Cover Image: The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

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Member Reviews

3.5 stars!

I went back and forth between 4 stars and 2 stars and settled on 3.5. 

Things I loved:

Jordan. I feel like Jordan as a character was immensely enjoyable and I would have loved to see her star in a book that wasn't a Great Gatsby retelling. The writing, The way Nghi Vo described the infamous Gatsby parties, Jordan's inner monologues, the era was so rich and full of beautiful details. At points where the plot was losing me, the writing definitely pulled me back in. 

Things I didn't like:

Nick, Tom, Daisy, Gatsby. Maybe because these were such famous characters, I felt they took away a bit from Jordan's story. The pacing. Sometimes I felt like it was dragging on, especially when we would get flashbacks of years before the "present" time Jordan was narrating. The timeline. It was a bit confusing and I understand the author was giving us flashbacks of past moments between Jordan and her adopted family, Jordan and Daisy etc., but there were moments where it was hurting the story more than helping. 

Overall, I feel like this will definitely be hit or miss for readers but nonetheless a book that everybody should pick up to figure out their own opinions.
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“The Chosen and the Beautiful” is a seductive, immigrant-focused, and feminist retelling of “The Great Gatsby” that only suffered from its pulling from its original text. 

Having been a fan of Nghi Vo’s novellas, I knew to expect prose that left much to the imagination, but I did have trouble wrapping my head around some parts of this story — the magical aspect that Vo added to the world was gorgeous if low-fantasy and under-explained. I know she wanted it to feel as though the world had always been magical, but when reimagine a classic, no matter how expertly, sometimes I think over-narration is a good thing. 

I have to admit when I began to read this, I did not realize it was a retelling of “The Great Gatsby.” Having never had to read the original book, I often felt lost, which is my biggest complaint against Vo’s version. I feel to fully read and understand this book, you need a working knowledge of its original premise, which was unfortunate because I loved this book, but often found it confusing, as though there was something I was missing to fully understand the importance of why things were happening. 

But Vo’s work is masterful nonetheless. Reminiscent of her “Empress of Salt and Fortune,” our protagonist Jordan Baker is deeply feminist, clever, and masterful. I cannot express how much more a Vietnamese main character brought to the story, irrevocably changing it for the better. Her discomfort with herself, her heritage, and those around her while fighting to find her place was a part of the story that was a perfect foil to Daisy’s own journey of learning her place. Jordan’s magic was also a gorgeous addition to the story, one I wish had played a bigger part. 

The added layer of Jordan being queer was delightful, especially with the nod to Nick’s own attraction to Gatsby. It was seductive and enchanting, and Vo truly made the reader feel as though they were swept up in the magical, hot summer craze of the early 1920s. 

Overall, “The Chosen and the Beautiful” is a gorgeous book I would recommend as a follow-up to “The Great Gatsby” to show how much better it could have been if more voices like Vo’s had the opportunity to be heard.
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Despite me being completely unfamiliar with The Great Gatsby, a combination of the gorgeous cover and the hype surrounding this book drove me to pick it up, and I’m not upset that I did.

Following our protagonist Jordan Baker, a queer, transracial adoptee in 1920s America, The Chosen and the Beautiful is a lyrical imagining of the Fitzgerald’s classic with magical elements lightly woven in.

First and foremost, the writing in this book is absolutely beautiful. Vo’s prose in this book has the feel of a classic without being difficult to read and it completely pulls you into the story and this world. This was very much a quiet book and quite slow-moving, but it’s highly atmospheric, and as I always say, the vibes were just exquisite. I also appreciated the discussion of issues surrounding race and immigration and enjoyed the casual queerness that was present throughout this book.

I think ultimately the reason I only gave this book 3 stars (Which is! Not a bad rating!) is that I felt rather indifferent about all the other aspects. I couldn’t really get attached to any of the characters and didn’t particularly care about their relationships. This isn't a plot-heavy story which is not inherently bad, but with me not getting invested in the characters, there wasn't much keeping me engaged with the book aside from the writing and atmosphere. My favourite part of the book was probably when Jordan was with Khai and I wish we got to see more of that dynamic. I also wish that we’d gotten to explore more of the magical elements of the story because the times it did appear were very cool. 

Though The Chosen and the Beautiful wasn’t the perfect book for me, I think it is one a lot of people will enjoy and reading this does make me really excited to check out Nghi Vo’s other works!
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This is the perfect modernization of The Great Gatsby: dark, lyrical, and magical. 

Nghi Vo's writing is out of the world. She brought to life the 1920's setting and the addition of Jordan's Vietnamese heritage and the politics of the time added such a great depth to the story. The magic was also so interesting and unique. 

