Original review when on DNF: Hmm I was going to say this isn’t the book for me, but I might revisit it. The suspension of disbelief to get through the accidental murder–no spoilers since it’s in the book blurb but while in a SPEEDING CAR driven by a SLIGHTLY INEBRIATED MAN due to the fact that her CELL PHONE WASN’T CHARGED PRIOR TO GOING ON A DATE WITH A TOTAL STRANGER Meddy is being creepily hit on/sort of assaulted and TASERS him. WHILE THEY ARE DRIVING. VERY FAST.
I mean, okay, but also, CAN YOU NOT WAIT UNTIL THE CAR IS AT A STOPLIGHT.
I apologize for the yelling but I really needed something very escapist and engrossing, and this was billed as Indonesian Chinese Crazy Rich Asians which…it is not. Perhaps because they are called by Englishized titles (Big Aunt/Second Aunt/Fourth Aunt) instead of their actual Bahasa/Mandarin terms, it feels a little less like we’re getting a view into Indonesian culture and more like we’re being presented this typical story that happens to be set with Indo characters. Which, again, not bad! But not the vibe I was going for.
I would have enjoyed spending a little more time with Meddy and her family before jumping straight into the plot pacing, if only because (as noted above) the plot is catalyzed by the flimsiest of catalysts. On a scale of Crazy Rich Asians to Sex and Vanity this is unfortunately starting closer to the latter.
Follow up, when finished: I definitely did not enjoy this book, for all that I loved the setting and wanted to enjoy it. As I was recounting to a friend of mine, it wanted to be many things (Crazy Rich Asians, Weekend at Bernie’s, queer-affirming, #ownvoices, sprawling family saga, One True Love Romance) but ended up not having the time or heft to hit any of the points well. If anything, it might be best as a first novel in a series, with perhaps a more sedate pace in the follow ups now that so much of the ground work has been set.
I think I’m going to go heavy into spoilers for some more specific ways in which I was frustrated as it relates to the above, because I just want to get it out SOMEHOW:
[It’s literally never explained in any reasonable way how it’s okay that Meddy and her aunts SUFFOCATED A MAN TO DEATH because of their superstitions around not wanting to touch a dead body and find a pulse. I am from a culture that is very superstitious. After about two too many references to how surprisingly warm and pliable Jason’s body was despite being, you know, dead, you knew where the story was going. Very tonally bizarre in the middle of this rom-com-slapstick type atmosphere–Jason might have been lying about his job, he might have been creeping on Meddy when she was in the car, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to suffocate him! to! death! in a cooler box!!! because they didn’t want to check the dead body for a pulse (but were totally fine manhandling (ha) it into a cooler??????? Like??? WHAT?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Separately Nick was a total drip–I get that it’s very romantic that someone has pined after you for five years, but you literally haven’t spoken to the chick since she very unconvincingly broke up with you for entirely convenient plot-related reasons in college, have you not met someone since then that is Sort of Creepy (looking at you, WW84/Steve Rodgers with the “never had a dream come true/till the day that I found you” plotlines that are less aww and more “…please move on.”)
LASTLY I am also from a culture where we call our aunts/uncles by their ordinal position at birth but if I were writing a book where I am proudly centering my culture I wouldn’t let readers say things like “Oldest Blood Uncle” “Oldest Blood Uncle’s Wife” and “Big Uncle” and “Big Uncle’s Wife.” You’ll read Tayaji/Tayiji/Badapapa/Badima/Chacha/Chachi and learn how to associate them with my characters. This last point is mostly a me contention.]