An addictive and energetic novel, Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen, shows us that not everything is as it seems — what appears to be a “perfect” life is often riddled with ill-fated relationships, disparities, and loneliness. In a series of unexpected twists and turns, Chen tells a story that defies the model minority stereotype. 

The novel’s star Ava Wong, a rather goody-two-shoes Chinese American, has a law degree, is married to a successful surgeon, has a young son, and lives in a lovely home. But beyond the surface of Ava’s picturesque life, she faces numerous personal hardships. 

All in the midst of this turmoil, Ava reconnects with her former college roommate Winnie Fang, who had mysteriously dropped out and disappeared at the time. But this time, the Winnie of old was no more. Instead, she was drenched in style, confidence, and luxury thanks to her brilliant designer handbag scheme. 

Joining hands with Winnie, Ava decides to overturn her former lifestyle in pursuit of a spectacular and thrilling counterfeit plan. The two are initially met with great success. However, as soon as things get sour, Winnie is nowhere to be found. As Ava strives to grasp at the evasive American Dream, she is left alone to face the consequences of their illicit business. 

Counterfeit has been such an exciting read. I absolutely loved how Chen portrays strong, cunning female leads in this novel. The voice of Ava is so compelling, and yet she also carries such a relatable tone with stress and worries just like anyone else. And like many Asian Americans, she and Winnie encounter numerous subtleties of racism, but contrary to common media portrayals of Asian women, they are provocative and brave in response to bigotry. The stark personality contrasts between the two friends is also to die for.

In an era where Asian Americans continue to fight against inequalities and racism, Counterfeit tackles racism, identity crisis, and materialism from a unique angle. Filled with surprises, Kirsten Chen challenges the racial disparities and consumerist ideology in America through rich characters and a thoughtfully knitted story.

Previous articleDive into a tale of espionage, faux marriage in Chloe Gong’s ‘Foul Lady Fortune’
Next articleGraphic novel asks: Who do you think will change the most if they make it big?