My favorite part of the story was that it stayed true to original but managed to fill in the gaps between Nick's perspective. It was so intriguing to see that these were the same characters, but slightly shifted because of the new point of view. 

This is definitely a must read for fans of The Great Gatsby and those who want to see a fresh, diverse take on the classic!
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I enjoy Gatsby, so I was definitely looking forwards to this ARC of #ChosenAndTheBeautiful.  There is so much to like about this book--the way the author Nghi Vo weaves Jordan's perspective through the original narration of Nick, the way she fills in some gaps in the original story and layers Jordan's perspective--sometimes to challenge what the reader has believed from Nick in the original.  This perspective is also enhanced by Jordan as a "queer, Asian, adopted" woman, which allows the author to explore different social criticisms including history, race, gender, and more, in more nuanced ways than the original.  I was unprepared for the amount of sex in the book--not inappropriately so as it's obviously alluded to in the original, but more the detailed scene.  I also think I didn't take the initial description of "cutting out the paper heart of a man" to be literal. The magic realism element seemed a little forced and uncomfortable at times; it didn't always sit right with me as some mystical element.  On the whole, it's hard for me to rate this one without half stars.  I recommend it for adults as a debut novel, for Gatsby fans, and for what it tries to share with the reader as social criticisms. Thank you to #NetGalley and the publishers for the advanced copy.
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This Great Gatsby retelling with a queer Asian main character has reinvented an American literary classic entirely for the better. Legendary pro golfer Jordan Baker has never been one to shy away from success. Being a queer, adopted, Vietnamese immigrant means having to work twice as hard to be taken seriously in a world that likes to treat her like an exotic centerpiece more often than not. With the 1920’s set in motion, the secluded speakeasies and intoxicating parties are at the center of focus, but for Jordan her past is a constant presence demanding inquiry. In this stellar debut, author Nghi Vo peels back the gilded exterior of a decade to reveal its flawed heart. A magical, glimmering testament to retellings everywhere, and the future of the literary canon.

When I heard that one of my favorite authors was taking a stab at reimagining one of the most iconic American novels, I could not wait to get my hands on an early copy. The Great Gatsby has never been of any real interest to me after being told to read it for english class in high school. It’s one of those stories that just barely grazed the surface of the complexity of the characters and the time period in which it was centered. A story that, in my opinion, has been extremely overly fixated on in the American education system for it being what it is: rather monotonous. In that way, Nghi Vo has expertly reexamined this classic, creating a layered character study full of all the glitz and glam associated with the roaring twenties. Having read Vo’s previous two novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, the idea that this would be a devastatingly heartbreaking debut did cross my mind. That the actual story went above and beyond my expectations is truly astonishing. Jordan Baker particularly, has quite a reputation for being a rather overlooked character from the original novel and I loved everything that Vo infused into the barebones of her character. The exploration of her Vietnamese heritage and her magical affinity tied in with the rest of the story in a way that was so inventive. As we progress through the events that mirror those of the first half of the original novel, we see them through Jordans eyes, while Vo simultaneously examines the negative aspects corresponding to the time period. The complexities to Jordans identities come into play in new ways, while the story starts to deviate and take on its own form, creating what is an altogether new commentary on race, gender, and class for the decade. What this has wholeheartedly exemplified is that every classic should be getting a retelling. I fully expect that The Chosen and the Beautiful will be replacing The Great Gatsby in every high school curriculum upon its release. This beautiful, evocative novel will have fans of literary fiction waiting on bated breath for more from its brilliant author. 

Trigger warnings: blood, violence, death, death of a loved one, abortion, alcohol consumption, cheating, racism, homophobia, microaggressions
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A huge thank you to NetGalley and for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. 

"The Chosen and the Beautiful" by Nghi Vo was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it did not disappoint. "The Great Gatsby" has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in high school. I also adore Vo's Singing Hill novellas, so I was off the charts excited for this book. It's now one of my favorite books of the year! 

