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New Waves

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Set in the New York City tech world, a wry and edgy debut novel about a heist gone wrong, a secret online life exposed, and a young man's search for true connection....

Lucas and Margo are fed up. Margo is a brilliant programmer tired of being talked over as the company's sole black employee, and while Lucas is one of many Asians at the firm, he's nearly invisible as a
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by One World
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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  194 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Jessica Woodbury
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, authors-of-color
Your experience with the genre of Literary Novel Where Not Much Happens is all about how the book connects with you on a gut level. If it doesn't fully connect, you'll be too annoyed that nothing happens. If it does connect, you'll happily go along through nothing happening because you're enjoying it and you don't think anything really needs to happen anyway. Luckily for me, I was the latter with this book, one that finally hit after I started and abandoned around 10 other books in a short span. ...more
Elle Rudy
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2020
I went into this without really any information besides that Celeste Ng liked it. And honestly, thats enough for me.

I was caught off guard with how much I liked it. New Waves is an engaging story about a young man dealing with grief and a lack of fulfillment. Its the stuff that a lot of us experience but may not be as good at expressing or even acknowledging. I was able to see parts of myself in not just Lucas, but Margo and Jill as well, despite our very different lives. Theres some shared
Celeste Ng
In NEW WAVES, a grieving young man dives into the dizzying kaleidoscope of 21st-century online culture, trying to understand his lost friendand the difference (or is there one?) between our real lives and our virtual ones. Kevin Nguyens debut is a knowing, witty, and thought-provoking exploration of love, modern isolation, and what it means to existespecially as a person of colorin our increasingly digital age. ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book made some obvious points about racism and sexism in the workplace and society in general, but I could only make it to about the 28% point of this book. If it was headed anywhere it was taking too long to get there. It also felt padded with nonsensical details. A man who spends all day on a computer asks in a bodega where to find a book store in NY and then remembers that there is a big store on Union Square. Seriously, thats not how we find a store or a book in this century. This short ...more
Kasa Cotugno
New Waves is a killer title incorporating many double entendres. Despite being Asian and the only son, Lucas is not a cliched millenial in that he is not exactly tech savvy or booksmart, and is performing at the lowest possible level for a startup. With only a community college education, he leaves his parents' home (a cosy east Oregon B&B), believing he can make a fresh start in Manhattan. Kevin Nguyen has crafted a truly original picture of millenial life, amazingly assured for a debut. ...more
I feel like "New Waves" by Kevin Nguyen is being marketed as suspense fiction, when in reality it's more of a contemporary novel with a dash of sci-fi and computer geek thrown in for good measure. I was completely hooked after the first chapter. I thought the writing was sharp, funny, and vibrant. It's kind of hard to believe this is the author's debut novel. Of course it's not a perfect, flawless one, it's close though. I did feel like something was missing. You think the plot is going to focus ...more

A poignant meditation on race, class, and grief as they intersect with technology, New Waves had me questioning who we are, who we think we are, and what we leave behind. How do we grieve someone whose online footprint looms large? And really, can any of us live up to the terrifying hyper-optimism of tech culture (and this is coming from an extreme optimist)? Pick up New Waves by Kevin Nguyen @knguyen (just dropped today!) and join us on the IGlive chat
Jordy’s Book Club
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
QUICK TAKE: wanted to love it, didn't get it. I was expecting a techno-thriller based on the synopsis with a murder mystery hook, but instead found the plot to be painstakingly slow with little momentum or resolution. The interstitials between chapters were intriguing, but ultimately didn't really elevate the book. Disappointed in this one.
Jordy’s Book Club
QUICK TAKE: I loved the premise (Silicon Valley murder mystery), but it did not live up to it at all. Looking back, I'm not even sure the author solved the overarching mystery of "who killed the only interesting character".
Lily ☁️
1 1/2 stars

Alexa, how do I get back the three hours I spent reading this book?

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Thats what racism in the workplace looked like. You could feel it everywhere- in your brain, in your heart, in your bones- but you could never prove it.

In Kevin Nguyens debut novel New Wave we meet two friends- Margo and Lucas who are both working for a technology company. Margo is a top programmer at the company but is also the token black girl who is constantly pointing out misogyny and racism. Lucas is at the bottom of the companys structure, a lowly paid customer service representative
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5+ out of 5.
I didn't quite know what to expect from this book. A thriller? A tech book? A heist-comedy?

It is none of those things, albeit with tiny elements of each. It's a meditation on grief and race and technology and connection in the 21st Century. It pulls off the same trick that FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE leans too far into (of the possibility that this whole thing has been written by one of the characters in the book). It is beautifully heartfelt, it IS very funny, it is also mundane in its
Narratively and structurally, Kevin Nguyen's debut reminds me of Douglas Coupland's Microserfs for the VC era, but instead of all that "defining an emotionally stunted generation of rich boy man-babies" stuff (which is not intended to be the slam against Coupland it sounds like, but also accurate), its primary insights come in discussing what it is like to be a person of color in a space designed by and built for white people, and for those reasons, it is very much worth reading. Less so for the ...more
Chloé Cooper Jones
This book is so beautiful, funny, and smart. I ripped through it too quickly and then immediately read it again. This book is full of layers that build gently, deceptively almost, leading you to the transcendent final chapter. This book will not leave you for a long time. Highly recommend!
Jan 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feeling conflicted about my feelings on NEW WAVES. Its a good debut novel, but found it somewhat unremarkable. It felt a bit unrefined, the writing predictable and forgettable for literary fiction. I read it fast though, I wanted to know what would happen and the story was unique. I love books set in the early 2010s in NYC, which is when I first moved to the city, and am always intrigued by books about the Internet and online relationships. I wouldnt whole heartedly recommend this one though.

Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I already feel like this will be one of the best books of 2020, at least according to myself (an esteemed critic, if I may say). Even though this was set in 2009/2010, it felt very zeitgeisty. It mixes work culture (particularly, startup tech bro culture) with themes of race, grief, loneliness, ethical quandaries about privacy, & lots of good music! I listed to some city pop after this & I recommend Kevin Nguyen's playlist ( to accompany this ...more
Lily Herman
It's time I make a proclamation: I don't like literary fiction about Nothing Really Happening. Maybe that illustrates that I'm not a deep person or maybe I'm coming to the same conclusion that many others do that literary fiction is overrated. I don't know why I do this to myself, but here we are.

New Waves reminded me of a cross between the television show Black Mirror and John Green's acclaimed young adult novel Paper Towns. (And ironically, both Kevin Nguyen and John Green's central
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thank Random House for this ARC.  "New Waves" refers to bossa nova, a music style that the main characters, Margo and Lucas, have in common.

Lucas' parents almost named him Kevin but didn't when they learned his cousin had the name--a cousin Lucas has never met. And this is an example of the humor in this book.  Kevin, the author, possibly or opaquely refers to himself and just as readily dismisses the guy.  

Much later, Lucas mentions another Kevin, Kevin from "Wonder Years," and critiques his
Laura Hart
This is my first ebook read! I have to admit, the process was quite difficult on a phone. For the first time in years, I actually missed my Kindle.

But, finally, I conquered PocketBook Reader and completed NEW WAVES. This is an intriguing, often funny exploration of so many things! Music, privacy, piracy! Workplace racism, harassment, technology, relationships, and grief! Each topic is investigated by Lucas, our protagonist, who is mourning the loss of his friend Margo, and later his girlfriend
Mar 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hint to aspiring writers: never kill off your most interesting character in the first chapter. Okay, that was a little harsh. Let me rephrase it so it's extremely harsh: never kill off your ONLY interesting character in the first chapter. Margo, a borderline alcoholic genius programmer who just happens to be an aspiring science fiction author, isn't the most believable character in literary history, but her myriad complexities might at least be entertaining. However, Margo gets hit by a cab ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to NetGalley and One World for an advance copy of this!

On one hand, this is one of those books where there's not one specific story that starts and ends within the book - it's sort of a slice of these particular character's lives, and if that's not your thing, you're maybe not going to enjoy this. That said, it manages to tie together thinking about ethics in tech, thoughts about race and racism, and science-fiction writing in a way that weaves through multiple styles and characters
Rachel León
Such a fun, smart novel! I really loved it and didnt want it to end. It tackles so many thingsrace, grief, technology and our relationship to it and how it effects our relationships with others. So, so good!! ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is interesting, fun, and moves along at a good pace. It gives insight into the high tech world and some of the relevant issues. Grief stricken and alone after his friend, Margo, dies, Lucas searches out her friends through Margos online presence. In this story of Lucas journey, he befriends one of Margos friends while he continues to work at a tech company. Soon things become untenable at the company. As the book comes to its conclusion, Lucas seems to find his way again. ...more
Kevin Hu
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
"In New Waves, Nguyen tells a story of an Asian American half Chinese, half Vietnamese twentysomething working in the tech startup space just after the 2008 stock market crash. What is included is often just as important as what is not. The theory of omission. The bottom of the iceberg. Lucas Nguyen, male protagonist, was not line-driving into a blossoming future as an engineering mastermind but he was flittering about in his parents bed-and-breakfast before stumbling out of Oregon into tech ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
2.5 stars

A meandering tale about the grief of two people, who are only connected by the dead woman. Set in the world of startups and millennials, the book also touches upon what it means to be a person of color in todays complex world.

I received an arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
Andrew Barnes
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's early in the year, but I would be surprised if Kevin Nguyen's New Waves is not one of my favorites of 2020. Really deftly navigates the importance of the digital self and our digital connections in this modern age with grace and humor aplenty. Nguyen's sophomore effort can't come soon pressure Kevin (and no rush I mean thanks for this relax/enjoy yourself!)
Triet Nguyen
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, cleverly structured debut novel from Kevin Nguyen. What starts off ostensibly as a murder mystery soon turns into a platform for the author's ruminations on race, sex, technology and technology's impact on our daily life. Lest you get the wrong idea, it's still a fun ride, populated with quirky characters in the Dave Eggers mold, and driven in no small measure by the author's rather caustic wit. Highly recommended.
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of New Waves.

I was intrigued by the premise, and because the author is Vietnamese and I'm looking to read more books by authors of color.

Lucas and Margo are friends; he is an underachieving Asian slaving away at customer service, she is the one of the few African American female computer programmers.

Together, they are old souls, bonded by their race, gender and societal expectations.

And, together, they concoct a scheme to get back at their unfair employer.

Madeleine Elise
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Of course I was in love with her! But what if I could love someone and not want to fuck them? People always talk about romantic relationships as being more than friends. What if friendship is actually the greater form of connection? What if being close to someone doesn't require being physical? What if, actually, it's better if it isn't? What if there are people more important than the ones you sleep with?"

COVID has got us all down in our bunkers, and the new release I wanted didn't come from
Bonnie Brody
Mar 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Lucas is a young Asian man working in employee relations for a large tech company. Margo, who is an African American software engineer, is his only friend at work. Most of the other employees are lily white 'good old boys' who love to play on the company foos ball table. Margo and Lucas feel like outsiders in this synthetic 'family'. It is only a matter of time until Margo, who is straight speaking and not likely to hold her tongue, is fired for being disruptive and not a team player. Before ...more
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