This is, of course, a sequel to the wild ride that was Crazy Rich Asians. I read that last year, as a buddy read with a friend, and then we had a ladies’ night to see the movie. Well, her boyfriend came, but he was super supportive of the romance situation and said he enjoyed the movie, so it was cool. Anyways, it’s taken me time to pick up the second, but with the onset of summer, I knew this one was exactly what I needed to get into the right seasonal mood.
This one picks up a little bit after the end of the last one. Nick and Rachel have completely made up after all the family drama in book one, and are now about to get married, but his mother and grandmother are still against it. His mother does some digging and is able to find information about Rachel’s father…and boy is it a crazy turn! Most of the rest of the story is about Rachel meeting and “getting to know” her new family. We also get to see a lot more development of Kitty Pong’s character (remember that ostentatious gold-digging tv actress?). And Nick’s family, a main focus of book one, really fades into the background a bit in this one, with one exception (which I was super happy about because I definitely wanted more of her): his cousin, Astrid.
Well, if the first book was full of insanely rich people and profligate spending, this second one kicks it into even higher gear (pun intended, as there is quite a bit of focus on hella expensive, hella fast cars and racing in this one). Every single chapter includes some new crazy expenditure or show of wealth, from 747s with real koi ponds inside to cameos from a number of IRL famous people to more designer clothes/bags than one can even keep track of. And the drama, oh my goodness the drama. From inheritances being fought over to crazy family expectations to secrets and grudges to the (unbelievable) spelled-out extremes that it will take for an outsider to be accepted into Asia’s most elite circles. Also, similar to the first, while this is obviously a skewed cultural lens to learn through, I really enjoyed the infusion of Chinese culture, history, art and food (even if it was all delivered in tones of superiority and condescension), as well as the author’s footnotes to add explanation to the language, traditions, and his own personal experiences with certain parts of the story. It’s was insightful and educational in a very “with a grain of salt” (or, well, a handful of salt), sort of way.
As far as the plot, I was definitely into it as it unfolded. Once Rachel learns who her family is, you know there’s gonna be some great stuff coming down the line. I liked watching her relationship with her brother develop and also appreciated that while some things were “easy,” others were just as hard as you’d expect upon meeting family you didn’t know you had for 30+ years. Kitty’s story, post marrying the spoiled rich Bernard Tai, was really interesting; not my favorite part, but since it was more minimal/side-plot, I liked when it was revisited, just to give the story some extra depth. And I was pleasantly caught off guard by the way it was woven into the rest of the new characters’ (the ones we meet in this novel for the first time) lives. Plus, it gave the author a chance to really plainly show readers what all is actually required, how stringent the “rules” are, to be a true member of this rich Asians club. And last, Astrid. She was one of my favorite characters in the first one, probably because her effortless style and grace is something I wish I had personally…and very much do not. Haha. Anyways, after learning at the end of the last book that her ex-boo Charlie Wu bought her husband Michael’s tech start-up (and, thus, is the secret reason for his meteoric financial climb in the business world), you know there’s no way that stays buried. The build to that secret coming out, the tension between Astrid and Michael, along with the increased communication between Charlie and Astrid, had me cheering hard for them all throughout this novel (especially because Michael, who was always kind of a dick, gets even worse). This storyline is definitely my favorite. I think Nick and Rachel are super cute, but being on their honeymoon makes things just a little too perfect between them right now. So while that’s awesome for them, and I love seeing a good healthy relationship central to a story (it’s very underrepresented), there’s no drama there to read about (which is, obviously, the main reason for these books, haha.)
To sum up, this book, the series to date, is so guilty-pleasure-inducing to read that it’s almost impossible to describe. I binged the crap out of it and have already ordered the third installment, so I can finish it while I’m still in the summery mood for the high drama and unreality of this world. It’s completely fun and entertaining – exactly what it promises to be!