I want to start this off by saying this review won’t sound anything like the others simply because those were mostly recommendations. I wanted other people to enjoy those books because I thought that they were great from beginning to end with only minor issues. I have more than minor issues with this book.
In China Rich Girlfriend, we rejoin Nick and Rachel on the eve of their wedding. After the major reveal in Crazy Rich Asians, they’ve been on a non-stop search for Rachel’s real father. However, it’s not until they really meet him that things begin to get interesting.
I’ve given up on trying to write summaries; you’ll just have to be happy with the fact that I am as vague as possible.
China Rich Girlfriend fails where a lot of sequels have failed before: it tries to do something that’s already been done in the original. Thing is, that rarely ever works. I love that they’re rich and have all of these top of the line designers and artists on display, but half of the descriptions going on in this book were unnecessary. I love that we get to hear about more than just Rachel and Nick, but some of the major themes from the main plot are never explored whereas we are told about all the books Kitty Pong needs to read to get ready for upscale Hong Kong life.
I feel like Kevin Kwan (the author) missed out on a few things here. I understand that there was a two-year gap, but I would have liked to know exactly what went on with Astrid and Michael’s reconciliation. I would have liked if the situation that Jacqueline Ling laid out for Nick had been fully explored, even if it was just Jacqueline’s particular story. Kwan hints at what could happen to Nick throughout the novel, but we never fully see the consequences of it so it’s almost like it’s not official.
It was nice to see quite a few of the characters from the first book, but they don’t seem to do much. In fact, I have some questions about them. Like, how are Nick’s parents still married when they don’t seem to spend more than a week together? It’s nice to see Oliver T’sien again (for the few seconds we do see him), but what does he do? Has Eddie learned to treat his family better? Astrid has a brother living out in California with his wife and child(ren?); how is he paying for that if he’s considered estranged from most of his family?
And another thing, what was the point in having Rachel meet her father if she never truly spends time with him? What was the point in the build up between Rachel and her stepmother if we never see their conversation? Does Nick ever actually reconcile with his mother?
Also, and this is the most important thing, how come we never get any real remorse for the dead girl, much less learn her name? Someone died, but all that’s said is that she went to school with one character, and another character felt guilty about being involved in her death. It’s obvious that she had to be rich to even run in that crowd, so why was there not more of a fuss made?
Honestly, considering everything that happens, I don’t even know why Rachel even bothers to continue to be around rich Chinese people. Like, every time she goes around these people she ends up having a horrible time. It’s pretty ridiculous. And we still have yet to go into mainland China.
Yet and still, I don’t want to end this review without talking about the good points. I still liked the dramas that went on: I love that Kitty Pong was still outrageous, though I would have loved to see her grow; I loved seeing Astrid holding her own against Michael after we spent the whole of the first book with her chasing him. I loved finally finding out about what was going on with Charlie Wu and his wife. I can honestly say that that was the most OMG! moment of the whole novel. Even more so than the “villain” reveal.
I feel like I should be saying more good things about this book, but the issues overrun it. Like I still have something to complain about, but I’m ready to end this review. I think the thing that really sticks out to me is that these people live in what are essentially former British colonies, and look down on everyone who came from mainland China. But they don’t want any American-Born Chinese, and won’t even consider any non-Chinese persons. There seems to be a lot of distancing from Chinese culture going on without blatantly doing so, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend I honestly know Chinese culture. I feel like Kwan is subtly pushing some social commentary here, but I’m just not fully getting it. I do appreciate the commentary about Christianity though.
In any case, China Rich Girlfriend could have been a lot better. It is Crazy Rich Asians‘ formulaic clone, in that the former doesn’t have nearly the same amount of depth that the latter did. It’s good for a read if you just want to follow up with the characters from the first novel, but not much else. It’s basically a Disney sequel.
Okay, I’m done. If Kevin Kwan wants to do a third book in this series, I think that he should really look at the things he did right in the first book and wrong in the second, then figure out what it is that he honestly wants to tell us. Otherwise, he can keep it.