Review: The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

The Scam Squad is an stellar debut novel about a young working-class woman who navigates precariously through Singapore’s elite to fulfill her dreams as a magazine writer.

When you mix Crazy Rich Asians with a pinch of The devil wears Prada, you have an entertaining story about a character who does everything possible to shine in the world of high-profile Singaporean fashion. However, it proves to be no easy feat. Sam (Samantha Song), the novel’s hardworking protagonist, has a burning desire to write for the world of high-end fashion, but her low-class status and struggles to help her mother make ends meet make it all seem like a world. distant. Her current reality is working at a not-so-inspiring PR firm, and the closest Sam comes to her ideal job is through her wealthy colleague, Anya.

That is until Sam meets Timothy Kingston, the only son and heir of one of Singapore’s richest families. A surprising opportunity arises when Tim and Anya both want to help Samantha rise to the top of the social class. However, looking the part and attending events as one more is a far cry from being the part. Impressing the editor-in-chief of the country’s most respected magazine is all up to her. But being caught up in this scam with each passing day only increases his chances of exposing her true past. With an anonymous gossip writer on the loose, Samantha is under pressure to find out what she wants and who she was meant to be before time runs out.

Kyla Zhao does a great job with this as her debut novel. The structuring of the plot was well done because it is written in the third person. The perspectives of the characters in the book become much broader, and the world-building stood out greatly thanks to this point of view. It had the necessary vibes that Singapore’s elite social classes give and all the drama that comes with it. Sam was a great character developed by Zhao in seeing an ordinary working class girl transform into one of the elite of Singapore society. It was also inspiring to see Sam working in different modalities of the fashion world. From working in public relations and journalism, as well as getting opportunities to model and being interviewed by the top magazine in the country, she displays her professional and individual versatility of hers. Diving into the many luxury brands included in the Asian fashion world was also a pleasure to behold. Fictional or not, she gives a great representation to see such names worn by elaborate people.

My favorite parts of this book were the established and newly formed relationships Sam had with other characters. Her mother has been an essential driver throughout the plot as she brings Sam back to her roots socially and emotionally. But she’s just as hardworking (if not more) than Sam and doing her best to stay afloat financially, and she just wants the best life for her. There were a few times I cried reading about their moments together, and it just goes to show how important the family dynamic is to this story. As for Tim and Anya, it was fun to dive into their additional background as wealthy Singaporeans and demonstrated how even those who have the best things in life are flawed human beings at the end of the day. Another aspect that I found important in the book was the surprising and the dialogue, especially those lines given to Sam towards the last third of the reading. It’s been well thought out, and that’s something readers can find out for themselves.

As far as the romance of this book goes, it felt like the dynamic between Tim and Sam was a bit forced. It was sweet overall, but I wish it was more natural. Lucia, Tim’s infamous girlfriend was a real viper to deal with the whole time. There have been several instances where readers are reminded of Lucia, especially with that watch Tim wore from her that stuck to him like a flea. It was a pain, but necessary for the plot.

This was a great AAPI book to add to the contemporary realistic fiction genre! Seeing Sam living a double life and trying to get the best of both worlds was a journey to behold. Aside from the romance being a bit bland, the storyline had some great twists and turns for the readers and a character that young Asian women can look up to!

The Scam Squad is available from Amazon, the Book Depository, and other good booksellers, such as your local bookstore, starting January 17, 2023.

Will you answer? The Scam Squad? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Synopsis | Happy reading

See also

Beyond The Shadowed Earth by Joanna Ruth Meyer Review

A working-class woman who infiltrates Singaporean high society to make her dreams come true risks losing everything in the process, including herself, in this propulsive novel by first-time author Kyla Zhao.

For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high society magazine and would do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mother make ends meet and her low social status make her dream seem like a distant fantasy.

Now Samantha finds herself working at a seedy PR agency. Living vicariously through her wealthy colleague and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she will get to her ideal life than her. Her until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families and Samantha’s only chance to infiltrate the world of high society to which she desperately wants to belong.

To Samantha’s surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on the Singaporean socialite scene. But borrowed designer clothes and extras for every glamorous event can only take her so far. The rest is up to Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor-in-chief of Singapore’s swankiest magazine. But the more Samantha delves into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed, especially with a mysterious dirt-seeking gossip columnist, forcing her to reconcile the pretense of her with who she really is before she loses everything.


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