Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Wangs vs. the World

Rate this book
A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent - and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together.

Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he's just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family's ancestral lands - and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America - and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

355 pages, Hardcover

First published October 4, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jade Chang

11 books569 followers
Jade Chang's debut novel, The Wangs vs. the World, is being published on October 4, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is a journalist who has covered arts, culture, and cities and a recipient of the Sundance Fellowship for Arts Journalism, the AIGA/Winterhouse Award for Design Criticism, and the James D. Houston Memorial scholarship from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

She was recently a member of the Goodreads editorial team, where she worked on newsletters, author interviews, blog posts, infographics, and the quote of the day!

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,612 (9%)
4 stars
5,138 (31%)
3 stars
6,633 (40%)
2 stars
2,499 (15%)
1 star
669 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,303 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
October 12, 2016
Hilarious? Well I obviously didn't get it.

The Wangs vs. the World has been getting a lot of buzz lately, riding in on the recent wave of financial crisis lit. It's about a wealthy immigrant Chinese family in America - The Wangs - and how they lose everything in the wake of the 2008 economic disaster (it is actually the second book I've read in the last week about the crisis - the other being Behold the Dreamers).

Firstly, I know it's a personal thing but this is not my brand of humour. It's silly and campy, and I must have laughed a grand total of 0 times. One of the first attempts at hilarity in the book is about how the Americanized "Wang" is basically a penis joke. Ha. Another is that Charles Wang's company started by producing urea. As in piss. Um... ha?

As I said, definitely not my brand of humour. Penises stopped being funny a long time ago. Piss never was.

Worse than that, though, is the complete lack of love I had for any of the characters. They are irritating and unlikable, but not in an interesting way. It was really hard to make myself attend their pity party as these spoiled, insufferable people lost their live-in maid and had to leave behind their private schools. I can sympathize when it comes to tragedy, but not when rich people get a shot of the real world. Boo freaking hoo.

Credit where it's due: there's some good dialogue, especially between the siblings. I feel like the author made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters - they were not short on characterization - it's just that I simply disliked them. I didn't care about them, nor did I relate to their problems, hopes, dreams or fears. I get that their lives were falling apart, but I had a complete emotional disconnect from that.

And that's a real problem here. The book relies on its characters and dialogue to move forward, as there's very little actual plot. It's predominantly a story of (former) rich people family dynamics. Outside of that, there's a lot of industry talk - cosmetics, finance, journalism, etc. - which really didn't float my particular boat.

One of the biggest problems I see other reviewers having with this novel is the inclusion of untranslated Chinese. I get why an inability to understand parts of the book would bother people, but what's interesting is that it didn't bother me. Because I honestly did not care what the translation was. I was, unfortunately, not that interested in what the book was saying.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews169k followers
January 20, 2019
This was a miss for me and I so desperately wanted to like it. There were still things about it that I enjoyed, like the message of money and how it can't ultimately give you everything you need in life and how it can all be taken away from you at any moment. I also felt there was a great display of character growth from a few of the characters. But... this felt like a giant puzzle where all the pieces don't feel like they really fit together, but they do. There were several outrageous subplots that didn't add anything to the story. I started to like where the story was going towards the ending, but then as I kept reading I became aware of this feeling that I wanted everything to be over. It just kept going and going and really dragged the ending out. I do think I'd give this author another go though, because I enjoyed their writing style!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
December 17, 2016
Before I start my review of Jade Chang's The Wangs vs. the World , here's a question: how do you feel when an author has their characters frequently speak in a different language, and they don't provide translation? Does that irritate you? It does me, even if I can generally figure out what they're saying.

"History had started fucking Charles Wang, and America had finished the job."

Charles Wang was a force to be reckoned with, a self-made man who left his home in Taiwan and over the years, built a multi-million-dollar cosmetics empire. He and his wife, Barbra (yes, she named herself for Barbra Streisand) rub elbows with celebrities and are written about in magazines and newspapers.

But then the financial crisis hits the U.S., and that, coupled with Charles' unending ambition and his belief that he knows better than financial experts, leads to his total ruin. His house, his companies, his assets get seized by the bank, and even his cars get repossessed. He's angry and vows this won't be the last of him, so he plans to travel to China, where he's convinced an ancient law will allow him to claim his family's ancestral lands, so he can get back on top again and prove his might.

First, he pulls his precocious, style-savvy daughter Gracie out of boarding school he hasn't been able to pay for, tells his aspiring comedian son Andrew that there's no more money for college (or his expensive SUV, which gets repossessed), and Charles, Barbra, and the children plan to make a road trip from the West Coast to the upstate New York home of his oldest daughter Saina, a once-renowned artist who has gone into hiding after her last show was met with critical disdain.

But Charles has no idea what kind of issues each member of his family is dealing with, and how those issues will come into play during their roadtrip, and truth be told, he isn't that interested. On this trip, relationships, careers, even lives are at stake. Will Charles be able to regain his position on top, and restore his family's lives to the manner in which they've become accustomed?

