I’m thrilled to share a review of The Wangs vs. The World, a dazzling debut by the witty and wonderful Jade Chang. I received an advanced copy from Harper Collins Canada as a part of the #HCCFirstLook program – big thank you to the team at HCC for fuelling my love of books (and chocolate – my book arrived with an adorable baggie filled with chocolate coins!). Read the review below!
Jade Chang’s debut The Wangs vs. The World is a modern American epic. Full of heart and humour, Chang’s cross-country road trip romp centres on the Wang family as they grapple with change during the 2008 financial crash.
The American Dream failed Charles Wang. The myth that anyone can do anything as long as they work hard enough – that Charles Wang, a Chinese immigrant-turned-cosmetics-mogul could make something from nothing – is debunked with a single mistake: the Failure. In one fell swoop, the glorious Wangs lose their fortune and must face a new reality: that money does not equal happiness.
As the Wang’s Bel-Air mansion is foreclosed and numerous vehicles and valuables are repossessed, patriarch Charles packs his wife Barbra and some family heirlooms into his Ama’s old Mercedes and drives across the country to reunite with his three children. Style blogger Grace, the youngest Wang, is snatched from boarding school in Santa Barbara with a semi-stolen laptop, while naïve comedian-wannabe Andrew is pulled out of college with a duffle bag full of designer sneakers. Together, they take off for the upstate New York hideout of the eldest Wang daughter, former it-girl artist Saina.
Each Wang family member copes with loss in his or her own way – Grace thinks she’s being punked by a new reality television show, Andrew seeks to cash in both his stand-up and actual V-cards, and Saina makes a tentative comeback in the art community. The ever-resilient Barbra grapples with leaving Charles and reinventing herself yet again – or sticking by him. And Charles stakes all of his hope on reclaiming his ancestral land in China, clinging to family folktales and the promise of a fresh start.
As each Wang comes to terms with financial destruction, Chang rebuilds each character in surprising and beautiful ways. As Charles lies in a hospital bed outside of Beijing, China, he realizes a profound truth: that there can be as much joy in destruction as in rebuilding. Though the Wang family’s financial ruin is significant, their bond as a family brings them hope and strength. The message of The Wangs vs. The World is simple: don’t let failure define you. Instead, learn from your mistakes and own them. And then go forth, a new you – a stronger you.
With laugh-out-loud wit, Chang delicately breaks down what it’s like to make it as an immigrant in America, what it looks like to lose it all, and what it means to redefine what is important. A stunning debut, The Wangs vs. The World is an essay on our resilience in tragedy and life’s beauty amidst adversity.
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