“The Wangs vs. The World” is what I like to call a “yearly list book”. As in, it was included in a ton of “most anticipated titles of 2016” and “2016 best book” lists. It was definitely one of the most buzzed-about books for Fall 2016. For about a month, this book was EVERYWHERE and reviewed by EVERYBODY – from The New York Times to Elle Magazine. It’s even a PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize nominee! Either the Penguin PR team for the book did an amazing job, or the book was really just that good.
“The Wangs vs. The World” tells the story the Chinese-American Wang family’s reaction to losing everything in the 2008 financial crisis. Charles Wang, the patriarch of the family, loses his entire self-made fortune during the crisis – affecting everybody in his family. His wife has no idea who she is if not a wealthy housewife. His two youngest children have to pull out of their schools. The entire family ends up on a road trip across America so they can relocate to New York, where the eldest Wang daughter lives. However, Charles Wang believes that he can gain everything back if he can just regain his family lands from China, causing another family trip across the Atlantic… and even more problems.
So it’s taken me over a month to finish this book – mainly because I was determined to actually finish the book. I needed to take quite a few breaks and read other books because I just couldn’t keep reading this one. I’m not really sure why I couldn’t get invested in the book – I just didn’t enjoy reading it. The storyline was quite interesting – watching a family react to losing everything in the financial crisis.
Only… I didn’t like ANY of the characters. At all. They were all whiny and awful, except Andrew… but Andrew was just annoying. Charles Wang was a greedy and awful person who tried to look for a quick solution rather than just trying to rebuild his life. Barbra Wang literally moved to America to marry Charles… after finding his first wife had died. Grace Wang, the youngest, was a whiny fashion blogger who only thought of her own problems until halfway through their trip – and even then had “youngest child syndrome.” Andrew Wang was extremely naive and a rather forgettable character. And Saina Wang, the eldest daughter, was just absolutely annoying.
I feel like we were supposed to feel sorry for the Wangs because they lost their entire fortune, but I honestly couldn’t find any redeeming characteristics in any of the family members. I felt sorry for Saina in the beginning, but then her love triangle situation just annoyed me. I felt like she subconsciously enjoyed being in a love triangle (despite her objecting thoughts), and was just floundering in upstate New York until she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. (I also didn’t understand her version of art, but I’ve never really understood modern art.)
I honestly wish I liked this book more – can somebody else explain why they liked this book?
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY: Borrow it from a friend or the library. It took me over a month to finish this book, and normally I finish a book within the week.
EXTRAS: Make sure you have a Mandarin-speaking friend when you’re reading the book – having my mum translate a few pinyin-written lines helped me learned a bit more Chinese, which is always nice.