To be honest, I had a lot of issues with this book, not the least of which was the foreign dialogue issue I mentioned at the start of this review. Based on the description of the book, I expected it to be a less-campy version of one of Kevin Kwan's books ( Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend ), but it definitely wasn't. I got the impression, however, that parts of it were intended to be funny but they just fell flat for me.

My biggest problem with this book was that I cared very little for any of the characters. Any time I felt one of them was sympathetic they did something else to change my mind. For a book with Charles Wang as its anchor, the story didn't dwell on him as much until the end, choosing instead to focus on his three children and his wife, and it felt as if Chang just kept throwing new curves at them. This was definitely a book I thought about not finishing more than a few times, because the story kept dragging on, and it just kept getting sillier.

I really liked Chang's ear for dialogue (when it was all in English) and she has a talent for evoking images and characters. Maybe I just had unfair expectations of this book, but this one just didn't work for me.

NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,271 followers
October 4, 2016

This debut novel is a very entertaining read. In some ways, it’s similar to The Nest, but without the backstabbing sibling rivalry, with somewhat quirkier and more likeable characters. It has its moments of being charming, despite everything negative that the family is going through. They lose their home, their money, pretty much everything, after the market crashes in 2008. Grace, the youngest, has a particularly interesting / amusing view on the whole “escapade” of pulling her out of her private school, on their way to pick up brother Andrew at ASU. The plan is to drive from their home in Southern California to oldest sister Saina’s house in upstate New York via ASU, Austin, TX, New Orleans are a few of their planned stops. Saina is an artist, with several successful shows to her credit, but Saina moved from NYC to this old farmhouse on acreage to escape to a life with less intrusions.

Father Charles and stepmother Barbra head out to pick up the kids and head to a new, more economically challenged life. Not in one of their newer cars, even Andrew’s is being repossessed, but in the Mercedes that used to belong to Charles’s first wife. An older Mercedes. I loved the periodic inclusion of the Mercedes’ point of view on this trip, the indignity of it all. It’s a long drive from California to Saina’s house. But first, they have to make their way through the South to deliver some goods to one of father Charles’s customers. They also attend a wedding in New Orleans for people they don’t really know. Things are never quite the same after that experience.

It took me a while to really feel invested in the characters, but overall, it’s a very entertaining read. I will be surprised if Hollywood doesn’t already have plans to turn this into a movie, and I expect it will be a big hit when it’s made.

Pub Date: 4 October 2016

Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NetGalley and to the author Jade Chang for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,605 reviews24.8k followers
October 23, 2016
This is a novel that immerses itself in the Wang family when their wealth disappears completely in the 2008 financial markets crash. It is exacerbated by Charles Wang's inability to follow the advice given by experts, in his arrogance he believes he knows better and lives to rue his irrational decisions. Charles was raised in Taiwan and came to the US with nothing. As a first generation immigrant, he built up a cosmetics fortune. He is married for the second time to Barbra, yes, named after Barbra Streisand. They have lived a celebrity lifestyle and struggle to adapt to their new circumstances. He is a in your face, brash character and he is angry at the situation he finds himself in. His family are from China where their considerable land was taken. Due to a specific law, he believes that he will now be able to claim back the family acres and be able to be back at the top again. He wants to take the family to China, but fails to understand that they may not want to go there.

Charles decides to collect the family and go on a road trip to New York where his eldest daughter, Saina, resides and whose trust fund he believes is safe. He extracts Grace, his teenage daughter from private school and Andrew from university where he dreams of being a comedian. The family then set off. What the trip really does is reveal the characters and give insights into their history, life and aspirations in all their dysfunctional glory. The side trip to New Orleans has Andrew in thrall to an older woman, Dorrie. Barbra is less than comfortable with their new status of being bankrupt and eyes up other opportunities. Grace has thoughts of suicide interspersed with those of fashion and style. Saina who is part of the art world circles finds herself in hiding after a downturn in her stock.

The narrative gives each person's point of view and each has their story, although no character is likeable. The novel gives us cultural and immigrant perspectives, with humour and irony. The fractious road trip is a vehicle for us to get to know the family. I liked the story well enough and I think it covered key issues in the US today. Thanks to Penguin for an ARC.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,026 reviews2,535 followers
January 9, 2017

I was looking forward to this book. But it never succeeded in grabbing my interest. It was supposed to be funny, right?

There's a premise similar to The Nest, in that a family that had money loses it all. Kids that thought they would never have to worry, now are just like the rest of us. I don't have to like the characters to like a book. But if I don't like the characters, I do need to like the plot. Here, the plot was boring. As my husband said when I was explaining how unhappy i was with the book, “good premise, poor execution”.

Someone else mentioned it, but I will confirm that it's really upsetting to have pieces of dialogue in a foreign language that's not translated. And it happens whenever Ama is speaking.

