The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao
Release Date: 17th January 2023
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
A working-class woman who infiltrates Singapore’s high society to fulfill her dreams risks losing everything in the process—including herself—in this propulsive novel by debut author Kyla Zhao.
For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high-society magazine—and she’d do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mom make ends meet and her low social status cause her dream to feel like a distant fantasy.
Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she’ll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families—and Samantha’s one chance at infiltrating the high-society world 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 Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore’s poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed—especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt—forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all.
Whew, the beginning of this book was rough. I picked up The Fraud Squad because I love Rich People Drama. I’ve loved it ever since I was younger, because rich people get themselves into such messes. And a book about a working class woman infiltrating the ranks of the elite and potentially taking them down sounded very appealing.
I really struggled through the first quarter or so of The Fraud Squad. The writing felt very unpolished, almost juvenile, and I found myself at times wondering if this was actually a YA book that I was reading, or whether the author had dabbled in YA before. The characters just felt so young. It was a struggle to get past it.
Eventually, though, I managed it, and the book really improved in its second half. By then I was really interested in Samantha and her journey, and I liked reading about her friendships with Daisy and Anya, and also Rai of course. I didn’t feel much chemistry between Samantha and the love interest, Timothy, but they were still cute. I wish I could have seen more moments between them in the build up to their romance.
I also really enjoyed the way The Fraud Squad ended. Not to spoil anything, but often this kind of book ends in a particular way, and I enjoyed that the author did something a little different here. It was refreshing!
I would recommend The Fraud Squad to readers who are looking for a more lowkey Crazy Rich Asians. It has a lot of the glitz and the glam of Singapore, but it’s not as in-your-face and the characters aren’t quite so ridiculous.