chick lit

Glitz and Glamour in Singapore

Today’s review is of the book Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

As an urban desi, reading Chetan Bhagat is relateable. Terrible, and a waste of time, but relateable. If only because the mothers are as dramatic as my own and the grammar as vernacular as mine.

Having said that, it’s simultaneously several worlds away from me: supernatural occurrences, romance with professors’ daughters, abusive Army dads… They exist, somewhere, but aren’t representative of Indian society as a whole. I think this is probably how Singaporeans feel about Crazy Rich Asians.

Rachel Chu is a Chinese-American professor at NYU. Her boyfriend, Nick, invites her to Singapore to attend his friend’s wedding, and meet his family.

What Nick fails to mention is that his friend, Colin, is the most eligible bachelor in Singapore and is marrying a fashion icon; his (Nick’s) family is one of the richest in the country and he is the sole heir; and that his mother is controlling and disapproves of his relationship with a Chinese girl of humble origins. Shenangians ensue.

There are several subplots, and they serve to highlight certain aspects of this particular section of Singaporean society- an obsession with wealth and status, a need to maintain family appearances, and difficulties being accepted by the wealthy and influential families when you are not wealthy and influential yourself. There’s a lot of name dropping and money counting, but the family dynamics should be familiar to most- Aunties gonna Aunty, right?

This gets a 3/5 from me for being as substantial and healthy as a large piece of cotton candy.

weekend reads

I’ve often noticed that my reading tastes vary based on the intellectual demands of Real Life. Now that I have an adult job complete with crazy bosses and unreasonable expectations, my poor brain finds itself unable to cope with the demands of Literature. (In contrast, I read Sophie’s World– while taking notes- during the winter vacation of my first year in college)

It’s been particularly crazy of late (I notice I’ve been saying that for months. Hmm) and chick-lit is what I’ve turned to in these desperate times. SD already reviewed¬†The Rosie Project, so I’ll review its sequel, The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.

Unlike SD, I liked The Rosie Project enough that I picked up its sequel immediately after finishing it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s cartoon-y and crude, complete with stereotypes and random fistfights, but it’s entertaining enough.

At the end of The Rosie Project, clueless Don Tillman and the edgy Rosie got together. Now they’re married, and have relocated to NYC for no apparent reason. And guess what, Rosie is pregnant!

The serious themes of this series are overshadowed by silly comedy. Why does Rosie stop taking her birth control without informing her husband? Why does Don have panic attacks and descend into alcoholism when he finds out he’s going to be a father? Also, it is heavily implied that Don has Asperger’s, but this is played off for jokes.

But who cares, because this book is funny in a way that The Big Bang Theory will never be. Consider this quote (in my own words, because Google failed me): “Success! I had rebooted her relationship. Unfortunately, Rosie had rebooted in safe mode. She had some questions.”

4/5 for geeky jokes. I may need to examine why I related so much to Don.

Genre: Asian-American YA?

Because I apparently didn’t learn from last time‘s mistake, I once again succumbed to the siren song of the Bestseller. This time it was the Summer trilogy by Jenny Han.

The names of the books should have let me know what I was getting into- The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer. (Followed by I Know What You Did Last Summer?)

The main character is Belly Conklin, a teenaged girl who has spent most summers at a holiday home belonging to her mother’s best friend. With her mother, brother, and the sons of her mother’s friends. One summer, she turns pretty. I’m not sure how exactly this happens, but it’s acknowledged by everyone that Belly is now Hot. Of course, the boys, Conrad and Jeremiah, are both immediately in love with her. Which one will she choose? It takes 3 books to find out.

Apart from the slightly worrisome fact that Belly is involved with two brothers, there were many things I disliked about these books. Firstly, the writing is very simplistic but at the same time, vaguely nostalgic and dramatic. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it was annoying. “I decided to get a strawberry milkshake instead of vanilla. Little did I know it, but everything was about to change, irretrievably and all at once.”

All in all, a coming-of-age story set in a culture and environment that’s utterly strange to me. Vacation homes? Getting married in college? Being hot? Nope.

A very generous 1/5 from me.

Addendum:

I am incorrigible,¬† I also read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. This is the first novel of another trilogy by Jenny Han. The protagonist of this one, Lara Jean Song, writes secret letters to the boys she falls out of love with- what happens when *gasp* someone sends them out? This is not a terrible beginning, but Lara Jean is all of sixteen, which makes me skeptical that she was ever really in love in the first place. Oh, and one of the boys is her sister’s boyfriend. Much like Belly, Lara Jean is childish and self-centred – I don’t recall being that immature at sixteen. Sex is a big part of it- somehow Lara Jean is young enough to be shocked by it, yet old enough to do it? Maybe it’s a cultural thing that I missed.