Leland Cheuk’s writing moves with quick-footed energy, darkly playful without being facile. Whether poking fun at Chinese horoscopes, celebrity reality TV families, 'raunchy, brain-dead, road-trip comedies,' or Chinese weddings with their guest lists of several hundreds, Cheuk delivers the punches ... No Good Very Bad Asian upends expectations, proving more complex than the rigid, confining literary categories that might seek to define it. Outrageous, satirical, tragic, comic, and hopeful, it’s a sharp-eyed saga about slaying illusions—whether imposed by external forces or self-perpetuated—as well as an ode to the demanding, fickle, and exhilarating vocation of making people laugh.
...zippy, acerbic ... Cheuk, who performed stand-up for several years as research for his book, provides an inside look at the topsy-turvy world of comedy, where rising stars mix it up with floundering has-beens. Above all, the novel is a cautionary tale of how even a brush with fame can derail one’s perspective, and how racial insensitivity and discrimination persist even in the glitzy depths of Hollywood ... More rueful than laugh-out-loud funny, the novel recounts Lee’s life in a conversational, self-deprecating style. Even as the comedian falls from grace and becomes estranged from his family and friends, he remains sympathetic, and although the conclusion of his tale is bittersweet, it leaves hope for forgiveness and redemption. A showbiz crack-up tale with a heart, No Good Very Bad Asian is smartly told and deeply felt.
The balance between comic and serious is crucial in literary comedy ... While a perfect balance is admittedly impossible, never mind a matter of taste, Leland Cheuk does an admirable job in his latest, No Good Very Bad Asian, achieving a true synthesis of heart and humor highlighted by the fluidity of his first-person voice and a steady diet of sharp turns of prose ... As a writer, Leland Cheuk has a varied palette of talents. Most striking is his novel comic sense and timing, abilities that routinely produce surprisingly humorous result ... No Good Very Bad Asian is a quick read, consistently funny, and surprisingly poignant at times. Cheuk achieves the very difficult balance necessary for successful literary comedy, pointing to a bright future. His fertile imagination given still freer rein, it would be interesting to see what Cheuk might come up with. I, for one, will be looking forward to that whatever that is.
Leland Cheuk’s second novel, No Good Very Bad Asian, bears a freshness that the majority of novels simply can’t conjure. It’s a rare book, sprouting fanciful ideas from a realistic emotional foundation. It covers racism, family, belonging, and the meaning of a life well lived while posing as a celebrity rise-and-fall novel ... The novel picks delicately at knotty ideas and contradictions about life as an Asian in America ... But all this meaning doesn’t make the novel heavy. On the contrary, it’s genuinely hilarious ... No Good Very Bad Asian, for all the unlikeliness of its plot, echoes life. Many of its background ideas...are deliberately silly, and the plot of Sirius’s life does not proceed in a smooth line toward success or failure. But Cheuk’s confident style and skilled toggling between moods make the book a terrific read. It may not be the most outrageous showbiz novel out there, nor the most heartfelt, but it balances both of those strong flavors with precision and kindness.