Book To Screen: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians Book To Screen On Novels And Nonfiction

We’ve entered a bit of a Crazy Rich Asians craze these days – and deservedly so. I was very excited to see a movie with such a diverse Asian cast go into production and more recently to see it perform so well at the box office. It’s very encouraging to witness audiences continuing to respond positively to good story lines and interesting characters regardless of their origin.

When I decided to read Crazy Rich Asians a few weeks ago, so that I could review the book and the movie side by side, I wasn’t sure whether I would like the book. I’m definitely not a chick lit or romance novel fan, so I was worried it would feel much too superficial and light for me. I ended up finding the novel enjoyable though with some softer points, but the movie actually outdid the novel for me. It was the perfect, sweet, entertaining romance comedy, like the ones I loved to watch in the 1990s and 2000s that are rarely matched nowadays. Read more about my thoughts on the novel and movie below.Book To Screen Comparison For Ready Player One On Novels And NonfictionCrazy Rich Asians Book To Screen Comparison On Novels And Nonfiction

While I found the Crazy Rich Asians’ novel enjoyable, I thought the movie pulled the essence of the novel out and made it shine in a much more successful way. The movie was heartwarming, entertaining, sweet and funny in its own right, with just enough changes here and there to the plot to make up for some of the shortcomings of the novel. The differences in the story actually helped the movie feel more cohesive, plausible and better-paced than the novel.

One of the story line changes I appreciated in particular in the movie was the fact that Rachel pressed Nick much more early on about his family’s wealth, and didn’t naively take days and days to figure it out. She gets into that first class cabin and immediately pries the secret loose from him, which is much more believable. I also liked that the ending of the movie was more definite and at the same time more complex than the novel. I won’t go into the details (no spoilers), but it just felt overall like a more satisfying (and unsurprisingly more cinematic) close.

The casting for the movie was overall excellent. Who doesn’t love Constance Wu after all. She brought extra depth to Rachel’s slightly lackluster character from the novel, giving her the personality and sass you’d expect from an educated daughter of a single mom living in New York city. Nick still felt pretty one-note even in the movie portrayal, but Henry Golding majorly brings the eye candy, and no one is going to complain about that. The comedic acting of several of the supporting characters was also excellent, including those that interpreted the parts of Peik Lin (Awkwafina), her family (Ken Jeong, Koh Chieng Mun etc.) and Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang).

One thing that I kind of missed in the movie was the same level of glitz and glamour as in the book. There were definitely more opulent scenes (the wedding and subsequent parties in particular) in the movie, but I still felt like some of the production quality and level of lavishness may have been held back a bit, possibly for budgetary reasons. I also really missed being able to see the more complex version of Astrid’s story line that is included in the novel. The watered-down version of this secondary plot line present in the movie, combined with the actress’ (Gemma Chan) unfortunately pretty wooden portrayal, made it so that one of my favorite characters in the book felt almost like an after-thought in the film version.

Ready Player One Book Review On Novels And NonfictionCrazy Rich Asians Book Review On Novels And NonfictionCrazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan

Publication Date: June 11th 2013
Publisher: Doubleday
Length In Hardcover: 403 pages
Goodreads Rating: 3.78

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Hardcover
Paperback

Plot Teaser ImageCrazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian Jet Set; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

What I Liked (1)Different than average. I’m not much of a chick lit or romance novel reader, so I didn’t know how I’d feel about Crazy Rich Asians going into it. Other similar light novels typically feel superficial and poorly written to me, and I can’t say that Crazy Rich Asians had the most high-brow writing. However, the novel successfully departs from the chick lit genre sufficiently to appeal to someone like me who normally avoids that genre entirely. It’s certainly an easy, breezy and quick read, but it’s also highly entertaining, quite funny at times, and unusual enough in its characters and locations to feel unique.

Glitzy setting. One of the main attractions of the novel, for me, was to be able to peek in voyeuristically on the lives of the super rich of Singapore. I really enjoyed the passages dedicated to their opulent lifestyles – the fashion, houses, cars, jets and vacations. Singapore is also one of the Asian countries with which I was least familiar, and so I actually learned a lot about its culture, customs, food and urban life from the novel. Combined with a couple of its slightly more complex and captivating characters (Astrid and Peik Lin), the novel ended up being a very engaging read.

What I Didn't Like ImageSimplistic. This is the failing for most chick lit titles for me – many key parts of their construction end up feeling over-simplified and superficial. Crazy Rich Asians suffered from some of that. The two protagonists in particular (Nick and Rachel) felt like they barely had personalities. They were so sweet and innocent, and their relationship so sugary and perfect, that it was hard to connect with them in any meaningful way. The main plot of the novel that centered around them was also very bare bones – the typical boilerplate star-crossed lovers fare – with no surprising twists.

Repetitive. I loved the descriptions of the character’s fancy houses, expensive clothes and outrageous parties at the beginning of the novel. By the end, however, it seemed the author was trying to substitute more and more lavish details of gaudy possessions for an actually engaging plot. The repetitiveness of these passages, used to demonstrate how rich each of the families within the novel was, became quite boring. Despite the ending of the novel being left more open-ended than in the movie, I still felt that it was overly neat and cliched.

Final Verdict Image

3 Rabbit Rating On Novels And Nonfiction

I think for fans of chick lit, Crazy Rich Asians will be an enjoyable original take on the genre. For others, I would advise to go into the book with the right expectations – it makes for a fun, breezy, uncomplicated read.

