Cover Image: The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

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Member Reviews

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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This book is going to be huge. I feel honored to have read it before the public at large will get a chance to. So much more then The Great Gatsby with a twist. It explores topics of gender, power, and finding ones place in the world. More as it gets closer to publication.

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I really loved this take on an American classic. Let’s take something old and white and turn it into something diverse and magical. That’s my kind of retelling. I think telling the story from Jordan’s perspective was a really clever twist. It put us just inside the action enough to know what’s going on and who people are and what their motivations are while also keeping us far enough away to make the Gatsby storyline compelling. We know this story so how do you make it interesting? I think Nghi Vo did a great job at integrating elements like magic, demons, dragons, spells and curses and making something like the roaring twenties a landscape for that activity. It fits so well. I think the conversation about race and identity and adoption of children from other countries was really well thought out and gave more depth to the story. I thought the inclusion of queerness was superb and it played its role really well. The friendship bonds and how they can be just as toxic as romantic relationships was handled so perfectly and subtly until it could no longer be subtle.

Really I just think this was a fantastic bit of storytelling and turned a classic into something more modern and refined.

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Nghi Vo has woven a beautiful, lyrical story down in this reimagining and while it’s been sometime since I visited The Great Gatsby, this felt like a much more in depth and full look at the personalities behind the characters we already know with a few minor twists. The main twist of Jordan being Vietnamese, adopted into the Baker family at a young age, added a new layer to the story as she makes her way through high society both understanding and confusing her ‘outsider’ status.

The writing style is really something else. Every moment of this book has a dreamlike quality to it because of Nghi Vo’s ability to narrate the story and create this wonderful atmosphere of 1920s New York. Plus, the subtle adding of the queer status of these known characters was so satisfying to read.

I was most excited for The Chosen and The Beautiful when I saw there was going to be a magical element. I adore The Diviners series and more recently These Violent Delights which handle historical fiction through a magical/supernatural lens. However, the magic in this story isn’t fully explored and seems somewhat tacked in. I would have loved more of a discussion of how certain magic effects society, how demons come into play, the whole end thing with both Gatsby and with Nick that I’m going to be vague about but would really love more of an explanation on. This underwhelming aspect is purely from my own expectation of the magic/supernatural element perhaps being more central to the story when it wasn’t. So, if you go into The Chosen and The Beautiful just do so as seeing it a little more simply as a retelling.

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This is one of the books I selected for the Read A Fanfic task on Book Riot's Read Harder challenge, which means I talked about it on that episode of the Read Harder podcast, which is a part of the premium program, Insiders.

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I'm just going to cut to the chase with this one - I don't think the expectations that the marketing (and ensuing hype) has set for THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL match with what the book actually is. I think it might be beneficial to level set those expectations.

Read this book if you want:
✓ A lushly told retelling of The Great Gatsby
✓ A hint of mysterious magic
✓ Immersive descriptions of socialite life in prohibition-era New York

But do not expect:
• A bold rewrite of F. Scott Fitzgerald's story: Nghi Vo is quite faithful to the original plot, including the central relationship
• Queer relationships in the spotlight: they are there, but they happen "off-stage"
• A deep exploration of Jordan's character as a Vietnamese American and/or as a transracial adoptee: these a touched upon but not in great detail

When I read The Great Gatsby in school, the curriculum emphasized the stratification of old money, the "nouveau riche," and the working class. TCATB takes that a step further by emphasizing the role of race in the equation.

The Buchanans, especially, become caricatures of white privilege: we hear xenophobic sentiments from Tom and are shown Daisy's white fragility. These are based on details that actually already existed in Fitzgerald's story, but TCATB has us experience them through the eyes of Jordan, a transracial adoptee.

Vo also adds an additional undercurrent of xenophobia through the impending "Manchester Act," a law that would seeks to keep "unwanted unworthies" out and repatriate those who have "overstayed their welcome."

I enjoyed the original ideas that TCATB brought to the table, but I wish that they were more frequent and had more impact on the trajectory of the plot. Vo does extend the ending past the ending of Gatsby, and the liberties that she takes there is what I would have liked to see more of throughout the book. I'd be interested in a sequel about Jordan's life after the events of this book, where we could truly see Vo's creative freedom separate from Fitzgerald's source material.

