Thursday, 15 June 2017

Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
(Book #3 in The Crazy Rich Asians series) 

Publishing Date: May 23, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pages: 416
Asian American Fiction / Contemporary

** This is the sequel to the second book China Rich Girlfriend, which you can read my review for here. You can read this book as a stand-alone if you wish, but I recommend reading the first two books in the series beforehand to have more context and background to certain characters **

The Premise from the Publisher: "When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside--but he's not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch, but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park--a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore--the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong finds herself at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife--a woman hell-bent on destroying Astrid's reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing and determined to raise their son more lavishly than a future king, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette.  A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly-appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan's gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia's most privileged families" (Doubleday). 

My overall thoughts and review: It honestly feels like we've been waiting a lifetime for Kevin Kwan's final installment of the Crazy Rich Asians series and when it finally arrived, I must admit, I took my sweet time reading it because I wanted to live in denial that it was not going to be over. I have loved the characters so much over the course of the last two books, and even more so as we get casting news for the upcoming movie adaptation. What I love most is that you really don't have to re-read the previous books to remember things. Kwan's writing is incredibly immersive and you find yourself back in the world, not missing a beat. Similar to his other books, Kwan includes the same format of news articles, text messages, and my favorite: footnotes! I really loved this component and I wish more authors did it because it felt like Kwan was engaging with the reader directly. It still has the same style of writing where you feel you are in settings and sitting right next to the characters.

This book explores the entire family at the news of Su Yi's sickness and essentially everyone's thoughts of what will happen to her will/estate and most importantly, Tyersall Park. Since the previous book, Nick has not spoken to his grandma and they had a falling out because of his marriage with Rachel. This book still had Nick and Rachel relationship components in it, but I loved how it expanded to include flashbacks about Su Yi's life. I really felt like this book was about Su Yi and learning about her past really gave me a new appreciation for her character. You got to really learn how important she was to Nick when he was growing up and how the space of Tyersall Park, played a big role. I think the story wrapped things up quite nicely in terms of relationships. But at the end of the day, what Kwan has stressed again and again is that at the heart of it, his books speak about wealth in this particular culture and society. I was really happy to see great developments for Astrid (my favorite character). I felt like so many of her quotes perfectly encapsulate the concept of wealth in the book. Particularly: "The problem is that they all have too much money, and it's come so easily to them that they think they're bloody geniuses and so they are always right" (344)  and "To me, it's our wealth that puts us in the fortunate position of being able to do an enormous amount of good in the world, not hide from the world!" (382). We see a different range of how the characters approach the money and what they choose to do with it. From Eddie (who is incredibly frustrating but goodness, his scenes are hilarious), who plays up the good grandson act to ensure a future for not only his wife and children, but his parents too, to Kitty who drops millions at a time on specific art pieces to represent her status and value in society, and finally, to Alistair, who is simply happy to be left a small portion from Su Yi. Sure money definitely made things easier for certain characters in the book, but what I really admired was that Kwan showed us, sometimes money does not fix everything and it comes down to figuring yourself out, or in Su Yi's case, getting by on charm and luck. I'm incredibly sad to say goodbye to these characters that I have loved for this entire trilogy, but I'm excited for what is on the horizon. We have the movie adaptation coming up (who else is so ecstatic about the casting for Astrid and Charlie?) and I honestly cannot wait to see what Kwan writes next. If you are a fan of the series, you will not want to miss this finale. If you haven't started the series yet, what are you waiting for? A rollercoaster of a book that draws you into the wonderful world of Asia, good food, and couture is waiting!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)

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Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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