My first book in a long time that just wasn't worth finishing.

Profile Image for Barbara.
1,346 reviews4,864 followers
October 22, 2021

This humorous novel centers on Charles Wang, an immigrant who had tremendous luck and success in the United States.....until he didn't.

Growing up, Charles Wang couldn't have predicted the direction his life would take. Charles' family lost their ancestral lands in China to the Communists, fled to Taiwan, and started a company that sold chemicals for fertilizer.

When college graduate Charles is dispatched to the United States to expand the family business, an airplane bar of soap triggers an epiphany.

As a result Charles launches a cosmetics business that becomes a phenomenally successful empire - and multi-millionaire Charles soon has a wife, three children, and an uber-luxurious lifestyle in southern California.

Charles is on vacation with his wife and kids, one of whom is a baby, when his spouse dies in a tragic accident. Hearing about this, a young Taiwanese woman - who's always hankered after Charles - abandons her life in Taiwan, hurries to America, and becomes Charles' second wife....and the stepmother to his children. The woman, who renames herself Barbra, quickly adapts to the upscale life she's inherited.

Things seem to be going smoothly for Charles until the financial crisis of 2008, when his luck runs out.


Charles' new 'minority cosmetics line' is a colossal failure, the huge loan to finance it is called in, and Charles is bankrupted. He loses EVERYTHING - from houses, furniture, boats and cars to computers, watches, jewelry, clothing, toiletries, kitchenware, and sundries.

Left with nothing except a bit of cash he hid away, Charles decides to move his entire family to the upstate New York home of his 28-year-old daughter Saina. Until recently, Saina had been a successful, much-fêted conceptual artist living in New York City.

However an ill-considered exhibit derailed Saina's career, and a philandering fiancé soured her on the city. Thus Saina left her small Manhattan apartment and bought a country farmhouse, which - serendipitously - can house her entire pauperized family.

Charles' long-term plan is to drive his family to upstate New York, deposit them in Saina's house, and take off for China. There, Charles hopes to reclaim the family's ancient lands and reestablish the Wangs' vaunted place in the universe.

Charles no longer has a vehicle to transport his wife and children, but Ama (the family's nanny since Charles was a baby) offers up the used car Charles gave her years before.

Thus Charles, Barbra, and Ama set off to pick up boarding school student Grace - who has a fashion blog, and college boy Andrew - who aspires to be a stand-up comedian, from the expensive schools they can no longer afford.

Ama is dropped off at her daughter's house, and the Wangs embark on a road trip across the country. Thus begins a raucous journey - during which the Wangs experience a different side of America, and ultimately grow closer as a family.

En route to New York the Wangs eat hot dogs that look like 'skinny penises on buns'; break into a cosmetics warehouse that's been seized by Charles' creditors; party with relatives in New Orleans; have car trouble; stay in cheap motels; deliver accidently melted cosmetics to off-the-books customers; and more.....until they finally reach their destination.

Along the way, Andrew takes off with an older woman named Dorrie; has new sexual experiences; lives rough; and obsessively looks for open mic nights to perform his comedy routine.

Interspersed with the Wangs road trip are scenes from Saina's life. We learn about her fall from grace in the art world; her former boyfriend Grayson - a selfish cheater; her current boyfriend Leo - a sensitive farmer who sells produce; and the steps Saina takes to get her life back on track.

Saina is unusually sanguine about the upcoming 'visit' by Charles, Barbra, Andrew, and Grace, even though she has reason to worry about her own financial prospects.


The characters in the novel occasionally speak in (untranslated) Mandarin, so it's not always clear (to me) what they're saying, but the jist of the conversations come through.

Though they're not completely likable, the Wangs grew on me. In the end I wished them well despite their once ostentatious lifestyle.

This is a well-written debut novel that provides a peek into a culture that's novel to most Americans. Recommended to readers who enjoy humorous literary fiction.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,205 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned-not-for-me'
October 5, 2016

I'm less than a third of the way in and I've already decided this is not for me . It could be that I just don't have a sense of humor as I wasn't finding the story as hilarious as some others have described it. A few years ago I would have gritted my teeth and read it, but I'm at the age where I think life is too short and I so value my reading time that I don't think twice about quitting a book that I probably won't enjoy. I think it's just not my kind of book and I should have known better than to request an ARC. You should read some of the full reviews before deciding whether to read it. There are a number of high ratings so I may be an outlier here .

I received this advance copy from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Edelweiss and NetGalley.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,449 reviews7,552 followers
June 26, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I really should have followed the advice of America’s favorite T.V. dad on this one . . . .

I just couldn’t help myself, though. I mean look at that cover. Adorable! And then when I discovered it was about not only one of my favorite things . . . .

But also about a super-rich family who lost all of their money and whose only hope to regain their fortune was by returning to China and laying claim on some old-but-not-forgotten land, I was hoping for something along these lines . . . .

