#WhereWeReadAsianLit – #ATBR2021 – New Waves by Kevin Nguyen

The May #WhereWeReadAsianLit selection!

NEW WAVES – Kevin Nguyen (Released March 10th, 2020)

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 low-paid customer service rep. Together, they decide to steal their tech start-up’s user database in an attempt at revenge. The heist takes a sudden turn when Margo dies in a car accident, and Lucas is left reeling, wondering what to do with their secret–and wondering whether her death really was an accident. When Lucas hacks into Margo’s computer looking for answers, he is drawn into her secret online life and realizes just how little he knew about his best friend.

With a fresh voice, biting humor, and piercing observations about human nature, Kevin Nguyen brings an insider’s knowledge of the tech industry to this imaginative novel. A pitch-perfect exploration of race and start-up culture, secrecy and surveillance, social media and friendship, New Waves asks: How well do we really know each other? And how do we form true intimacy and connection in a tech-obsessed world?

Chandra’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars

New Waves was unexpected for me.  I’m not sure why so many people thought this was going to be a thriller but it most definitely is not so please don’t go into this with that misconception.  What we get is a novel about tech start ups, racism, grief, the intimacy of social media/internet forum relationships and just wanting to fit in and make a connection.

Normally this type of book that is more character study where you follow along day to day with certain insights but isn’t necessarily plot driven can be an absolute miss for me.  However, with NEW WAVES, it just works for me.   I could relate to Lucas on so many levels.  I especially liked his relationship with Margo – while they can commiserate about their own bouts of racism within and outside the work place, they also realize they still experience it completely different from each other as well.  I think the author did extremely well in showing this dynamic.

I also appreciate an Asian book that deals with more of the contemporary POC experience over the stories we are used to reading (i.e. immigration/assimilation stories).  And I smiled at Lucas’s journey from Astoria to Manhattan on the subway because that’s exactly what I do. Really though readers, this is a story about friendship and grief and finding your space in life.  “Grief isn’t just the act of coping with a loss.  It’s reckoning with the realization that you’ll never discover something new about a person ever again.”  We don’t get answers to problems here, we get a very human experience.

My Thoughts: 4/5 stars

This is the May #WhereWeReadAsianLit choice and yet another book that wasn’t previously on my radar. Going into it I had seen some people say it was more mystery or thriller and I’ll tell you now, it definitely isn’t that. NEW WAVES is more of a character driven novel and we get to examine relationships, navigating life at a tech start-up, dealing with grief, and the reality of online relationships and how they can take on a life of their own.

Lucas is just a normal guy with a job at a new tech start-up. He and his friend/colleague, Margo, can commiserate together about the obstacles they both deal with in terms of racism within the workplace. In our discussion, we talked about meeting people in online forums and memorial Facebook pages. I think some really meaningful relationships have been formed because of common interests online. I’ve met plenty of close friends this way and due to social media. I think the idea of memorial Facebook pages is with good intentions but I personally would never want one.

Overall, I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would. I saw a few reviews where they said if you didn’t like the first 30ish pages then you wouldn’t like the rest and I can get behind that sentiment. Don’t go into this expecting a thriller because you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Another great selection and I cant wait for next month!

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