanding that. Without warning, Rachel finds herself thrown into the wonders and terrors of his massive wealth, his jealous admirers, and his ruthless mother, who will do anything to keep her baby boy from marrying the wrong girl.
But this summary doesn’t even do the story justice. There’s so much more. And from the prologue, this is clear. The danger with prologues for writers is that most of the time, they are not necessary to moving the story. Although for Crazy Rich Asians that is technically true, the prologue sets the tone, one we wouldn’t get ‘till later otherwise. From the first chapter, I get an idea of how rich these people are, how they act, what this other world is like, and I know what to expect from the book: romance, humor, and cultural insight all portrayed in a playful, fun way.
What’s fun about this book is that we get different character POVs, which is also shown in the prologue. Kwan uses omniscient POV, meaning within chapters, he may jump from one perspective to another suddenly. However, it doesn’t feel sudden. The transitions are quite seamless and understandable. I never feel like I don’t know whose internal thoughts I’m reading. So, writers, if you are thinking of using omniscient POV, this book is a great example.
It’s also a great example of how you can get away with breaking some token writing rules. The book is very dialogue heavy—VERY—so, descriptions of rooms and people tend to be info dumped. However, this works with the tone of the narrator. It’s like in the movie Suicide Squad when those charts appear the first time we see a character (if those charts were descriptions of appearance and personality). Or it’s like someone is gushing about their wealth or whispering gossip about a newbie they saw around. And when it comes to dialogue, I don’t mind how heavy it is. This is just the prose style of the author, and it works. Through what these characters are saying, we can gather what they’re feeling, and the dialogue consistently pushes the story and relationship development forward, no matter how trivial the conversation. So, it’s not like we need a ton of internal thought or description, only when what they are saying may contradict what they feel or if we just need to know more.
Kwan goes beyond dialogue for helping us know more. Unlike most books I’ve seen, he uses asterisks to give us needed info on words he uses in the text, whether that be translations, history, food, or other cultural info, especially in regard to the characters’ wealth. What’s nice about these footnotes are that they maintain the author’s voice, so it doesn’t feel like we’re being pulled out of the story.
I really do appreciate how culturally informative Kwan is through the footnotes, dialogue, and background info. I also appreciate how informative the text is in regard to these peoples’ wealth. Oh my GOD, they’re rich! At times, I found myself thinking that this just couldn’t be real. This shows not only through the opulent rooms and character appearances but also with the language itself. These people talk about huge amounts of money—half a million, for example—like it’s nothing! Like it’s a $20 bill in my pocket. Even then, when I find $20 loose in my purse or pocket, that’s a day of celebration. The characters in the book act rich too. The way they carry themselves and react show their stereotyped snobbery.
Kwan milks stereotypes till the sun comes up, and it’s hilarious. The asterisks themselves address some of these stereotypes. The rich people (not all of them) are snobby, righteous, and gossipy, especially Eleanor, Nick’s mother, and her squad. The characters show these stereotypes the best, and these people are so vivid! He did a great job of presenting them in a very clear and understandable way. I could describe them to you easily:
Rachel: stubborn, family-oriented, NOT a gold digger, adventurous, strong-willed, independent (she don’t need no man)
Nick: Kind, well-off (HA), stands up for loved ones, loves family but conflicted, modest
Eleanor: rich, snobby, gossipy, will do anything to give her son the right life (even be a bitch…)
Astrid: Off the charts AMAZING!
Let me tell you, Astrid is the bomb.com, and her tale is so interesting. Yes, she has a story of her own, and it feels separate from the main plot, like it’s another book. The two plots never really collide into one, but it works. In fact, I wouldn’t find it believable if they did intertwine. With her plot, we explore her marriage and the doubts she begins to have within it. Her chapters are even written differently than the rest. They have so much more internal thought and description relative to how she’s feeling, and that makes sense. While Rachel, Nick, and the other family members are more interested in the wealth surrounding them and the gossip spreading, Astrid is interested in the troubles and worries she has. She’s too caught in her thoughts to focus on anything else around her, and that shines through the prose. YAS, Kevin (*insert clapping hands emoji here*)! It’s also a nice break from the actual main plot, being that the book is so long. I’m very invested in Astrid’s marriage and livelihood, just as I am with Nick and Rachel.
Her story, however, isn’t as humorous as the rest of the book, which is good for the type of chapters she has. But I reveled in those funny moments. I loved when ironic lines were thrown in there, things we knew were so incorrect but the characters didn’t. And like always, Kwan milked the hell out of those moments. Here’s an example from pg.68 when Rachel’s mother, Kerry, was giving her daughter advice: "You don’t know anything about Nick’s background. Has it ever occurred to you that they might be quite poor? Not everyone is rich in Asia, you know.”
Kwan, you’re killing me. This book is so funny, you have to be a robot if you can read it without laughing, and you have a lot of time to do it. The novel is long (527 pages), but the time frame is short and the heavy dialogue quickens the pace even further. The time we spend with the characters is only a week, and because of that, we see every moment of those days. I feel like I spent more time with the characters than I actually did.
My only other note, and it’s not even negative, is that that the book is not very quotable. But it’s not really the point of the story to have these deep, inspiring lines. The dialogue, plot, and humor are more important. We want to know how rich and crazy the people are, not how poetic. Psh!
Overall, this book is a win. I laughed, I….didn’t cry. Certain moments of the novel are sad and well done, but it takes a lot to squeeze a tear out of me! And, I gushed. New goal? Become a crazy rich Caucasian. Let me know what you thought in the comments or message me privately! I’d love to hear your own feedback on Crazy Rich Asians. ‘Till next time, Nooksters!
For the first time in her life, Peik Lin was at a loss for words. She stared at Rachel with a sudden intensity, and then she said, almost in a whisper, “I have no idea who these people are. But I can tell you one thing—these people are richer than God.” (159)
“No, she went to Stanford, in California.”
“Yes, yes, I know Stanford,” Eleanor said, sounding unimpressed. It’s that school in California for those people who can’t get into Harvard. (61)
She wasn’t a rebel, because to call her one would imply that she was breaking the rules. Astrid simply made her own rules, and through the confluence of her particular circumstances—a substantial private income, over-indulgent parents, and her own savoir faire—every move she made became breathlessly talked about and scrutinized within that claustrophobic circle. (72)
“What do you mean?” I’m not self-loathing at all. How about you? You’re the one who married the white guy.”
“Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish—that’s basically Asian! But that’s beside the point—at least I dated plenty of Asians in my time.” (88)
Sitting in the enclosed garden lit by colorful, whimsically painted lampshades, Rachel gradually began to see, in a whole new light, the person her friend had been so eager for her to meet. (91)
He answered the phone and immediately the hysterical torrent from his wife began. “Calm down and speak slower, lah. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Now, why do you want to jump off a building?” Phillip asked in his usual laconic manner. (101)
The boys squinted into the bright morning sun, trying to remember their father’s instructions: look straight into the camera lens, suck your cheeks in, turn to the left, smile, turn to the right, smile, look at Papa adoringly, smile. (360)
“I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money. And if I marry you, there will be no escaping it, even if we live on the other side of the world.” (481)