Sadly that wasn’t what I ended up getting.

The Wangs vs. The World had a lot of potential. The patriarch, Charles, had “turned shit (or in this case urea) into two hundred million dollars’ worth of Shinola” by creating a cosmetics empire . . . .

Before losing his ass (and house, cars, jewels, clothes, you name it) due to a bad business decision. When Charles was presented as sort of a stereotype/cardboard cutout of a character, I wasn’t too concerned. I figured the story would focus mainly on his three children. Then I met them . . . .

And the son was even worse! An unfunny want-to-be comedian. #snore

The only saving grace was the stepmother, Barbra . . . .

Ha! I’m kidding. She was super blah too.

It’s a shame this book fell so flat for me, but it did. It’s probably a good practice that any time a publicity statement labels a book as “hilarious” said book actually contain at least some humor. If you’re looking for something over-the-top and funny, pick up Crazy Rich Asians instead. That one was a hoot.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,475 reviews372 followers
October 2, 2016
What a wonderful book; one of the most satisfying reads I've had in a while.

The Wangs are a family of five: Charles, the father, a wealthy manufacturer of cosmetics living in Los Angelos, and his children, Saina, a New York-based artist who, on the heels of a scandalous show has retreated to a small town in upstate New York, Andrew, the college student aiming for a career as a stand-up comedian, and Grace, the teenager with a fashion blog, as direct and fresh as she is. And then there's Barbra (yes, like Streisand, from whom she took the name), Charles' second wife and the stepmother of the children. All living their lives more or less happily when, following the crash of 2008, Charles loses everything and goes bankrupt.

So Charles takes his wife and two younger children in an old car he'd given to his servant (so it's the only one that hasn't been repossessed) and heads across the country to join his oldest daughter. In the course of the journey, the Wangs rediscover themselves, as individuals and as a family.

I loved the story. I especially loved the characters. In many ways, when described, they sound like ordinary book characters but they are each fresh and fully realized, fully human. I loved Saina, trying to recreate her life following her fall from grace from the art world, never really understanding what happened; I loved Grace, young and impulsive and self-absorbed but delightful. I even grew to love Charles, so full of himself (and the land he lost in China to first the Japanese and then the Communists). They are a deeply flawed and ultimately loving family and I loved being a part of them for the few hours it took to read this lovely book.

The book is often hilarious-Andrew trying out his awful comedic routine in a speak easy in New Orleans before his new (much older) girlfriend; Grace leaving her boarding school in a fit of pique, scene after scene made me laugh out loud. But it also, ultimately, became a moving tribute to family and the connections we make with each other, often awkwardly and hesitantly. And these connections turn out to be the truest meaning of all that we do.

I also enjoyed the author's portrait of the millennial United States, greedy and desperate and the glimpse of New World China.

I thank NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Jade Chang for the opportunity to read this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,136 reviews8,149 followers
November 6, 2016
I expected a lot more from this book, and it's often those books that are the most disappointing. But I would've rather hated this book than feel apathetic towards it, as I do. I appreciate what the book was trying to do; it's core message and overall tone were interesting and generally enjoyable. However, the execution was bizarre. There are whole chapters, even whole plots, that I felt were unnecessary or vague in that they didn't seem to contribute to the through line of the novel. And while reading these tangential moments, I found my mind wandering. Then I'd be captivated again by a small moment or silly scene that—albeit, totally absurd and mind-boggling—brought me back in to the story. It was a strange reading experience, and one that I might not have followed through with had I not been reading the book with friends. I can't blanket recommend this book; in fact, I'm not sure what type of reader I'd recommend this book to. If it sounds interesting to you, give it a shot. I think most people will know how they feel within the first 50 pages.
Profile Image for Lauren Strasnick.
Author 5 books217 followers
February 2, 2016
This book has EVERYTHING: riches! Rags! It girls! Art stars! Stand-up comedians! Organic farmers! Helicopters! Virgins! Sex! Boarding school bitches! It's smart and hilarious and touching and true. Someone nominate Jade Chang for a Pulitzer.
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,053 followers
December 3, 2016
It is 2008 and the Wang family have just lost all their money and their company due to the not so great decisions made by their father, Charles. Charles and his wife Barbra pick up the youngest two children and embark on a cross-country journey to Saina's place, the oldest daughter.

There seem to have been several books in this one, one that I enjoyed and one that I really really didn't. I liked the beginning and the end and thought the middle would drag on forever. I liked Saina and Grace and would have loved to spend more time with them, I was indifferent towards Barbra and I hated Andrew and Charles and could never get to the end of their sections fast enough. I thought the injections on being an immigrant were intriguing and the talk about economics and art lacked depth (seriously lacked depth).

By far the best part about this book is Grace. She is brilliant, funny, clever and relatable. Although she is 16 she shows way more depth and maturity than the rest of the family. Saina was great as well, the way she struggled with trying to find herself again after her world imploded around her was relatable and original. If the whole book had been from hers and Grace's perspective I would have liked it a lot more than I did. But unfortunately Charles seems to be the emotional heart of this tale and I could not warm to him as a character, moreover he seemed to be more of a caricature than a fully fleshed-out character.

