By Natalie Wallace Contributor
If you were on any form of social media on April 23, you would have seen the internet going crazy for the highly anticipated “Crazy Rich Asians” movie trailer.
Standing as the first all-Asian cast in 25 years, with well-known actress Constance Wu and actor Henry Golding as leading characters, the movie has a lot of hype to live up to, not just from the general public or film aficionados, but book lovers, too.
Since its publication in June 2013, “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan has made a name for itself and became a bestselling novel.
The story begins with Nicholas Young, Nick for short, asking his girlfriend Rachel Chu to spend the summer with him in Singapore to attend his cousin’s wedding, meet his family and explore the country.
Sounds simple right? Wrong.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is all things gaudy, with its lavish parties, shopping sprees and gossipy tea groups as well as all things intriguing, with its business deals, societal meetings and family issues.
Not only is Nick taking Rachel to a wedding deemed the “wedding of the year” between Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, Colin Khoo, and fashionista Araminta Lee — he’s also taking her to meet one of the wealthiest families in Asia, a family which he happens to be the sole heir to.
So it’s a big deal that Asia’s second most eligible bachelor and its second most rich man is bringing an unknown, “American-born Chinese” girl home to the island and to the family. The story is told from multiple points of view but is mostly told through five characters, the first two being Nick and Rachel. The other three are Nick’s cousins, Astrid Leong and Edison Cheng, and Nick’s mother, Eleanor Young.
Each character is connected to the Khoo and Lee wedding and each is affected by Nick bringing Rachel home. However, they are also dealing with their own forthcomings and misfortunes, so the reader is experiencing all the inner workings of family, business and community of the rich and famous.
Okay, get your pen and paper out, you’re going to need it.
Although the beginning of each chapter is clearly labeled with the character whose point of view we’ll be reading from, it can still be a bit confusing, especially when dealing with multiple characters in one chapter. The ideas and thoughts a character may have jump around, depending on who is featured in a chapter. For example, a chapter could be labeled “Nick,” which means we’ll be in his head that entire chapter. However, Kwan writes it so if Nick is interacting with, for example, his mom, and she has a compelling idea or thought we’ll hear it via her head.
This happens a lot throughout the entirety of the book and the reader has to backtrack and figure out whose head they are in to create context to what they’re reading. It gets quite tiresome.
Then we need to catalog who we’re reading about. At some point in the book, Nick mentions to Rachel how big his family is, and that is an understatement. There is a lot of name-dropping and background explanations, especially in the beginning of the book. It’s hard to keep track of who is who, whose business is what — the list goes on. Thankfully, there is a family tree in the book to help the reader see specific characters and their standing.
While laughing at petty family drama and reeling at the harsh societal expectations, the reader can sometimes find themselves rolling their eyes and shaking their head thinking, #RichPeopleProblems.
The book starts off pretty slow, probably because of all the mental cataloging and memorization that’s required of the reader. However, as the story progresses and more drama ensues, everything gets a bit more interesting.
Think of “Gossip Girl,” but with Asian traditions and customs and with characters aged 30 and up. Rachel is completely in the dark when embarking on the trip to Singapore with Nick. She knows nothing of his rich family or their community’s expectations of their relationship. On the other hand, Nick’s family and their community doesn’t know what to expect of Rachel and her relationship with Nick.
There’s a lot of miscommunication between Rachel and the family, with a naive and completely oblivious Nick in the center of it all. While he just wants to bring his girlfriend into another part of his life, he doesn’t realize all the baggage that comes with it: judgement, prejudice and evaluation, not just from his family, but also from all of Singapore.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is all things gaudy, with its lavish parties, shopping sprees and gossipy tea groups as well as all things intriguing, with its business deals, societal meetings and family issues. While laughing at petty family drama and reeling at the harsh societal expectations, the reader can sometimes find themselves rolling their eyes and shaking their head thinking, #RichPeopleProblems.