Every so often I come across a book that I just can.not.put.down.
Kevin Kwan had already given me one of those masterpieces in the first book of his showstopping series, Crazy Rich Asians. After feeling slightly disappointed with the sequel, Kwan lifted me back up in a triumph that completely took over one weekend.
You’re batting .667, Kwan, which is not too shabby.
Rich People Problems is a culmination of everything great about its predecessors: crazy characters, hilarious encounters, jaw-dropping money, exquisite details, twisting plots, and did I say jaw-dropping money? It’s almost as if Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend were the opening acts for this grand finale that possesses all the signs of a classic.
A friend of a friend (this is already so on par with the subject) told me that if you hadn’t read Crazy Rich Asians, don’t wait to do so before seeing the movie. The whole “it’s not like the book thing!” will sway your opinion of the movie. Well, I have one thing to say about that.
If you haven’t read my review of Kevin Kwan’s bestseller, 1.) what are you waiting for? and 2.) you should know I love this book. It was easily five flames. Naturally, that gave me mixed feelings about seeing the movie. Books are always better than the movies they inspire (The Notebook being the only exception); even though I know this, I never want to leave a theater being let down.
Lucky for me, Crazy Rich Asians met my expectations on the silver screen; so much so that I would also say the movie is completely lit. But was it better than the book? Let’s find out as I take CRA toe to toe: book versus movie.
Reading about a life you don’t lead can be pure pleasure. That’s the main reason Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series is so intoxicating. When you don’t own a private jet with a movie theater, botanical garden, koi pond, and a karaoke lounge, you get a certain thrill pretending you could do so in another life. When you live in a 400-sq.-ft. apartment without dozens of reflecting pools, you’d gladly be swept away to where and how the other half (OK maybe the 0.5%) lives.
This escape and the hilarity that accompanies it are why we fell for the the first in this trilogy. The sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, amps up the drama to match the extravagance of the characters’ lives, yet the spectacle is a bit far-fetched. Is it possible for so many ridiculous moments to occur in lives that are almost unbelievably luxurious? To be fair, I mostly enjoyed Kwan’s second novel, but I’m choosing to be a tough critic here, and in comparison to Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend felt too unrealistic to really light me up.
There’s a scene near the beginning of Crazy Rich Asians when middle-class Rachel Chu walks into the family palace of her boyfriend, Nick Young. It’s her first experience with the supremely rich, and she’s presented with a silver bowl filled with water and rose petals:
“For your refreshment, miss,” [the servant] said.
“Do I drink this?” Rachel whispered to Nick.
“No, no, it’s for washing your hands,” Nick instructed.
Two minutes later she’s taken aback by two stuffed native Singaporean tigers in the lobby. My parents also have stuffed game in their “entryway” … theirs just have white tails and antlers.
This is only the beginning of the lux that pours out of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel, Crazy Rich Asians. Kwan’s writing matches the extravagance of these Singaporean lifestyles without a lick of kitsch. If it feels over the top, that’s only because it’s in sync with the characters it describes. With all this opulence comes even more antics, drama, and insecurities (I hear ya, Biggie), but all of this proves to be hilarious, voyeuristic, and a thrill to read.