#BookReview Wangs vs. The World

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

wangs book

3.5 stars

Pros:

  • variety of characters
  • pops of Chinese culture
  • honest tone

Cons:

  • likability of characters
  • road trip trope
  • loose resolution

I heard all the hype about Wangs vs. The World, so it was on my TBR list for a while. The basic premise is the Wang family falls from riches to rags. For some reason in my mind, I expected a different tone from the novel, maybe more Crazy Rich Asians in reverse. Also, since Jade Chang helped with the Goodreads Young Adult newsletter, I thought it’d have a more YA bent. It doesn’t.

Actually, it’s got a raw feel to it. All the characters in the Wang family have grittiness to them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re well-done, rounded people–but very no-holds-barred. Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t truly like any of them.

A huge road trip from coast to coast spans a big portion of this book. A few locations were really detailed, but other geographic spots were not as fleshed out. In some ways, the whole cross-country journey has been done before, so there was a bit of monotony that set in for me.

I also had a hard time with the resolution of the book. Real life is messy, but I felt too many threads were left hanging. However, I applaud Chang in writing in an authentic way about culture and how it bleeds into our lives. Her take on Chinese dialogue, feelings across generations, and racist encounters really expose core struggles and pain.

Overall, a worthwhile read of an honest account about family, identity, and America.

Find more of my book ratings and reviews here.

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Comments

  1. Having lived abroad in an international community for many years, I understand how things said among people within one national group would not sound good if spoken outside that group. I haven’t read the book, but I can imagine how hard it would be to write an authentic account of the troubles of a Chinese-American family that would not hit some sour notes for a larger audience. As a Chinese-American, do you think you were more sensitive to their lack of likability than the average reader? Or do you think that would be a common complaint because of the way they were portrayed?

    I had a similar problem when writing my novel, Tiger Tail Soup. Being set in China during the Japanese invasion, my main characters hated the Japanese and expressed some extremely racist views about them. It had me a little worried to write what they said and thought.

    • Jennifer Chow says:

      Thanks for commenting, Nicki! It’s hard to speak outside of my own lens. I would imagine that likability would be a factor for anyone–I’m not sure it’s a cultural thing, but I do believe it’s based on reader preference. For example, I gravitate towards neat endings, while other readers may not.

      I think for your novel that the anti-Japanese sentiment is authentic. There is a lot of tension (and war) that underlies those emotions, and I think that’s being true to that time period and character.

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