Vo really captured the essence of the original narrative: its glittering, wistful, and romantic tragedy in the face of the farce of the American dream. Though she still really made the narrative her own in such special ways. She changed the perspective to that of Jordan, an exceptionally compelling and rounded narrator, and gave insight into the relationship of the farce of the American dream to the experiences of queer people, immigrants, and people of color during the time. As someone who really loves the original, too, it was so fun to see the ways in which Vo incorporated lines of dialogue or nods to scenes from the book or the 2013 film adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" directed by Baz Luhrmann. Vo also wove the fantasy elements so meaningfully and seamlessly into the narrative. She took all the relationships in such interesting directions that still felt very true to the characters, and gave a lot more background into Daisy and Jordan's relationship which I appreciated. The queer retelling felt so validating for my high school self who first read "The Great Gatsby" and proceeded to write gay fanfiction about Nick and Gatsby and Daisy and Jordan. And not to forget to mention, the prose was beautiful and gave me a hint of the wistfulness of Fitzgerald's writing.
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I love Vo's writing--they have a lovely way of sculpting language that moves you through the world with ease even when sometimes it feels as if you are not entirely sure of the world dynamics. And I find that I was okay with not knowing. I think the fact that we are in a Gatsby retelling some of the landscape is there, what Vo added was an unabashed queerness--relations that were kinetic and moved between the feminine and masculine sexuality. It turned the subtext to text basically. There was a very intriguing magic system embedded in the narrative that had me craving more and more of that world (which I feel I always crave more and more of Vo's capacity to call upon magic systems). There were definitely moments where my lack of knowing frustrated me--but I was still compelled by the story presented and presenting itself and the moments where the magic truly sparked and showed itself. I did crave more of the explorations of race that Jordan Baker as a Vietnamese person in a white landscape and being raised only in that landscape--we don't really get deep diving into that aspect until the end. But overall--this story was a lush, phantasm that took the luxurious Gatsby and made it more captivating and decoded it away from a predominately white experience.
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Nghi Vo brings us a beautifully written retelling of 'The Great Gatsby" told from Jordan Baker's point of view, a Jordan Baker who is Vietnamese, queer and able to perform an ancient type of paper magic. In fact the whole world has splashes of magic and Gatsby himself seems to have made some kind of deal with the devil. Vo sticks close to the original plot line complete with the self-centered careless characters and I just wish that the changes she made could have been fleshed out more. I wanted to know more about Jordan's magic and see her discover more about herself and her heritage.
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This was a great retelling, its almost the same story, but told by the perspective of Jordan Baker, and Asian American girl and Daisy's friend.

Love this new perspective; the story feels more enchanted and atmospheric, the characters are more in-depth and you sympathize with them, also there is magic, quite subtle, like magical realism and very interesting. 

Jordan is an amazing POV; she was adopted by a rich family and had a unique place in the high society, she can see what other people can see.

The story also addresses more issues that were left in the original text, such as racism and queer characters. You don't need to read the original story to understand this. This was almost the same story with a plus, more diverse and more explanations.
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CW- abortion, cheating, self harm, internalized homophobia, car accident, death

The Chosen and the Beautiful is a Great Gatsby retelling with a magical twist. It expands on the white, straight perspective of the original and shows an alternate view.
The reason I first was drawn to his book was the cover. That cover is just so gorgeous. The colors work so well together and the artists work is amazing. However, this book is so much more than just the beautiful cover. I would even consider it better than the original Great Gatsby.
The magical realism that was included was wonderful. It helped to enrich this already beautiful world of glitz and glamour, and it left you with a truly awestruck feeling. 
I also loved the characters. The characters were pretty similar to the original, but I loved learning more about Jordan, and I loved the new perspective that we got of the original tale.
Overall, I recommend this book to fans of The Night Circus and for anybody who has ever thought about reading The Great Gatsby, even without have read the original.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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CW: abortion, self-harm (alluded to), cheating, internalized racism & homophobia, microaggressions, death

I am finding it hard to rate and review this book. I definitely went in with really high expectations given how much I love the Singing Hills Cycle, and I'm not sure this book lived up to those expectations. That being said, I'm also not sure my expectations were justified either, on hindsight. I will say that I don't think I would necessarily classify this as a fantasy read, but more of a literary fiction with some fantastical elements. Which again, on hindsight, is probably what I should have expected given the fact that it's a Great Gatsby retelling?

For full disclosure, I have never read The Great Gatsby, nor have I watched the Baz Luhrmann film in its entirety (I slept through most of it) so I have absolutely no frame of reference, so do keep that in mind as you read this review.

First things first, the writing is absolutely stunning, and in this regard, I would say it lived up to my expectations completely. Nghi Vo is one of my favourite writers, and this book is no different. Her style is so lyrical and dream-like, and coupled with the lush setting in this book, it really made for an incredibly captivating read. While I was reading it, I found myself completely immersed and it was hard to put the book down.

Nghi Vo has this incredible ability to write stories that require you to read between the lines and piece things together on your own, but also does it in a way that makes you want more. What I've found with her novellas is that they are just as good on reread, and you end up getting more from it with every reread. I found this book to be the same - I had read about 40% of the book, put it down for a month or so, and started again from the beginning, and I found myself actually getting more out of that first 40% of the book and enjoying it a lot more on reread than I did the first time around, which makes me excited to reread the entire book once it's out on audio (I really hope Cindy Kay narrates this one as well). That being said, I understand that this style of writing and worldbuilding may not be everyone's cup of tea, so definitely keep that in mind when you pick this one up.