Overall, although this was an enjoyable read, I was ultimately disappointed by it. I can't help but wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if my expectations weren't so far off from what the book actually was. If you are coming into this primarily for the queer story, I suggest reading one of Nghi Vo's Singing Hills Cycle novellas instead.

Thanks to and NetGalley for providing me an advanced reader's copy.

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Nghi Vo's "The Chosen and the Beautiful" is a wonderful and imaginative retelling of The Great Gatsby, infused with elements of surrealism and magic, and told from the perspective of a character formerly relegated to the background. I quite enjoyed reading this book and admire the author's weaving of the absurd into the plot in a manner that makes that element as canon as any event in history.

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The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, and I really enjoyed this retelling of the story from a different point of view and with additional elements. Fitzgerald is also a favorite of mine, and while I wouldn’t say that this version of his story is necessarily better, it is beautifully written. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Effervescent and transportive, The Chosen and The Beautiful felt like the most vivid dream to me that I never wanted to end. Needless to say, I had to pinch myself when I was approved for an ARC. A queer Great Gatsby retelling with an adopted, Asian Jordan Baker? YES please!! Readers who have read the original Great Gatsby will recognize plot points, but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy The Chosen and the Beautiful. Personally, I enjoyed this magical retelling more than the original!

There is never a dull moment in a world filled with ghosts, demons, and paper magic. Jordan sees clearly through the illusions and enchanted elixirs, but is still swept along for the ride. The magic system was intriguing, yet I would have liked to see Jordan explore it a little more. Jordan has to deal with subtle and overt racism as an Asian woman adopted into a white family. I loved the LGBTQ rep and it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel!

Vo has a way of delivering a sentence that will stop you in your tracks to marvel at the perfect eloquence of it. The magical atmosphere utterly surrounds and envelops the reader; I never wanted to put this book down. The emotions and dreams of the characters shine brightly throughout. I particularly enjoyed how Gatsby is portrayed with cunning and deception. Read The Chosen and The Beautiful if you want to be completely swept away to a glamorous, decadent, and queer re-imagining of The Great Gatsby. The Chosen and The Beautiful releases June 1, 2021. Thank you so much to Nghi Vo, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

For publisher: My review will be posted on the publication date and I will publish it on Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble etc.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars rounded up. I’m a huge lover of the Great Gatsby and seeing as this was sold as a fantastical queer retelling with an Asian American lead I knew immediately I had to read it.

Let’s start off with the good things: atmosphere in this book was off the charts. Nghi Vo really immerses you in each setting with deliberately dripping delicious detail. Some of my favorites were the descriptions of the underground speakeasies and bars, all the cocktails, the fashion... I just ate it up and it definitely made me love her writing style-fans of Erin Morgenstern will love this book. The characters are all somewhat like the original Gatsby without straying too much from the story in some places with the exception we get to see Jordan and Daisy’s individual backstory and their friendship over time.

Jordan’s Vietnamese background and story is only briefly mentioned and I wanted that to have a more starring role. It does get mentioned a lot by other characters and their attempts to describe her as “other” but I wish Jordan herself dove into it more.

Now for the confusing. I found the magic in this book a bit lackluster and unexplained. Either have a fully realized magical world and system, or don’t. I didn’t like how this book gave illusions to magic or other worldly beings and creatures without actually explaining their impact or presence. There’s a lot of mentions of demons, an alcohol called demoniac is mentioned quite a lot with no explanation and made me wonder does this drink turn them into a demon or simply made from a demon? Jordan also has this incredible magic power of cutting things out of paper and they become real. But this is never explained why and how she even has this gift. The closest that comes to it is when she meets a traveling band of Asian street performers that also do this as part of their act made me guess she inherited this from her Vietnamese parents or heritage. Again not fully explained and as a reader I personally didn’t feel like just throwing these things in there worked. If you’re someone who can suspend your disbelief or you’re okay with not knowing why then maybe this wouldn’t bother you as much.

Overall I did enjoy reading this, though attempts to make it different from the original Great Gatsby through the magical elements didn’t seem fully realized to me.