Overall, I am glad I stuck with the book till the end (I wasn't sure I would make it) because the way the story ends for Saina and Grace was satisfying, but large parts of this book sadly did not work for me at all.

I received an arc courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Books UK in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!
Profile Image for Taryn.
1,206 reviews188 followers
October 3, 2016
Books about rich people make me feel conflicted, especially books like this one, in which the richies lose all their riches. How sorry am I supposed to feel for these people, exactly? What am I supposed to do with all the brand name dropping, when I can't pronounce Hermes? Are Coach bags still cool?

Maybe if I'd worried less about those questions and just focused on the characters, I might have had a better time with The Wangs vs. the World. Little sister Grace is freewheeling and charming, and brother Andrew is refreshingly naïve and earnest. Older sister Saina's cluelessness in her romantic life grated, though, and family patriarch Charles Wang never quite won me over, even though I think he was supposed to.

That might have been my problem—I never fully bought in or cared what happened to these characters. The plot felt aimless at times, much like the family's cross-country journey in their old Mercedes. Anytime a book takes me over a week to read, it's not a good sign—I had a hard time making myself pick it back up each time I put it down. Still, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it, since it's a highly-promoted fall title and I'm sure it will be one of those talked-about books of the season. I always hate to be left out of things. (Maybe I know what it's like to be rich after all...)

With regards to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Goodreads for the advance copy, which I was lucky enough to win in a recent giveaway. On sale October 4.

More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,736 reviews940 followers
April 19, 2017
Seriously. This book is awful. I read that this was supposed to be funny (I didn't laugh at all) and hey if you want to read about a self absorbed rich family who consist of Chinese people, I say go read Crazy Rich Asians instead. One of this books's genres on Goodreads is "Abandoned" so I should have looked into that before I spent money on this thing.

This book takes place in 2008, of course for us Americans, we know that is when the housing bubble in the US burst, and then we had a recession set in and millions of people were without work and or lost their homes. "The Wangs Vs the World" follows a millionaire (maybe billionaire) family living in L.A. who lose everything when the family patriarch (Charles Wang) decides to put up his home and businesses as collateral to start a new line of makeup products. When the economy takes a tumble, Charles decides he will pack up his second wife (Barbra) and pick up his two kids who are at school (Grace and Andrew) and make his way to his oldest daughter's (Saina) home in Helios, New York. We get not only Charles' POV during this mess of a book, but also Grace, Andrew, Barbra, and even the POV of the freaking car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

I can honestly say that I didn't care for one character at all. These people suck. Charles is just a terrible father and husband. It's understood he has affairs, but you know, don't get upset about that. That's just the world or something.

Barbra was obsessed with Charles when she knew him in China and just bides her time to get him after his first wife dies in the weirdest accident ever. She's not worried about being a mother to his children that he had with his first wife and is just barely present it seems in anyone's life.

Saina was okay at first, but she's dumb when it comes to love and it gets old reading about her romance problems.

Andrew was a hot mess. I just...reading about someone's comic stand-up is not interesting. At all. Wait, I take that back, I did laugh while reading Chelsea Handler's books, so maybe once again it's just that this book is not funny.

Grace was inoffensive. I wish I cared more, but honestly since the whole rest of their family was exhausting, I just wanted to be done with them all.

The writing was not that great. Between the run on sentences that lasted whole freaking paragraphs sometimes which was bad enough; Chang also had some dialogue I think either in Cantonese or Mandarin and doesn't translate it. I say I think since once again she doesn't bother to translate what people are saying.

Also, FYI authors, there is nothing endearing about reading how prejudiced and racist in some cases the whole family was about people who were African American. Also be prepared to read about how if you have a mixed race kid who is cute, that makes it okay to be with a black man or woman. Shoot they even had some comments towards white people. I just didn't find any of it clever. I found myself cringing throughout and sighing.

Also there is a point in the story where Chang goes into a fixed rate loan he takes out which took me out of the story. Dumb me, but didn't the whole housing crisis happen cause people everywhere had adjustable rate mortgages that overnight went from being several hundred dollars to several thousand? It just didn't even make sense to me why Charles took out a loan when he supposedly had money to burn.

The book settings moves around a lot, the family is traveling by car from California to New York and all I have to say is that the route they take seemed to be making the trip longer, but I am too lazy to look up potential routes. That is way too much effort for me to be putting in towards a book I seriously disliked. The action at one case even moves to China.

The ending was just a question mark to me. I don't know what I was supposed to think and honestly I didn't care. I was glad to be done with this book so I can freaking count it towards Booklikes-opoly. FYI, that is the only reason I kept up with this.

