Nine times out of ten, books are always better than their adaptations – adaptations are forced to shave off layers of the story in order to fit a book into a 2 hour movie shaped package. Crazy Rich Asians is the one exception in this scenario – the one time out of ten that a movie actually does a story better justice than the source material did.
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.
Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; 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.
While the core story is the same between the movie and the book (Rachel falls for Nick who hasn’t told her he’s from a uber-wealthy family who doesn’t approve of his life choices, including Rachel), the movie really had a stronger story. Where the movie got straight to the point, this book meanders and takes seemingly pointless journeys off course – which made the book a slog to get through. Also, the book really lacks a lot of setting descriptions outside of small descriptions of wealth. Part of what I loved about the movie was how lush and diverse the scenery was, and the book was definitely lacking in that area.
My other big gripe with the book is the characters. A lot of the side characters are nasty, flat, or just not that likable. In the movie, the side characters were dynamic – and even the villains were cunning and understandable. I really wish the book had focused less on the fact that everyone was insanely rich and snobby, and had instead focused on giving the characters complex and interesting motives.
Overall, this is one of the few times I would recommend someone skip reading the book and just watch the movie – Crazy Rich Asians the movie is the refined, sleek version where the book is rough and at times hard to read. If you’re looking for other rom-coms, check out The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon or The Dating Plan by Sara Desai. 3/5