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We will have a surge of Gatsby novels coming our way since Great Gatsby is now owned by public! I was curious to see what other perspective other authors are going to bring other than usual suspects (from Nick's perspective or Tom's) as my beloved Great Gatsby is one of the most discussed and dissected book of all times. And this one delivers a new one for sure: enter Daisy's friend who was brought from Vietnam and raised as an American girl who represents LGBTQA community! This was the type of PoV I was hoping to get

Jordan was Daisy's childhood friend from KY. Unlike most the other immigrant kids, she was adopted by a wealthy white lady that loved and cherished her like her own. Jordan did not really have to experience any hardships coming with immigrant title. There were people looking at her and making comments here and there but she was Jordan Baker. She was there when Daisy-Jay love story began. She was there when Daisy was losing her mind the day before her wedding after hearing that Jay was alive and well. She was there when Daisy fell in love again. She was there when Daisy decided to leave everything behind and go with Jay.

Jordan had one more ability (other than being there for Daisy always all the time) that she herself could hardly explain. She could bring anything to life out of simple blank paper. This ability ended up being associated with her worst nightmares! If you are into Great Gatsby, let the party begin for you...

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(A full, more coherent, and more grammatically correct review of The Chosen and the Beautiful will soon be up on my blog, Sophie and Their Stories!)

“Having gay time now?” I asked, breaking the silence with a smile.

Oh, Jordan. Dearest, darling Jordan. Yes. Yes, I am.

This book was absolutely marvelous, and Nghi Vo proves once again why she is my new favorite writer. The chosen and the beautiful’s breathtaking style and atmospheric adventure is completely unmatched. I found myself *shook* by the novel’s stunning, connected language. This book reminded me how beautiful words could be.

Perhaps it is hyperbole to say that this book shocked me to my very spirit — whittled me down until my bones were made of paper — displaced me just as seashells are displaced by the ocean — filled me with an awe so dark and dutiful that it was as though all the lights in the deep city of New York flickered off, exposing all the spinning stars. But there’s truth in hyperbole. There’s truth in the expanded forms of dishonesty.

I’m a Gatsby stan. What can I say? The original work is short (which I appreciate, myself being not a substantial person in size), though its messages were easily muzzled by time (and the author’s own mixed emotions towards the opulent). This, however, is everything that its source material could not achieve. It knew exactly what it was, and stuck the landing.

This novel burns inside my mind. The Great Gatsby exists so that the chosen and the beautiful could be written. Literature exists so that Nghi Vo can bend it.

I think I am going to cry.

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I was provided an e-arc via NetGalley.

Let me start by saying I am a sucker for a tragic love story and The Great Gatsby is one of my favorites. When I saw there was a retelling with magical elements and a diverse point-of-view, I had a really good feeling about it.

From page one, I fell into Vo’s writing and was completely swept away and transported to the 1920s. The Chosen and the Beautiful is a close retelling of The Great Gatsby, but it adds so much to the original story. In this version, we follow the point-of-view of a queer, Asian American and what it was like for her growing up in Louisville and life as a New York socialite in the early 1920s. One of my favorite things about this retelling is the added magical elements. Gatsby’s parties always seemed like a dash of magic was involved, but now we get to experience a world in which magic does exist. It’s subtle but spellbinding.

This story unfolds as you read it and may leave you a little unsure of what exactly is going on, but it comes through in the end. I thought the ending reveal was beautiful and it pulled on my heartstrings. The story is beautifully pieced together and keeps you wanting more. It is filled with intrigue, unique magic, mysterious speakeasies, lush atmospheric writing, complicated characters with complicated relationships, and it’s just absolutely captivating.

I could not put this story down and wanted to reread it as soon as I finished it. I think Vo gave us the diverse and magical Gatsby retelling we needed. I think both fans of The Great Gatsby and those unfamiliar with the classic will find many things to love about this retelling.

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I want to preface this review by saying that this is a beautiful book, but it wasn't for me. This book is perfect for fans of The Great Gatsby and written in a style that fits with the opulent story. I appreciated the twists of fantasy Vo inserted, but I did find myself confused more often than I was grasping everything.

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Thank you fir the arc, I’m happy books like this are getting published. However the writing was clunky (maybe that will be cleaned up before publication) and left me feeling like I was reading through a fog. The magic didn’t seem to be addictive and felt out of place.
I really wanted to like this, but it wasn’t quite there for me.
2.5 stars ⭐️

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I'm not sure how I feel about a work of art scaffolded upon another work of art. For certain, the writing is beautiful. The story is slow at at times, dragging toward a conclusion we already know. Overall, this relationships between the characters were less compelling than Jordan's relationship with herself. A very well written book, but not without flaws.

