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Book Review: The Wangs Vs The World Is Refreshingly Funny

Book Review: The Wangs Vs The World Is Refreshingly Funny

The Wangs Vs The World follows the story of the Wang family – Charles, Barba, Saina, Andrew and Grace. Charles is an incredibly successful business man who came over from China and made his fortune in the make-up industry. Then disaster strikes.

Bad investment decisions coupled with the 2008 recession sends his company down and his entire fortune with it. Completely broke, Charles packs up as much as he can fit into a car and starts a journey across America to pick up his two youngest children.

They journey towards his eldest daughter’s home – the only place they can go.  Along the way they rediscover what is means to be family and how to continue their lives without the immense amounts of money they once had.

Keep reading to find out what I thought…

I found The Wangs vs The World to be a refreshing and hilarious read. Jade Chang really hits the nail on the head when it comes to what it is like for American-born Chinese youngsters (ABCs) who grow up in the West with Asian parents. Being half Asian, half British myself, I was astounded at how accurate and funny, but crucially, how not racist, this story is.

In Charles Wang she has perfectly captured the brazen, money-driven, family orientated Chinese man. He is an exaggerated character but I can genuinely imagine him existing in real life. It is so easy to go overboard when lightly mocking another race but Chang has balanced humour and accuracy perfectly and I’m so happy to finally be reading a really good book about POC.

The characters are complex and there is a real sense of family between all of them. At first the children seem bratty and spoilt, as many kids raised with millionaire fathers are, but as the novel goes on they start to turn more human and you grow to love them.

The lives of these three kids have been completely uprooted and they’ve been dragged across half a continent by their father who seems just a bit loopy and is hiding secrets. Whilst at the beginning they are all very independent individuals, as the story goes on, they are reminded of what it means to be family, which is heart-warming. This is a tale about re-finding yourself and grounding yourself with what is really important in life when everything you have has been taken away.

What I do wonder, however, is how this book would be perceived by someone who isn’t of Oriental descent and doesn’t understand the cultural nuances. A huge part of why I enjoyed this book so much was precisely because I felt an immense connection with the characters and their heritage. I know exactly what it’s like to have an immigrant Chinese mother but most of the general population can’t say the same.

What’s more, several sentences are actually written in Pin Yin (the written form of Chinese characters), which must’ve looked like gobbledegook to anyone who doesn’t speak Chinese. They are frequent enough that I wondered if someone who didn’t understand them might simply get frustrated.

All in all, I was very impressed with Jade Chang’s debut novel. It is genuinely very funny and the it is a pretty accurate representation of what many Chinese/American families are like. For those who are interested in reading something diverse, which many people have been complaining about as of late, then I’d definitely recommend The Wangs vs The World. It’s similar to Crazy Rich Asians, which has taken the world by storm, so if you liked that you’ll also love this.

As I said though, this book resonated with me personally quite a lot because I am half Chinese so I’m not sure others will feel quite the same way. Four out of five stars for me.

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Buy The Wangs vs The World: 
Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

Thanks very much to Penguin for providing me with a review copy.

Have you read The Wangs vs The World? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it and what you make of the cultural references. Comment below!

If you liked this post, check out these:
15 Books Like Crazy Rich Asians
15 Diverse Books You’ll Love
Find more book reviews on What’s Hot here.

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Laura

Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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32 Comments

  1. 28th November 2016 / 6:55 PM

    Sounds like a really great ready, growing up in a country different to your parents you have different thinking and expectations. I want to have a read of this book for sure as it sounds awesome

  2. LaaLaa
    28th November 2016 / 7:07 PM

    What a good sounding book, it’s quite nice to find a book that you can relate too. I like that it’s quite funny also.

  3. 28th November 2016 / 10:01 PM

    I havent read it, but it does sound excellent. I think if you empathise with the characters it always works

  4. 28th November 2016 / 10:12 PM

    Sounds like an interesting read! Like you said, I’d be interested to read it as someone who doesn’t know much about the culture!

  5. 28th November 2016 / 10:33 PM

    I love that even though it is a caricature it still remains culturally appropriate and not racist, definitely an important move to make.

  6. Galina V
    29th November 2016 / 8:00 AM

    I haven’t heard of this author or book. The book sounds fascinating. Chinese transliteration wouldn’t deter me, though I would have liked to know what exactly is being said.

  7. Hungry_Healthy_Happy
    29th November 2016 / 9:35 AM

    I haven’t heard of this book before, but it sounds great and I’m always looking for new books to add to my wish list.

  8. 29th November 2016 / 10:10 AM

    I haven’t heard of this book but I like the idea of it being a family orientated book x

  9. Natasha Mairs
    29th November 2016 / 10:11 AM

    I am currently reading a book about a Chinese British family and it’s interesting to read about the different culture, but I am also finding it a bit hard to really get in to

  10. 29th November 2016 / 10:20 AM

    This sounds like a really good read. A great idea for a stocking filler too!