About The Author ImageKevin Kwan Author ImageKevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore, where he attended Anglo-Chinese School in the mornings and spent his afternoons either hiding from his Chinese tutor or chasing after neighborhood dogs on his bike. After obtaining his first degree in creative writing from the University of Houston, Kevin moved to Manhattan to pursue a BFA at Parsons School of Design.

In 2000, Kevin established his own creative studio, where he specialized in producing high profile visual projects for clients such as the New York Times, the Museum of Modern Art, Rockwell Group, and TED.com. Throughout all this, Kevin always remained passionate about books. His critically-acclaimed debut novel Crazy Rich Asians became an international bestseller in 2013 and is now being made into a major motion picture by director Jon M. Chu and Warner Brothers Studios. Its sequel China Rich Girlfriend also became a smash hit around the world, and the final book in the trilogy, Rich People Problems, was released in May 2017.

Line ImageHave you read Crazy Rich Asians and/or watched the movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

If you’d like to keep up to date with posts on Novels And Nonfiction, make sure to follow me on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

You can also read my prior Book To Screen review for Ready Player One, or recent book reviews for the Leonardo Da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson, historical mystery Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks, true crime title A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and contemporary fiction novel The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang.

Please note this post contains affiliate links from Book Depository.

  23 comments for “Book To Screen: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

  1. Susie | Novel Visits
    September 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    I read Crazy Rich Asians when it first came out and to be honest I didn’t care for it. I remember feeling like it was just too over the top and a little melodramatic for me. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have had a feeling that this was one of those rare cases where I’d like the movie more than the book. You’ve confirmed that for me and now I need to go see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 4, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      I hope you end up liking the movie more than the book! Chick lit is generally always too melodramatic for me as well – I just had to go into reading the book knowing that there would be some heightened drama to it 🙂

      Like

  2. September 4, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    I haven’t read the book nor seen the movie. I meant to go this weekend and it somehow it didn’t happen. I liked reading your comparison of the book and the movie, so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 4, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Hope you can make the time to see the movie Helen! It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.

      Like

  3. September 4, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve read all three books and met Kwan when he was in Seattle for the last book. Basically, I’m a superfan! Everything you said is accurate- they’re not the most ingenious plots, but when I need a complete escape they are well-written enough that I can fall into this fantasy world and forget everything else. I felt the same way about the movie as you did- the Astrid character was diminished and I really wanted to see more glitz, but imagine it would have broken the budget. I read the book so long ago I don’t know where the book and movie diverged.

    Bottom line? Fun. Plain and simple, inoffensive fun. I left the movie theater happier than I’ve been in awhile and I’m pretty sure I’ll go back and see it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 4, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      I’m happy to see we had similar opinions about some of the movie’s weaknesses! Makes me feel validated 🙂 Inoffensive fun is a good way to describe it. I think there’s been a need for that more and more entertainment-wise. Not just for pure escapism (a la trashy reality television), but for wholesome/heartwarming escapism specifically.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. B Lostinacoulee
    September 4, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I love your post. I hope to read this one and then watch the movie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 4, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks! Glad you liked the post. I would definitely recommend reading the book before watching the movie if you can. If you watch the movie version of a book first, I think it’s inevitable that you’ll only be able to imagine the characters as they were represented in the movie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. September 4, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I completely agree that the movie outdid the book. I loved the book, but the movie was even better! I loved the ending of the movie! Gave me goosebumps 😊 great review & comparison! Bok bok bitch! (Loved Awkafina)

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 4, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Glad you liked the post! I think I would have liked the book more if it was a genre I typically go for but it does serve its purpose very well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. September 4, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I’m usually not a chick lit kinda reader either, but I was in a slump from thrillers for a really long time. I read way too many disappointing ones that I needed a break and took a liking to chick lit. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  7. September 5, 2018 at 12:50 am

    I love this comparison review! I haven’t seen the film yet, but your review gives me hope that I’ll enjoy it. Give me the 90’s romance films any day. I miss those!

    I agree that Crazy Rich Asians was simplistic— but I felt there was a LOT going on for such a simply written book. It was sometimes challenging for me to keep track of all the different characters and their motivations. But I loved the glitz! I’m so sad it was toned down in the film. The excessive parts always intrigued me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 6, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      I think you’ll definitely enjoy the movie Jackie! There are a few scenes that are super opulent, so even without the same level overall of the glitz and glamour of the book, the movie is still a good time. Let me know what you think once you see it!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. September 8, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    I love hearing that you thought the movie was better, because I saw the movie without reading the book and worried I would be missing out on something. I did wonder about Astrid, and whether or not she had a bigger part in the book. Overall, I thought the movie was very entertaining and I just might wait for the next two without reading the books first!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. September 9, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    This one is on my TBR – excellent well rounded review!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. September 10, 2018 at 1:22 am

    I went and saw the movie last weekend with my husband, and thought it was just ok. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the movie was missing a little spark… It did make my heart happy to see a movie with an all Asian cast do so well though. It definitely had its funny moments. Peik Lin was hilarious.

    Typically, if there is a book, I’ll read it before seeing the movie, HOWEVER I knew that the book would not be my cup of tea… Seems like I made the right decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm

      I think the movie aimed to be such a broad crowd pleaser that it can be seen as bland in some ways, but sometimes you just want that really easy, accessible kind of entertainment.

      Like

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