Skip to Content
Categories Books

Review: Real Americans by Rachel Khong

Review: Real Americans by Rachel Khong

I received a copy of Real Americans in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Real Americans by Rachel Khong is an original and captivating novel about family, genetics and free will.

A Read With Jenna Pick, Real Americans is receiving a ton of buzz and I see the cover almost everywhere books are promoted. And for good reason. It’s a well-crafted and intriguing story and told in a unique way. It felt more like reading three novellas than one constant novel.

I thought the first two sections, one dedicated to Lily and the other to her son, Nick, were so interesting and I had a hard time putting the story down. But the third section focused on Lily’s mother, May, did not capture my attention like the others.

What’s the Story About

The story follows Lily Chen, a 22-year-old unpaid intern, working at a media company during Y2K. She meets Matthew, the rich heir to a pharmaceutical company. Despite how different the two are, they fall in love and have a baby.

In 2021, Nick Chen is the fifteen-year-old son of Lily and has no relationship with his father. However, when Nick eventually makes contact with Matthew, everything changes for the family.

And then we follow May, Lily’s mother and Nick grandmother, in the past as a young woman as she strives to make a better life for herself but makes devastating decisions along the way.

The Chen Journey

I very much liked reading the journey of each family member, especially Nick. I think his sections were the most engaging and when his ended, I was sad and wanted more of his journey. But his storyline does pick up again when he encounters May, his long lost grandmother that he thought was dead.

Going into this story, I expected a bit more of a straightforward family saga. But there’s a bit of magical realism, just a tiny bit, as well as the focus on genetics makes this one completely stand apart from others in the genre. The genetics aspect was quite interesting and also unsettling at times.

I just wish the May section didn’t feel so out of place. It eventually all connects but I had a hard time really getting into her storyline at first. I do see why the author placed it at the third part but I still think it just didn’t flow as well as the other two.

That said, I did really enjoy the ending.


This story raises a lot of questions from genetics to changing one’s future to the ethics of experimental medical treatments. It focuses on the impact of family secrets and selfish decisions.

Overall, I think this is a great story that I found myself quite engaged with. Again, I wish the May section held my attention more but like I said, this is a good novel and I think readers will have much to discuss.

For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.