Electronic edition: 368 pages (via Goodreads)
201 to 400 pages: $3.00
Bank: $23.00
Profile Image for David.
659 reviews317 followers
December 15, 2016
A fun romp of a road trip novel as multi-millionaire, cosmetics mogul Charles Wang loses everything during the financial crises and decides to load up his second wife into a borrowed Mercedes and set out from his seized BelAir mansion to pick up his two youngest children and descend on the eldest daughters farm in upstate New York.

These kids are second-gen, monied, white-adjacent, trainwrecks. Andrew has dreams of being a stand-up comic, Grace is an emo, style-blogger and Saina is an exiled New York art-monster. Theirs is the story of being part of a coherent and unique identity that is defined neither by their ancestors country of origin or their father’s adopted home. Even Charles is stuck between worlds and finds himself immigrating to both countries in search of something better. They all uniquely personify what it is to be Asian-American.

They are messed up, capable of incredibly bad decisions based on questionable justifications and victim to the mistakes they invariably make over and over again. Human, imperfect, still trying.
Profile Image for Emily.
699 reviews2,026 followers
February 10, 2017
Important Disclaimer: Once I spent an entire day at Great America with this author.

As I would expect based on that experience, this book is funny, insightful, and a real good time. I loved how sharply all of the characters were drawn - especially Saina and Grace - and how effortlessly the backstory was woven into the plot. As the Wangs travel across the country, you're slowly drawn into their life before and after the crash. The details of Saina's art shows and Grace's clothing labels, juxtaposed with Charles's reflections on his particular immigrant experience, all feel so authentic and can thus be slyly funny (knowing the exact and correct reaction that Jezebel would have to the refugee art show made me laugh out loud). Of course it's hard to relate to the type of wealth that the Wangs enjoy before their ignominious fall, but that's offset by, for example, how accurately Saina's douchebag boyfriend is portrayed: your terrible college boyfriend might not have been a success in the art scene, but he sure did play on your emotions in the same infuriating way.

There were a couple of scenes in the book that didn't quite work for me, , but overall I really loved this. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,087 reviews222 followers
December 26, 2016
2.5. This had moments of brilliance but overall it fell flat for me.
Profile Image for Sarah.
351 reviews156 followers
October 2, 2016
I read this in about two days and cackled with delight almost the whole time. Though I loved it for universal reasons (well-developed characters, familial relationships, and humor), it was also an incredible relief to read an immigrant story not predicated on the degradation of immigrating. It also brought home how I’ve spent actual decades reading all the books without ever having experienced the magic of very specific cultural recognition until now. What a world we live in.

My favorite statement on race from the book (major spoiler alert):

First, does anyone else’s parents have sad teenage immigration stories involving ice cream? Are they having a good time now? Growing up, a lot of my friends had parents who worked so hard it was impossible to imagine them enjoying life in any way. Did I have it wrong? Part of loving the way The Wangs handles race is the way it has both everything and nothing to do with daily life. I like thinking there’s also a way in which the burden of immigrating didn’t entirely define my parents’ lives - I think they’d both agree with Charles Wang’s statement. Either way, reading these lines made me feel really happy and full of hope.

P.S. I know and really like this author.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews101 followers
January 19, 2018
"Uproariously funny" this was not. Not even mildly funny, really.

This read like a less-interesting The Nest, with a similar message--when you lose it all, you discover what really matters. Characters were unlikable (minus the exuberant, optimistic patriarch Charles Wang; I had a soft spot for him). I appreciated Chang flipping a lot of immigrant stereotypes upside down, and all of the research she put into such different areas--the art scene, the financial collapse, stand-up comedy, and fashion--but in the end, I found this a slow, painful read when all I was hoping for was a light page-turner.
Profile Image for Sarah.
81 reviews10 followers
September 7, 2016
So many evocative details, and great scenes that stayed with me long after I finished reading them-- like the moment in the lecture room at ASU, or the lovely but rare occasions when the reader hears from the Mercedes. Separately- in college I read Age of Innocence many times. Unexpectedly and to my delight, Barbra reminded me of May Archer.
Profile Image for Karen R.
839 reviews496 followers
October 29, 2016
This is a riches to rags story about the dysfunctional Wangs, a Chinese family who lose it all and decide to take a road trip across America.

This book is getting a lot of buzz and is portrayed as hilarious so I had high expectations. It is not necessarily a bad book and it is inventive, but it was not my kind of humor, I found the narrative too slow and I wasn’t interested in its shallow characters. I often found myself skimming.
Profile Image for Britany.
967 reviews417 followers
April 24, 2023
This was a character driven novel about a family patriarch who owns a makeup empire, Charles Wang immigrated to the US from China to live out the American dream. He's on top of the world, until he isn't- the loan that he has taken out is called and he can't pay it. He finds himself picking up his entitled children and driving across the country from LA to NY to stay with his eldest daughter. Along the way, we come to know the Wangs and watch as they slowly realize there is more to life than excess of money.

