The Ultimate Kevin Kwan Literary Guide, Summarized for Your Reading Pleasure
Since his debut novel 'Crazy Rich Asians' was birthed to society, his signature satirical and snarky take on the Asian elite has taken the entire world (laughing) by storm!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that one knows who Kevin Kwan is. Let’s face it—the whole world has, and if you haven’t, I think you’ve been living under a rock1. Since his debut novel Crazy Rich Asians was birthed to society, his signature satirical and snarky take on the Asian elite has taken the entire world (laughing) by storm. Since then, three novels and a film have been released for all of our consumption and here’s hoping he never stops writing. But for those who have yet to dive deep into the shining, shimmering world of Kevin Kwan, you have come to the right place.
In honor of Kevin Kwan’s recent release Sex and Vanity (a review that I wrote myself, too, immediately after I got hold of my own copy), I compiled a short summary and review per novel release for you to decide should you wish to go down this reading route2.
Crazy Rich Asians (2013)
We begin with the saga of the Youngs, a clan whose bank account is worth more than our country and more combined and as old a generation as it gets. The story is told in different points of view, including the dashing dreamboat of a man named Nicholas Young, heir to the Young fortune and currently in love with Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American whose western ways earn the ire of his family. Nothing new, so not a spoiler, and yet becomes the main plot point of the whole story. Toss in a grand wedding (actually grand everything), snide remarks about ABCs (it’s not your alphabet, believe you me) and a cliffhanger ending, and you’ve got yourself a trip worth taking (if only vicariously).
China-Rich Girlfriend (2015)
Here’s some boiling, scalding tea for you: who doesn’t love a good scandal?3 The saga continues on with another wedding (the couples in this trilogy…) and this time it’s between protagonist pair Nick and Rachel, the latter of whom wants to badly meet her birth father and wishes for him to attend the wedding. But Kwan never fails to bring this journey to zany results and so Rachel goes to search and meets some wildly outrageous personalities on the way to fatherhood. Treat this as a reverse prodigal son tale where daughter seeks father, among other deliciously dirt that has been dug up, including a pining, yearning secondary couple who you’ll be secretly yearning for.
Rich People Problems (2017)
Three words: Welcome to Manila. Kwan takes on the elite circle of this Philippine cosmopolitan city, but before the Young clan start flying off to this archipelago, they have to deal with their main matriarch on the deathbed. Nick is called upon as the eldest and heir, but who doesn’t love the supportive relatives who come from all corners of the globe to be by her side? It’s a thrilling end to this crazier-than-crazy saga and it’s all the more satisfying because everyone gets their happy ending, especially two people who rest easy in the idyllic, scenic island of Palawan.
Sex and Vanity (2020)
This new release was described by Kwan as a dream project. He had been itching to write this for a while and I’m glad that he did because his humor is always something to look forward to. This was released at the peak of our ongoing community quarantine and this read had me missing the island of Capri, a place I have never been to and yet I wished to sink my feet slowly in warm sand again. This novel is a love story that spanned some years between two individuals Lucie Churchill and George Zao who met at Capri for a wedding. While I still loved the snark of Crazy Rich Asians more, this one had me sit up with heart racing at the mention of Pablo Neruda. Believe me, you’ll hop off your bed too.
So there you have it, a quick snapshot of Kevin Kwan’s world—a lot of scandal, sarcasm and the trademark Kwan snark that has you reading between the lines and the footnotes.4
1 Like really, where have you been all this time?
2Screw Robert Frost. Take the road more travelled. I mean, who are we kidding here.
3We know you do, and Kerry Washington, probably.
4Are we still even surprised at this point? No! But it’s fun, really fun.
Check out EIC On The Move's special episode featuring Kevin Kwan as host Raul Manzano and co-host Korina Sanchez-Roxas chat with the illustrious author and his latest book—Sex and Vanity. Pick up a copy of Kevin Kwan’s books in Fully Booked and National Bookstore branches nationwide.
Portrait of Kevin Kwan from Metro archives, cover images from Amazon,