Crazy Rich Asians
Lest you be confused, this is not a book about crazy [comma] rich Asians. This is a book about crazy rich Asians. As in, stupidly, stupidly wealthy gazillionaire Asians. I had read this excerpt in Vogue, and it seemed like it might be good, fun summer reading, filled with fashion and snobbery and such. I am a lover and regular devourer of US Weekly, who loathes the fact that I do not come from a ton of old money, so this seemed right up my alley.
When I got the e-book, however, I knew immediately that I’d been swindled. Before I had even begun reading, the book had two strikes against it:
Strike 1: it starts with a family tree, and
Strike 2: it has endnotes.
I just can’t get excited about a book that begins with a family tree. Now, before you get all up in arms and point out all the delightful and amazing books that begin with a family tree (duh), I will admit that this is not a hard-and-fast rule. But my general opinion is that a book’s cast of characters should not be so convoluted that it requires a visual aid (one of the reasons I am content to stick with the television version of this, thank you very much). Plus, when you’re reading an e-book, it’s a huge hassle to have to refer back to the family tree. So, I audibly groaned when I discovered that this book has one. It’s a book about rich people. How complicated can it be? (I mean, are we seriously serious?) But the Crazy Rich Asians family tree is kind of catty and fun, so I decided to keep an open mind. Judge for yourself:
The endnotes aren’t a deal-breaker here, either. Normally, I hate them because they break up the flow of my reading. Also, they make me feel like I’m back in law school. And, too often, they’re used for cutesy purposes, which is nearly impossible to do well. That said, e-books make them slightly more tolerable, because you can just click on the endnote and it magically appears (constant page flipping in a “real” book is just too much). And these endnotes in particular aren’t bad, because they are in large part: 1) translations of Hokkein and Malay words and phrases and 2) descriptions of Singaporean foods. I’m a foreign languages nerd and a lover of delicious foods (not to be confused with definition 2), so I didn’t hate the endnotes.
But all of that doesn’t matter. Because, family tree and endnotes aside, I still didn’t like the book. Here are three more strikes against it:
Strike 3: It’s too damn long (over 400 pages). The book is about a couple (Rachel and Nick) who are both profs at NYU and have been together for two years. Nick is going home to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding and asks Rachel to come with him. Despite the fact that they’ve been together for two years, Rachel knows nothing about Nick’s background and family and friends (it comes as a complete surprise to her that his family is crazy rich). Shocking excess and extravagance ensue. And (not even remotely a spoiler, because the book is so ridiculously predicatable) Nick’s mother and grandmother try to break Nick and Rachel up. WHY DOES THIS NECESSITATE 400 PAGES? It doesn’t.
Strike 4: People have described this as an amazing, hilarious satire. Basically, the book tries to make fun of crazy rich Asians, by showing that they’re snobby and elitist and old-fashioned. Well, I’m sorry, but my grandmother was not a crazy rich Asian (she was just a plain-old crazy Asian), and she was every bit as snobby, elitist, and old-fashioned as the grandmother in this book. The author manages to paint a picture of the fashion and houses and such that is completely over-the-top, but his characters are flat, flat, flat. They just weren’t well developed enough to make you give a shit.
Strike 5: The plot is boring and predictable.
Rating: 2/5 😒
Aside from a great setting and some fun descriptions of shopping trips, houses, and travel, there’s really nothing to this book. But I learned some Hokkein and Malay phrases, so that made it a little better.
Who should read it: my friend Eds (i.e., people who dig websites like Suri’s Burn Book and also happen to need something to do in the wee hours as they are nursing an adorable newborn); my friend AG (i.e., people who love travel, fashion, and general over-the-top-ness).