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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Super Fakes R' Us: A Review of Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

I'm sorry, there is no new Books&Lewks this week. I kept playing around with this red and blue color scheme, but I could not come up with a good beauty look. The inspiration did not hit. The closest I got to liking something was when I drew two massive triangles on my face, but I was still not a fan. Sorry for lying to all of you! When the inspiration hits I will come back with a great new Books&Lewks! Until then, please accept this humble review.

I realize I haven’t even told you what I’m reviewing this week so let’s stop the intro here and get to know this week’s read. Please welcome to the stage: Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen!

Book cover of Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen.

Full disclosure, I’m obsessed. Counterfeit is hands down my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. Honestly I’m killin it when it comes to picking good books this year; at least so far. Hopefully I can keep this up.

Anyway, let’s get to that synopsis. A spoiler alert is in order, if you’ve been here before then you know I love to spoil a good chunk of the books I read. Take this as your one and only warning! Also, a quick content warning. Counterfeit has mentions of racism towards Asian Americans, nothing is explicit but I should mention it’s there. Now let’s get to that synopsis.

Ava, Ava, Ava, where to start with our main character. On paper, her life is perfect. She’s a Stanford alum, a highly paid lawyer lady, has an amazing husband who’s a doctor, and the pair have a lovely two-year-old son. In reality, things aren’t great. Her husband works far too much and is never home, her son has the lung capacity and soprano that rivals an opera singer’s, Ava secretly hates her job and is glad to be on extended maternity leave, and she doesn’t feel close to her two best friends anymore.

1920's woman being disappointed.
Girl is going through it.

Enter Winnie. Winnie is Ava’s roommate from her freshman year of college. Their time together was incredibly short as Winnie only lasted roughly half the year before leaving under mysterious circumstances. But now she’s back. Back with an incredibly shady business proposal. Welcome to the world of super fake designer bags.

Designer Bag

This is where our story proper begins. Winnie manages to convince Ava to join her shady business empire. Soon Ava is returning super fakes to places like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus before eventually hitting up designer boutiques as well.

And our girl Ava is going all the way to the top. You see, Ava is joining Winnie as her partner; even though she doesn’t want to. Ava isn’t comfortable with Winnie’s business. She doesn’t want to take part in it, but Winnie has dirt on Ava and Ava owes Winnie a lot of favors, so Ava isn’t going anywhere anytime soon despite wanting to take Winnie down. But perhaps the easiest way to do that is from the inside? What follows is a story of one woman fixing her life and righting wrongs.

I’m obsessed. I’m totally obsessed. Let me tell you something, there’s a glorious twist right in the middle of the novel that completely changes the energy and direction of this book. Don’t get me wrong, the beginning is great, truly, but the twist! The twist just made me devour Counterfeit even quicker. And honestly, the plot twist isn’t something that readers would never see coming. It’s not outlandish. It’s nothing crazy. It’s just done so well. A ten-out-of-ten plot twist if I’ve ever seen one.

Woman clapping.
Claps for Kirstin Chen.

With or without that plot twist, Counterfeit is a quick, easy read. It’s only like 20 chapters, not including the epilogue, and it clocks in right under 300 pages. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon if you ask me. Witty, clever, fun, quick, a touch of dark humor; it’s all there!

Counterfeit also has one of my favorite things: an unreliable narrator. This book is told by Ava who is confessing to the police about her involvement in the luxury bag scheme. I won’t say too much, but I will say the longer the story goes on, the more second-guessing I had to do. I also must say, the way this story is structured helps with the fast pace of the plot and the speed in which this book is read.

Don’t expect this book to be lighthearted though. I know I’ve talked on and on about how quick this book is and how easy of a read it is, but there are still some heavy topics within its pages. As I said before the synopsis, Counterfeit does have mentions of racism towards Asian Americans. There’s a lot of talk regarding topics like immigration, racial profiling, and the strained trade relationship between the United States and China just to name a few things. Yet these topics aren’t heavy-handed. The way these topics are broached feels natural. Had this book been longer I feel these topics could have been touched upon even more and ultimately expanded on. But for how short the book is, it works and it works really well.

Now there is one thing I really didn’t like about this book. Honestly it’s kinda stupid but it bothered me the whole time. As stated, Ava is narrating her story to the police. The framing of this novel is that she’s confessing to her involvement in the super fake scheme so it’s just one person talking the entire time. But there are no quotation marks! There are no quotation marks until the epilogue! Single quotation marks aren’t even used to show readers that this is Ava recounting her experience. No dialogue has quotation marks! This is so stupid but it bothers me immensely.

Miss Piggy banging her head on a table.
Lowkey drove me mad.

Quotation marks aside, Counterfeit is great! I have a feeling this is going to end up on my Best of 2023 book list at the end of the year. That’s a long, long way away, but I’m lowkey calling it now. Highly recommend giving this one a try.

With that, I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with something a little different. I need a quick break from book reviews. I need a little time to catch up on some reading and do some reading just for fun. But I will still see you next week with something fun!

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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