  11. jigsawparenting
    29th November 2016 / 12:22 PM

    Have not come across this as of yet but by reading your review I would be tempted to give it a try now

  12. 29th November 2016 / 12:41 PM

    I haven’t seen this before but it sounds great and it’s fabulous that it resonated with you so much!

  13. Melanie Edjourian
    29th November 2016 / 5:55 PM

    This sounds like an interesting read and it’s great that they develop the characters enough to make readers like them.

  14. Alyssa
    29th November 2016 / 8:58 PM

    I’ve been keeping an eye on this — when blurbs and the cover were first released, I thought it sounded really interesting, and I’m glad that someone of basically the same culture that the author writes about appreciates it. It’s so important that culture be included without it delving to racism, and I’m glad this book does that. Probably going to add this to my to-read list soon. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Beautyqueenuk
    30th November 2016 / 12:26 AM

    This sounds like the perfect read for a friend of mine who happens to be a bit of a book worm x

  16. 30th November 2016 / 12:45 PM

    I’m really trying to read more so may give this book a go this weekend x

  17. 30th November 2016 / 1:28 PM

    Great review. I will be putting a review soon. So far I find it to be a very witty read

  18. 30th November 2016 / 2:38 PM

    I am not of Chinese descent however I love the review of this book and plan on reading it soon, It would not necessarily be a book I would spot on the shelves of the bookshop, but after your great review I will be seeking it out. Thank you! xx

  19. Amelia Larsen
    30th November 2016 / 5:10 PM

    I’m trying to read outside of my ‘comfort zone’ at the moment so this sounds ideal for me x

  20. Amy
    1st December 2016 / 2:49 PM

    I’ve got so much Uni work on at the moment that I just don’t have enough time to read for pleasure! This sounds really good. x

  21. fashion-mommy
    1st December 2016 / 11:26 PM

    It sounds different from my usual reads, but I love a book with some humour.

  22. 3rd December 2016 / 9:13 AM

    Hi. I am reminded of two authors, after reading your review. First, there Iris Chang, the Taiwanese-American who killed herself after years of depression and the one who wrote about the Nanjing Massacre. But I mentioned her only because or her surname. Another author is Amy Tan of the Joy Luck Club fame who had written stories based on the lives of Asians living in America.

    Anyway, I agree with you on your question of how Americans can resonate with the story especially as it seems to be catered to a niche market. I think in the same manner that many Americans understood the Joy Luck Club, that is what may happen with Jade’s book too.

    Anyway, never read it but after reading your review, I am intrigued!

  23. 3rd December 2016 / 10:54 AM

    Being a half Hungarian, half Australian I have no doubts there would be elements of the book I could relate to. I really feel it’s a topic not many people touch on. Coming from one background and yet trying to assimilate to the country you live in.

    Next year I have made it a resolution to read at least *one* book a month! Your review was so beautifully written and intriguing I’ve added it to my list! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  24. Mommy QueenElizabeth
    3rd December 2016 / 1:04 PM

    I haven’t read nor heard about this book yet. Not until i read your blogpost. I find it interesting, having said that its a funny and hilarious read! I think i wanna get this and read coz its something that won’t make me fall asleep… lol!

  25. Teresa Dumadag
    3rd December 2016 / 3:39 PM

    I have not read it yet. This is the first time I encountered it. The title is catchy. It is intriguing to the potential readers like me. 🙂

  26. Thelittlelai: Beyond limits
    4th December 2016 / 12:24 AM

    It’s been a while since the last time I read book. Way back before I used to read books, but because there were so mamlny things that demand time, I couldn’t read that much now a days. Anyway, I haven’t heard this book not until I read your blog post. I find it interesting to read and would really fit to my taste on books.

  27. Alyssa Tuangco
    4th December 2016 / 8:06 AM

    The story seems very interesting to me since it’s a funny one. I used to read books and I love reading ones that has humour in it. I remember reading one in the train and I can’t help myself laughing haha! Your review to the books makes me want to read it more! Thanks for the amazon link.

  28. 4th December 2016 / 1:44 PM

    It sounds like an interesting read, but as you said I may not get as much out of it, I probably wouldn’t understand all the cultural references. I love it when you find a book that you can connect with.

  29. Jerny Destacamento
    5th December 2016 / 6:24 AM

    You think somebody can make a good movie of it? I’m hoping so. Family relations are one last thing that we have when we don’t have any money of our own. They are always our last resort. Will take time to read this book. Your review is cool!

  30. Maaya Legaspi
    5th December 2016 / 3:43 PM

    Looks like it’s really a good read. I seldom see books now that has an Asian character. Most of the book I read have western people as their main character. So I guess this is quite refreshing. What would it be like if it has a movie adaptation..

  31. Xavier B
    5th December 2016 / 10:12 PM

    I haven’t read it and I didn’t know about it either. To be honest I don’t know many books except for the classic ones. I’m also more into fantasy/sci-fi books or simply just comics. But my girlfriend loves books and even though she’s into fantasy as well, she enjoys from time to time any other genre. With 4 stars I will definitely tell her about it

  32. 6th December 2016 / 9:55 AM

    Looks like a good read since you recommend it. I wonder they will do a movie adaptation.

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