I lost interest about halfway through, and it was a little tough to slog through the back half. I'm not entirely sure the end was worth the journey, but I'm glad that I finally got to this one. It's been sitting on my physical bookshelf for 7 years. Onto the next!
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books1,018 followers
December 31, 2016
Charles Wong came from China to America and grew a fortune in the make-up business. Unfortunately, he makes a few stumbles with his business in 2008 when the economy built on false mortgages comes crashing down, and he loses everything—his house, the cars, all his factories.

He has three children from his first wife, who died eight weeks after the birth of their last child. The kids have never known deprivation, which is perhaps why all of them feel free to pursue the arts—and use their money to do so. Saina is an artist whose fourth show not just bombed but had people protesting in the streets. At the same time her career is in shambles, her fiancé leaves her for his pregnant girlfriend, the daughter of a wealthy mattress magnet. Saina sells her Manhattan loft at a huge loss and retreats to a farmhouse in upstate New York, thinking she’ll farm organic vegetables—except she has no idea how. But the house just happens to have room for her entire family.

Charles and Barbra, the children’s stepmother, begin in LA. The plan is to drive across country to Saina’s with a few stops along the way. (And then Charles thinks he’ll go to China and reclaim family land stolen by the Communists.) The first stop is to pick up his 16-year-old daughter Grace, who he shipped off to boarding school two years earlier when she fell in love with a boy. Grace is a typical teenager, obsessed with her fashion blog, Style & Grace.

The next stop is Arizona State University, where his 21-year-old son Andrew goes to school. Andrew isn’t serious about this studies because he wants to be a stand-up comedian. We see Andrew perform. The first few times we know the audience hates him, but even the time when he allegedly did well, I found reading his routine cringe-worthy. Obviously stand-up is a very different medium than novel writing, but it was painful, so I had to speed read through it.

The book wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be by the description, but I did think the writing was wonderful, and it was an intriguing perspective on that time in our nation’s history told through the story of immigrants Charles and Barbra and three adults or almost-adults who grew up here and have never wanted for anything—they have no idea how to budget, etc. because they never had to.

This is a fun, compelling read.

For more of my reviews, please visit: http://theresaalan.net/blog/
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
September 30, 2016
The first line of the blurb had me: A hilarious debut about an immigrant Chinese family.

Unfortunately I didn’t find the book at all hilarious. But someone did, as this novel seems to be getting a huge publicity splash. And I can see why—it’s full of glitz, insider New York art scene talk (with a metric butt-ton of name dropping), and rich people doing rich people things. That alone ought to guarantee a movie deal.

The Wangs discover that Charlie, the paterfamilias, who came from Taiwan and built a makeup empire on using urea (from the many mentions, I gathered we were to find this funny as well as symbolic), is now bankrupt. Bad business decisions cause him to lose it all, as he’s not quite rich enough to declare bankruptcy and walk away with his millions protected, leaving his creditors, workers, and poor families totally shafted, like certain politicians. He thinks the only way out is to go live with his eldest daughter, whose trust fund is protected (or is it?) while he recruits himself to go back to China and reclaim the family land.

The book was most interesting to me when talking about China, Chinese in America, and how the Wangs see the world. Charlie states twice, for example, that Native Americans are simply Chinese people who wandered away from the homeland a long, long time ago. He speaks pidgin English because who cares what white people think, when China’s population and its economic strength is the world. His teenage son Andrew, who wants to be a standup comedian, writes material about Asians and whites—without white POV being default.

Charlie’s sex life was much less interesting, especially his relationships with his two wives. There was a lot of repetition about that before something finally changed, and the transition seemed to come out of nowhere, with a clue so after-the-fact that it felt like it had been shoved in to shore up an unconvincing dynamic.

We spend many chapters with his three kids, beginning with Saina, the high end New York artist. There are some long screeds that drop hip names in the art world, but the focus stays for a protracted time on her relationship problems, which again I found repetitive, and then unconvincing at the sudden change near the end.

Then there is Andrew, the son, seventeen and saving himself sexually for love. He gets a weird interlude in New Orleans, but that was after a very long political rant at his university put in the mouth of a professor about the causes of the 2008 crash—without, of course, any knowledge of the Wells Fargo CEO’s pirate tactics only recently revealed.

Finally there was sixteen year old Grace, whose personality changed from chapter to chapter. In the beginning she read very much like a tiresome spoiled rich kid, but that sharply observed kid began to morph in odd ways after the family took off cross country.

Overall, I thought the book a hot mess. Hot because it was packed with promising, and fascinating, moments, juxtaposed against awkward first novel tropes. For example, the pages-long rants about current politics, cultural, and social situations put in the mouths of characters, as everyone sat around and listened, before the story would move on more naturally.

Then there were the chapters from the point of view of the car the family drove in. These repeated what we already knew about the characters, and slowed the pacing. That seems to me the sort of first novel grandstanding that a sharper editorial eye would leave on the cutting room floor.

