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I can appreciate the role Crazy Rich Asians played in ushering in a new wave of representation in popular culture with both the book and the movie adaptation. However, I believe that the book does better than the movie in this respect – where the book feels like a contemporary romance with a faithful portrayal of an underrepresented culture, the movie feels more like a mediocre chick flick with Asian casting.
I liked the parts of the book about Singapore more than anything about Nick and Rachel’s relationship. Nick is a terrible boyfriend – he seems to take every opportunity to throw Rachel to the wolves with no preparation or warning. And Rachel never stood up for herself or let him know how terribly everyone was treating her. I know this whole series is about their relationship, but they seem like a terrible match. They’re either too immature to have honest conversations with each other, or they just don’t care enough about each other to pay attention to what’s going on. But whenever the narrative focused on the setting instead of the people, I was totally enthralled. I’ve never been to Singapore, but this book made me miss travelling so much (thanks, COVID).
All of the characters are probably at least three times crazier than they need to be. It makes for an incredibly eclectic cast, and I really couldn’t predict what anyone would do in any situation, especially because there’s a lot of prejudice and racism flung around casually like gossip. I don’t know if this was an attempt to be honest or an effort to be shocking, but it was pretty confronting and pulled me out of the narrative at times.
I am thankful for the trend of increased representation that Crazy Rich Asians and other books like it have ushered in. I (obviously) love to read, and that experience is only improved with the inclusion of different cultures, countries, races, and traditions. Representation is important, not just because everyone deserves to see themselves in popular culture, but because it diversifies the reader’s experience and expands their worldview. Do I wish Crazy Rich Asians relied less on the usual contemporary romance tropes and the characters were less rude and judgmental? Of course. But through reading, I got to experience an entirely different world and culture from my own, which was interesting and worthwhile.
For anyone interested, I put together a spoiler list below of the major differences (that I noticed) between the book and the movie adaptation:
Other Books in this Series:
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