The characters are all incredibly unlikable, which I think is kind of the point, so I think she did a good job on that front. I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters, as well as the exploration of all the toxic infatuations and obsessions they had with each other. Pretty much everyone is bi/pan, and I loved it. There isn't really much of a plot, but it was also just so messy and I found myself being quite invested in what happened between our four main characters.

Where I kind of wanted more was in Jordan's grappling with her identity and internalized racism. I think it's clear throughout the book that she's aware of how her race impacts how she navigates the upper echelons of New York's social circle, but I'd love to see her dive deeper into her own privilege of having this proximity to whiteness and extreme wealth, and see more of her reconnecting with her roots. I wish Khai and his troupe were introduced a bit earlier so that we could have seen more of both sides of her identity - her American side, and her Vietnamese side.

I do think this book would've benefitted from an extra 50 pages or so, just to flesh out some of the threads that Nghi Vo started but wasn't really able to dive deep into. It would've made the plot twist at the end more satisfying if we were able to see hints to it throughout, or at least see a bit more of the aftermath. Another thing that I think requires more depth/thought was the mention of a certain character having a parent who is Black-Indigenous, but aside from this mention, it's not really explored any further. I'm obviously not able to say whether or not this was good or bad, but I do feel like it was kind of just thrown in there, and I think a little more depth would have done this character and their identity more justice than just this one line.

The magic system in this is very soft, so I think if you're someone who doesn't like that, then you might not love this aspect of it. I personally loved the magic, especially the paper cutting magic - growing up, I loved seeing street artists in Hong Kong create stunning pieces of art out of paper, and I think this magic system and the way it's described really reminded me of how magical it is in real life as well. Nghi Vo does this thing where she blurs the line between reality, magic, and dreams, and it makes you question everything you're reading. You spend a lot of time confused, and she doesn't necessarily resolve a lot of that confusion - like I mentioned earlier, she's definitely an author that lets you draw your own conclusions and doesn't hold your hand much. I personally like that, but I can see why others might not.

Despite some of the issues I had with this book, I still really loved it. Perhaps I am biased because I just love Nghi Vo's writing so much, and it is just so comforting to me, but I am certain that this is a book I will be rereading, and potentially will like more on reread. If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be "alluring". Again, I wouldn't recommend this as a fantasy read, per se, but I'd say if you like literary fiction or classics (especially ones following the lives of messy rich people), I would definitely recommend this one.
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Stunning, heartbreaking, beautifully written in every possible way. Nghi Vo took a classic that is, in my humble opinion, rather dry, and made it as fantastical as a fever dream. I will be a Nghi Vo reader as long as she is putting out stories, and I am so excited to add this book to a list of favorites that I will go back to time and time again. 

Please find my full blog review in the attached link!

Thank you to NetGalley and specifically Lauren at tordotcom for the opportunity to read and review early.
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So what brought me to The Chosen and the Beautiful when it popped up on my NetGalley dash was the fact that it was a Great Gatsby retelling with magic. Because I love 1) retellings and 2) magical realism. Now, I wasn't sure I would love this because I (don't crucify me) don't love The Great Gatsby. But I decided I'd give it a shot anyway because what I was hearing was that it was really good. So I requested it on NetGalley, I got the galley, and I started reading it. And it was... wow. It was a ride. At first I struggled because I forgot about the magical realism aspect by the time I actually got around to reading it, so I thought it was a lot of figurative language and that was just really confusing to me. So I went back to the synopsis, saw "magician" and went, "oh, ok. The magic is real; that makes more sense." And then I liked the book more. I liked seeing Daisy Buchanan when she was still Daisy Fay, and I liked getting to see the parts of Jay Gatsby that Nick Carraway either couldn't or wouldn't see, and so we didn't see in the original book. I also really liked Jordan Baker; she's such an incredibly complicated character, just full of depths of contradiction and feeling. In short, I really enjoyed reading this book. Would I reread it? Probably not. But I'm really glad I read it this first time because it was an amazing book, and it's an incredible reimagining of The Great Gatsby. (Let us all rejoice that Gatsby is finally in the public domain, so we can just get more and more great works like this one.) If you like retellings and magical realism, you'll probably like this about the same amount I did. But if you also like The Great Gatsby, then you'll probably like this even more than I did. I think this is going to be a popular book when it finally hits the shelves, and I can't wait to hear what other people think of it.
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I have to say... I went in slightly hesitant. The Great Gatsby is my favourite classic and I was worried about it not being done justice even though getting Jordan’s point of view excited me. 
There was no need to worry. This was done beautifully. It was not fully spot on but it didn’t need to be. The world of Gatsby was caught perfectly with bits of reality placed ever so carefully through the narrative to ground us in what the 1920s really looked like for people of different ethnicities. At first I wondered what the point of the magic system and the supernatural was but by the end I was screaming out in gleeful surprise at how it all tied together. 
All in all, I want to see how Jordan gets on after the events of this book but it has caught me in its trap and made for a very pleasant read.
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A great gatsby retelling that is queer with an Asian main lead, need I say more?! 