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This book was so beautifully written. It was full of descriptions of a life I could never live, each atmosphere expanded upon until you felt like you were there yourself. It was beautiful and shiny, and it reminded me so much of the Great Gatsby. Which is perfect, because The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo is supposed to be a reinvention and reimagined version of the Great Gatsby, told through the perspective of Jordan Baker as an Asian adopted child. And I’m being honest, I think she outdid Fitzgerald himself. She’s added fantasy elements to the story, and made Jordan queer and so wonderfully also sown in these details of queer culture during the 20’s and how being Vietnamese affects her.

It wasn’t necessarily my thing, though. I’ve never been one to prefer the world and atmosphere of a book to the characters itself, which is a little what this book did. The story is a little slow for my taste, and personally, I didn’t connect well enough to Jordan Baker. She was beautifully written, and I certainly enjoyed learning about her, but I love a book so much more when I can grasp on to a character, main or otherwise so that I’m pulled through the story in their arms.

However, if you prefer the world of the socialites, elegant and chic retelling of the golden 1920’s, then this would most definitely be for you. The prose feels like glitter, or like jewelry. It’s so lyrical and well written, and it feels like opening up a chest of treasures, queer stories and stolen secrets. And magic!! Oh my goodness the wonderful details of magic in there!! The story also expands a lot on her friendship with Daisy, which I just adored. Gatsby feels so different, but it’s also barely changed at all!

I don’t know how she manages to stay true to the book, and yet make it more ethereal than it was to begin with.

This book is supposed to be Nghi Vo’s debut, and what a wonderful debut it is. Any fan of Great Gatsby would love this, I’m sure. And I know that I’ll leave this story forever remembering Jordan Baker as East Asian and queer from now on, so perfect her portrayal of this character was. This book comes out June 1st 2021, and I hope you all read it!! It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, and I’m so glad I for to read this.

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This was an interesting read that gave me conflicting feelings. On one hand, it's definitely the queer Gatsby retelling that we were all craving for (yay, almost all characters are bi/pan) since THE GREAT GATSBY entered public domain in January this year. However, I am not sure it is done in a way that necessarily add much new and satisfying things on top of the old Gatsby tale.

Things I like about this book:


1. I loved how this retelling of Gatsby is told from an Vietnamese adoptee Jordan's perspective. In the original story she was just a white and frivolous girl whom is portrayed as dishonest. However, this book told from her perspective depicted how Asian women were exotified in history.

Her backstory was an interesting exploration of the White Savior narrative as the story begs the question if she was truly adopted or abducted by her missionary adopted parent.

Also, the Manchester Act passed around that time that had a similar purpose as the Chinese Exclusion Act was utilized very well as how it affected Jordan in her life despite her being an adoptee who is very disconnected from her Asian heritage.

2. I love the writing. This author has the amazing ability for metaphor and imagery. The writing was so vivid and lavish I feel like it fits the background of the Roaring Twenties. It's just so beautiful yet subtle at conveying the atmosphere and character motivations. I will definitely read more of the author's works in the future.

3. I love the magic realistic elements and how it connects the identity of being POC in this book. Only POC or POC related characters have magic in this book, relating to their otherness. Characters who have magic but choose to conceal their magic are the ones who try to fits the upper class white society of America. Characters who celebrates their magic are the ones who embrace their identity and heritage.

What I didn't like about this book:

1. I don't really like how meandering this book has been. I feel like there's not a lot that was happening. It was boring for the most part, maybe due to the nature it being a Gatsby retelling. However I feel like a lot of elements (especially the magical realism element) is underutilized and underdeveloped. Also the more interesting threads are left unexplored. This dragged down my enjoyment a fair amount.

2. The plot twist at the end??? I don't really understand why it's there and it seemingly came out of nowhere. It doesn't really add anything to the story. I am still buffled by it. Jordan's action was also left quite unexplained and confusing.

3. Character dynamics. I LOVE that everyone is in loved with each other, but I still feel like a lot of very promising charged dynamics were kind of underused or wasted. Yes I mean Nick and Gatsby. I'm so sad we got very little of them in a book that's a queer Great Gatsby retelling.

Anyway, overall this was a bit of an okay read. I finished it and didn't feel like it was a waste of my time, still it didn't meet my expectations. I will definitely pick up more of this author's book just for her beautiful writing.

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