The Chosen and the Beautiful – Nghi Vo

Released last week!

Thanks to Tordotcom for the free early copy in exchange for my honest review

THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL – Nghi Vo (Released June 1st, 2021)

Book Description:

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

My Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars

To start, I’m torn on my feelings for this book. On the one hand, I think that this was beautifully written and significantly better than THE GREAT GATSBY, but while reading this I was reminded that I didn’t really like that book. With this being a reimaging of the classic most of us had to read in school, I was hoping it wouldn’t be too similar to the original, if that makes sense. I know with a lot of retellings the authors take inspiration from the originals but can sometimes change entire plot points, characters, etc. THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL does follow the story closely but with some added elements that I loved.

Jordan was a great character. She brought more life to the story and gave a new perspective that I didn’t realize the book needed. It still has the slower pacing like the original but with just enough detail and some intrigue to keep you going. Having representation that was severely lacking in Fitzgerald’s book gave it new life – having a queer and Asian main character gave us a much better perspective than Nick Caraway’s. The only reason he stood out in THE GREAT GATSBY was because he wasn’t rich like the other characters, but every door opened for him because of who he was seen with. In contrast, despite Jordan being at these same parties with the same socialite wealthy friends, she had numerous opportunities continue to be out of reach for her.

I truly think my dislike for Gatsby won in some respect when it comes to my rating. Vo’s writing was incredible and really set the dreamy atmosphere needed. If this retelling didn’t follow the original like it had or the magical aspect was a little more present, then I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. If you haven’t read THE GREAT GATSBY or loved the book, then this will be perfect for you. I will 100% be picking up more from Nghi Vo in the future and I do appreciate what she did change in this retelling and I do recommend it, even to those that aren’t the biggest fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. There is the possibility that having these changes could make those readers actually like the tale of the extravagant 1920’s and the world surrounding the mysterious Gatsby.

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