Finally, the novel spent so much time establishing the familial dysfunctions that the ending, with the climax kept off-screen, and reported on, felt very much like the authorial hand smacking the puppets toward the ending, rather than showing growth all the way through, though there were insightful single lines here and there.

But those caveats aside (and I realize that many readers are going to totally disagree) I found the writing sharp, vivid, wisecrackingly ironic, and sometimes surprisingly tender. I also enjoyed all the Chinese mixed in with the English. I thought Chang did a good job of conveying meaning, while still jolting the English reader into the back seat comprehension-wise, a subtle reminder that nope, the white POV is not the universal default.

I look forward to seeing what Chang writes next.

Copy provided by NetGalley

Profile Image for Margaret Wappler.
Author 6 books92 followers
April 29, 2016
This wildly entertaining novel -- and I mean entertaining on a movie level that rarely a book can match, where you're laughing, then struck in the gut, then swelling with admiration for the precise and unforgettable way Jade nails the art world, or a rich man's wounded arrogance, or a teen girl's vacillations between quasi-suicidal thoughts one minute and then her fashion blog the next --will not only be your steadfast companion for the time you're reading it, but you'll miss it when you're done. You'll walk down the street and ask yourself, Where are the Wangs right now? Truth is they're permanent guests in the spare bedroom of your imagination, using up all your fancy shampoo. You won't ever want these potently American concoctions to leave.
Profile Image for Coleen (The Book Ramblings).
205 reviews58 followers
December 11, 2016
The Wangs vs. the World is Jade Chang’s debut novel, released in early October with all the book circling social media. It was One of Entertainment Weekly’s Most Anticipated Titles of 2016, and Barnes & Noble’s Discover Pick of Fall 2016. It is about Charles Wang, an immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics company and made a fortune building that empire, however he loses it all (right down to his last cent) when the financial crisis hit the United States in 2008. Being the prideful, self-made man that he is, he makes the decision that he wants to attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands in China. Before that, he decides to take his family on a road-trip across America to pick up their oldest daughter, who is hiding in upstate New York due to a fallen career of her own.

Being one of the latest books out with a premise revolving around the economic downfall in 2008, I had The Wangs vs. the World on my anticipated reads of this year. It sounded like a humorous, touching riches-to-rags debut, but it didn’t live up to what I was expecting. It was a slow build-up in the beginning, which made it a bit of a struggle to get into, but it did pick up as the story furthered along. I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution was not as promising. There were parts in the novel that had lost my interest, or just didn’t fit into playing a role into the story-telling, in my opinion. However, while I did not like this book as much as I hoped, there were other aspects that made up for it–the characters being just that. I thought the variety of personalities and how well done they were made for a wild ride through the road trip with the Wang family. The characters are definitely what kept me reading, and while it wasn’t a favorite or one that I would pick up again, it was an entertaining adventure with family drama. I see why other readers loved The Wangs vs. the World, it just wasn’t for me.

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Helen Marquis.
545 reviews9 followers
May 18, 2016
Loved, loved, loved this book! Meet the Wangs, who put the fun in dysfunctional in this rags-to-riches-and-back-again story. The father is a proud immigrant whose pride comes before his fall, as he build a cosmetics empire only to watch it crumble. His three children Saina (a former art world darling who has disappeared from public life after a disastrous controversial show), Andrew (a wannabe comedian who isn't very funny) and Grace (a style blogger trying to make a name for herself) are brought together by their father as he collects Grace and Andrew from their respective homes and takes them to Saina's house, along with their stepmother Barbra.
Along the way, we learn their backstories, including rises and falls, loves lost and gained and dreams of success.
This is a hugely entertaining book, wonderfully written and a truly incredible debut from Chang - she writes with incredible confidence, creating rich layered characters that you'll fall in love with. I can't recommend this highly enough!
Profile Image for Louise.
947 reviews291 followers
September 8, 2016
Disclaimer: I once went Soarin' Over California with the author.

The characters were slow to warm up to in this book, but in the end, I could see something I liked in each of them. It made me appreciate how each character's motivations and personalities were revealed throughout this road trip book.

The dynamic writing in the book gave each character's chapters a different feel and the "car chapters" were a pleasant surprise. The fact that the setting of Los Angeles is so rich makes it seem like another character in this story.

Being a native speaker of Mandarin, I could understand the italicized sentences and phrases, but I thought it was odd that there was no translation for readers who didn't speak the language. Most of the meaning could probably be understood in context, but I wonder if not knowing the language makes some of the details in the conversation lost.

Overall, a great read, excellent writing, and a perfect vacation book.
Profile Image for Dan.
227 reviews134 followers
January 2, 2017
Very enjoyable! A beautiful, engrossing family novel. Makes me wish I had siblings...

Disclaimer, though: I TWICE served as Tallymaster when the author hosted LitQuiz!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,303 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.