It was so atmospheric and fills so many gaps and just did such a good job with this retelling. We get a new side to characters and it was just so lyrically written.
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This book was so up my alley and I was so excited for it! A queer retelling of my favorite classic novel! I can honestly say I was not discouraged.
  This is a retelling of The Great Gatsby and honestly this is just as good as the original. It feels like a classic it was so beautiful and lyrical. The whole book just felt like I was living in that time.  Then getting to see that world through the eyes of someone like Jordan was amazing. 
  I will say it is lacking in one place its the actual retelling aspect. I felt like a bit more could have been done to really get that connection to Gatsby across. This may be a me thing though as I have read Gatsby so many times. Even so this was a phenomenal book and I definitely recognized it!
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I'm fairly sure this is a "It's not you it's me"-situation. Because everyone seemed to love this book, and I didn't, so it must be me.
To be fair, I've never read The Great Gatsby, nor seen any adaptation. It's not even on my TBR list. I have no interest of ever reading it. I didn't even know what it was about, really, before I started this book.
I quickly realized that I would have a horrible time without knowing anything about the source material, so I watched the 2013 movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and restarted the book. It got better by then.

The Chosen and the Beautiful is mainly about Jordan Baker, a side character of the source material. Here, she's Asian-American, queer, adopted, and basically all other things you don't want to be in the 1920's New York. But there's also magic, I guess? And like. alcohol straight from hell, but I'm not entirely sure as to what Demoniac actually is.
Anyway, despite the setup that was truly fascinating (Jordan Baker can cut paper and bring it to life?! How cool is that??), this is still 87% about Gatsby being obsessed with Daisy, but this time he might or might not have made a pact with the devil. To make it perfectly clear: I don't care about Gatsby nor Daisy. You can't get me with some rich dude thinking he's entitled to some woman he fell in love with five years ago. 
The paper cutting, which was the best thing about this whole ordeal, got cut (haha) short and was mentioned more in passing, which was unfortunate.
I didn't particularly like any of the characters in this, but I'm not even sure I was supposed to. I don't know if you're supposed to like the original characters either, so there's that.

This just really didn't work out for me. All the interesting things were cut short to make this story about Daisy and Gatsby, just told from Jordan's perspective. The writing style was cool I guess, it really brought out the whole setting and the dazzling world. But other than that, I didn't really enjoy this. I didn't outright hate it though, so it's getting two stars.

@Tor/Forge and NetGalley: Thank you guys for providing this ARC!
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The Chosen and the Beautiful just didn't cut it for me. I had hoped that it would work for me but like it's inspiration I cannot get into the story. I hope that it does well.
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I recently read THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Nghi Vo, and it was such a treat.

This book is a stunning retelling of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of Jordan Baker, who navigates the extravagant and deeply prejudiced world of 1920s New York as a queer, Vietnamese American woman. One fateful summer she’s drawn into the dark, glittering world of Jay Gatsby, a man whose desire to win over Jordan and her friends knows no bounds. It’s the story you know with a twist, and there’s even a little magic mixed in.

Vo’s breathtaking writing certainly rivals F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lilting prose, which I fell in love with reading Gatsby. Every sentence in Vo’s retelling is like a sweet hard candy you’ll want to roll around in your mouth and savor. It’s atmospheric and poetic and decadent. I wanted to highlight every line.

This book cracks open the original story and fills in all the blank spaces. Jordan’s character is deep, headstrong and witty, and her friendship with the enigmatic Daisy Buchanan takes on a new closeness, a new complexity. Also, MAGIC. I really appreciated the casual inclusion of whimsical elements in this book.

I will say that the plot is very close to the original novel, so if you’re a fan of Gatsby, you’ll definitely enjoy this!

This one comes out on June 1st, so keep your eye out for it!

Thanks to NetGalley and for sending me the ebook in exchange for an honest review!
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