Sequel Disappointment Time: China Rich Girlfriend Book Review

How on earth has it been two months since I have written anything on this blog?

Not to go full cliche, but work is the villain here, the reason I have been neglecting 2 Weeks Of, as well as the rest of my life. Since I have, for all intents and purposes, quit my job (more on that later), I’ll hopefully have more free time to dedicate to writing! (Until I find the next job that will consume my very existence and neglect everything else, as is my custom.)

Now onto the review of a book I thought I’d love only to narrowly avoid throwing in a pool: China Rich Girlfriend!

What is Rich China Girlfriend:

From the author Kevin Kwan’s website:

On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined.

Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband.

A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich.

So, this book is basically just Crazy Rich Asians part two, right? If I liked one, I’ll automatically like the other?

You’d think so, but in his attempt to make the sequel feel fresh, Kevin Kwan wrote a book that mimics the style of his first novel but has a completely different feel to it. This is better exemplified by the opening chapters of each book.

Crazy Rich Asians opens to an Asian family being subjected to the racist attitude of a British luxury hotel manager, who refuses them the room they had booked because they’re disheveled from the rain (the adults didn’t see the point in wasting money on a cab). The way the family deals with this is by immediately buying the hotel and firing the manager, in the classiest and most understated way possible. They’re not out to bully anyone, but they will not be bullied themselves.

Rich China Girlfriend begins with the coverup of an accident. The son of a billionaire went on a drunk joyride and crashed his Ferrari into the front of a Jimmy Choo store, mangling himself and two girls. One of the girls died on the spot, the other was left in a coma, but their fate is of little importance; they’re mere footnotes on a list of people that need to be paid to keep the incident quiet. Instead, throughout the book, all the focus is placed on the drunk son, on the millions spent to ensure that a full recovery takes place and he never has to think about the occurrence again.

Old Singaporean Chinese money, meet Mainland China’s nouveau riche.

With that in mind, let’s see who Rich China Girlfriend is for.

This book is for you if:

1. You really, really like to read about the life and spending habits of the richest people on earth

If you thought Crazy Rich Asians was restrained in the way it showed off the characters’ wealth, then you’re in luck, because Chinese Mainlanders make the Singaporean Chinese look like paupers! A large portion of this book is dedicated to salivating descriptions of an Estate that resembles a resort (where only one person lives, how fun!), a private Boing 747 with its own koi pond, and shopping sprees so luxurious that even the characters complain about it being too much.

2. You want to find out what happens to the main characters from the previous book

I can’t say it’ll be rewarding, but you do find out what happens to the main characters, somewhat.

3. You, uh, enjoy Kevin Kwan’s writing style?

Yeah, I got nothing else to praise on this book. Kevin Kwan’s unique style is amped up in this book, but it’s still very much recognizable as his, so if you like it, you’ll like this. The twists at the end are fun and actually unpredictable!

This book is not for you if:

1. Excessive wealth makes you queasy and you need more to a story than a list of brands

About a third of the book is just that, a parade of brands and luxury, and that’s not a story, it’s a thinly veiled attempt at making the reader jealous. The plot of this book is threadbare.

2. You don’t like point of view shifts

Crazy Rich Asians allows every chapter to be told from the perspective of a different character in the third person, which is already tiresome, but Rich China Girlfriend changes point of view on a paragraph basis! One page has Carlton internally monologuing, the next has Collete doing mental math. It’s infuriating to keep track of, and honestly something that makes the story even more tiresome.

3. You like Rachel and Nick or any of the secondary characters in Crazy Rich Asians

Rachel and Nick’s wedding takes up 24 pages on my pocket-sized book. Eleonor disappears after that chapter (around 120 pages into the book), and never shows up again. Peik Lin is only in a couple of scenes, Colin is in one. Most of the characters you liked from the first book are reduced to cameos in this book. Astrid gets some development, as does Charlie, but Rachel and Nick are honestly cardboard cutouts, present only as a means to start the action, but powerless to do anything other than react to it.

If you were expecting this book to be Rachel and Nick’s story, then stay away, because it’s really about Carlton, Collete and Kitty Pong and their quests to spend money and gain social status.

Charming.

Was this book for me?

Short answer: NO!

Long answer: when I went on the second leg of my summer vacation, I only took Rich China Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, that’s how confident I was I would love the books. And yet, two-thirds of the way through the first, I had to stop because I viscerally hated it in a way I haven’t hated a book in years.

After giving it a second chance and reading the whole way through, I can say I don’t completely hate it, (there are around 40 pages combined that I really enjoyed), but I don’t love it either. Here’s why.

1. The rich fantasy doesn’t hold much fascination to me

I live in the nicest part of my town and attended private schools my whole life; I’ve dealt with my country’s version of crazy rich and don’t find them to be that all interesting. This book is a collection of crazy rich stories with a thin thread of plot connecting them, and that’s just not enough for me.

2. At the end of the day, I am attached to characters and nor worlds

It’s normal for a sequel to introduce new characters, but here the new characters become the focus of the book; considering none of them are likable, this is a problem. I wanted more of Rachel’s reaction to her new family and heritage and less of the titular China Rich Girlfriend’s inane and uninteresting antics.

3. Carlton makes this book too real for me and that’s a bad thing

Carlton is the boyfriend of the China Rich Girlfriend, the so-called Prince Harry who crashes his Ferrari in the opening scene of the book, and throughout the story, we’re meant to sympathize with his plight. Yes, he killed a girl and faced zero consequences for it (even his face was restored to its previous glory because money), but he feels really bad about it, okay? He drinks and broods, and totally didn’t almost drag race through the streets of Paris on a 10 million bet afterward, except that he did, because he’s a spoiled billionaire brat. Carlton is showed as a poor rich boy who never evolves from there, and I can’t, won’t, get past that.

Like I mentioned before, I live in the nice part of my town, and Carlton’s accident happened here a couple of years ago. A drunk rich kid got in his fancy car with two girls and crashed it into a wall. He was fine, one of the girls died, one was in a coma and never fully recovered. The entire incident was smothered, no charges were pressed, no news outlets reported on it, I don’t think anyone outside of our zip code even knows it happened. Because money and power and influence. Two lives were ruined and the kid got to go on with his life like nothing happened because, for all intents and purposes, nothing did.

Above all else, this is why I couldn’t like China Rich Girlfriend, because while Crazy Rich Asians managed to be some sort of faraway fairytale to me, Carlton made this book real in the worst way possible.

(Which is too bad, because there really are a solid 40 pages combined that I loved, little tidbits about the characters I like that were fun and interesting and developed their personalities, but in a 479-page book, it’s not enough to save it.)

That being said, I’m definitely going to read Rich People Problems. Let’s hope it’s a return to form!

Xo,

Sara A.

5+

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