Montag, 7. Dezember 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Welcome back Busy Me to the Bloggersphere!

I can't believe it has almost been a year since my last blog post. I must admit, school has taken most of my time in this year, and on top of that I unexpectedly went to an exchange program in Italy. Looking back, I wish I would have documented my experience in a blog post, but, to be honest, I completely forgot about the existence of my blog for the better half of the year. That, until a classmate found my blog after autumn break (how embarassing!) and wanted me to continue writing. Honestly, comments like this are secretly the only motivation I need to pick up my blogging life again :).

As lazy as I was in the Bloggersphere, the same could be applied to my reading life this year. I barely completed half of my Reading Challenge goal of 2015 - a shame compared to how diligent I was the last year. But anyway, now that (most of) my exams are done (only one exams and two presentations next week!) I started reading again, mainly books that have been on my TBR list for a long long time.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was actually one of my first (if not THE first) book I added to my TBR list back in summer 2013 when I was still a newbie on Goodreads. It was recommended to me by one of the commenters on the K-Media website NetizenBuzz regarding the similarity of the plot of the then pretty overhyped K-Drama The Heirs. Although I never picked up the book until this December, but I did watch The Heirs, and, God, it was a mess. Sure the glitz and glamour was to be admired, but the characters were painfully boring, helpless and as clichéd as you can get in Kdramarama land.

Maybe that was one of the reasons why I never picked up the book until earlier this month. Or maybe I just found my 15-year old self disturbed from all the shallow rich people problems. However, with my recently newfound obsession with Korean dramas I researched a bit more about those chaebol families, that Kdramarama land likes to glamourize so much. Crazy Rich Asians is such a book, that gives us a insight in the lives of the Wealthiest of Rising Asia. 

The book mainly covered the happenings on Singapore, the country with the highest percentage of billionaires, where also the author Kevin Kwan hailed from. Right at the beginning an intricate family tree is pictured, giving us an overview over the three powerful families the book focuses on: the Youngs, the Shangs and the T'siens. Not gonna lie here, I did always have a finger on the page with the family tree just to see how the characters are related. But fortunately the book mainly depicts the lives of the three cousins of the Young branch Astrid Leong, Eddie Cheng, Nicholas "Nick" Young and his girlfriend from America Rachel Chu.

Kwan really has his thing with his characters, where they never feel to shallow, not even the tiniest of the minor characters. The main cast is pictured very realistically, that I had a hard time hating even the supposed to be rather not good characters. Eddie Cheng is a pain in the ass to read; not only is he snotty, but also very much focused on the appearance of his family, which is very much an important thing still common in Asia. But that did not come out of nowhere, he had a valid reason to turn out this way, for his best friend is being handed everything on the golden plate by his father, so that Eddie feels the need to show off his worth, too. Astrid is such a exquisite, but lovely woman, that, even with her very luxurious tastes, she never comes off as snobby, but feels very much a real character with worries and hopes of her own. I wholeheartedly rooted for her since the beginning of the book and I really felt her suffering through the affair of her husband, while she has to keep quiet, like in most Asian marriages. Rachel Chu might look like Mary Sue/Cinderella-ish on the first glance, but she turns out to be quite headstrong and clever after a few chapters already. Growing up in a single mother household, she learned to be practical, and I like that she still carries that quality even when she was pampered by Nick and Peik Lin's houses. Nick, on the other hand, pales  in comparison to the other three main characters. Yet, he still was a pleasant character to read, as he, as Rachel likes to describe it, carries the "humbleness of a Englishman" - if that doesn't make you swoon, then I don't know. The variety of Asian characters were also a plus, fortunately the author did not take "Asian" as just China, but also has characters ranging from Indonesia up to Turkey.

The first half of the book is pretty slow-paced, but with the enseble cast of this size, it was okay for me to get to know them, similarly like the first season of Gossip Girl. Fortunately the pace of the book picks up around the second half, even though in the last few chapters it went a bit too fast for my taste. The only downside of the book is the weakness of the ensemble cast: They were too many strong (side) characters, that were not given a proper story line, or even role, even though their characteristics shown would allow them so. With so much wasted potential for conflicts, it's such a shame that Kwan fleshed them out in the first half of the book only to drop them in the latter half.
Additionally the ending conflict went into a whole another direction, than one would think (with Peik Lin's dad researching about the Youngs, Dr. Gu's past...) and it seemed like Kwan suddenly got the final conflict idea right before he was writing the last few chapters.

But anyway, as a huge fan of Gossip Girl, I can see why many compare it to the series and The Heirs - it is a perfect blend of both series, with his own twists on them (like it or not). I may be biased, but I haven't read a (English) book with such a great diversity of a cast before (there was literally no White character present, which surprised me positively!), so I am willing to overlook the loose ends in the end. I give this book a solid 4 out of 5.

I'm planning to return blogging at least twice a month now, so I do hope that it will last longer that the measley three months I managed the last time heh.


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