Cover Image: The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Tordotcom for the ARC of this wonderful book.

The Chosen and the Beautiful is the last sapphic novel that I’ve read and despite thinking that I would fall in love with it, it wasn’t what I expected.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents the universally known story of The Great Gatsby from her own point of view. She adds fantasy and mystery to the luxury and extravagance. Jordan is a professional golfer, she’s also Asian and queer, and has access to the most exclusive social circles and the most important parties in 1920’s New York. But Jordan feels like an exotic attraction made to entertain others. In spite of having a spot in this society, she doesn’t feel like she belongs and she knows that all the important events happen in those places where she isn’t allowed to go. In this society full of jazz, infernal pacts and mysteries, Jordan will have to learn where she really belongs, but to that end she’ll need to cross a line she had never crossed before. The author gives Jordan Baker the opportunity of being the protagonist of this story, using her voice to complete these unknown chapters of Fitzgerald’s classic.

The world the author builds is one of my favourite things about this book. A dazzling atmosphere that makes you travel to a world that really existed (mansions filled with secrets and secret clubs and parties due to the Prohibition in the US) but this time with magical elements, like dragons that come to life from a piece a paper. The small details create a fascinating universe, full of lights and shadows that seem to hide secrets in every single page.

The author uses a careful and grandiloquent prose, using expressions that match the time period. Her prose and the rhythm of the book are probably what I liked the most about it. The mix of all these elements transports you to the world created among these pages and makes you want to keep reading.

However, to me it was rather difficult to connect with the story and characters. In spite of there not being a warning anywhere —perhaps because Americans think that the world revolves around them and we have all read their classics— you need to have read The Great Gatsby to understand this story. The author uses an existing timeline to tell her story, but knowing Fitzgerald’s story superficially will not help you grasp the complexity of this book, because Nghi Vo even uses actual scenes from the original book. This novel is very fast-paced, there are lots of things happening, including flashbacks and it is all mixed with the main character’s memories, so knowing the original Gatsby’s plot will really help you see the whole picture.

Besides from this, I have also not understood how the magic and fantasy intertwine with this world of elegance. To me it was an element that added more confusion than interest to the book. Despite of my favourite scene from the book including a magical element, I think the (fantasy) plot is left incomplete and unexplored.

Jordan, the main character, has remained a stranger to me until the end of the book and the rest of the characters are not even worth mentioning. I would have liked to know more about Jordan’s feelings, about how being Asian affected her life and how racism and growing up with a white family shaped her personality and personal growth. 

The author portrays the banality of the characters and the time being faithful both to history and Fitzgerald’s novel, however, I would have liked Jordan’s internal monologue to be deeper. Why should I care about Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship when Jordan Baker is a magician? Why don’t we get to know more about how Jordan ended up in the US and what the circumstances were? 
I also should mention that despite the fact that Jordan is said to be queer, this is another element that gets mentioned but not developed, a small detail that doesn’t change the course of the story.

In conclusion, in spite of enjoying the style, narrative and atmosphere, I haven’t liked this book as much as I expected to. However, I do admire how Nghi Vo has turned this classic into a story that feels current and still maintains the magic of all that surrounds Gatsby.

If you like retellings of classic novels, fantasy books and love triangles this might just be your book! This book has not met my expectations but Nghi Vo has been an amazing discovery and I’m sure that I’ll read more of her books in the future, so I still recommend this book to other people that might enjoy it. 

(If you would like to read this book I recommend reading The Great Gatsby —or at least watching the movie— first, if you haven’t yet.)

Rep: LG(B)T – Main character
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I received an advanced copy of The Chosen and The Beautiful through NetGalley so I could share my review with you!

Jordan Baker has stood on the sidelines of one of the most highly regarded American classics, The Great Gatsby, for long enough.  A professional golfer, a socialite peer of Daisy and Tom, Nick’s summer fling.  None of these titles even scratch the surface of Jordan Baker, who holds more mysteries than anyone could imagine.  Jordan was adopted as a baby, taken from her home in Vietnam to become the youngest in a wealthy Louisville family.  Though she has no memories from her life before Louisville, she is constantly aware of the ways she stands apart from her peers.  Difference can be power, though, and Jordan Baker has never been afraid of standing out in a crowd.  In a magical and intriguing retelling, Jordan finally takes center stage, sharing her perspective on the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby.  

You can get your copy of The Chosen and The Beautiful on June 1st from Tor Books!

This Great Gatsby retelling has all the glamor and twice the magic of the original!  The prose was easily on par with Fitzgerald’s own writing, and oftentimes I found myself pausing to appreciate the poetry in Nghi Vo’s style.  The thing that makes The Chosen and The Beautiful stand out from any other retelling I’ve read, though, is the choice in taking Jordan Baker’s perspective rather than Nick’s.  This decision shaped the story into something incredibly unique and compulsively readable.  Being both an insider and an outsider within the ranks of high society, Jordan's character gave the plot a new light.  The Chosen and The Beautiful reminded me why, exactly, I love retellings; they allow readers to explore beloved stories through new eyes!

My Recommendation-
This book should be required reading for any fan of the original Great Gatsby!  The Chosen and The Beautiful is a captivating story that feels every bit as hectic and enchanting as I imagine the 1920s to have been!
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I went into this with medium-high expectations and was left a bit disappointed. 

The writing style was beautiful, enchanting even, but the overall story/plot (or lack thereof) didn't grip me. 

While reading I kept waiting for the story to start, for something important to happen, and it all somehow fell flat. I didn't feel any excitement, but I wasn't bored either. 

Occasionally, the lack of a definitive plot doesn't bother me as much if I like the characters. Here I felt lukewarm about everyone except the paper cutting troupe which didn't make an appearance until the second half of the book. 

The part I liked the most was the magic, which I wasn't at all expecting. The ghosts should've been the first clue, I suppose. The sad part is, that the magic shows up only a few times throughout the book and it makes barely any difference to the story if it's there or not. 

And a tiny curiosity I have is the golfing. It's mentioned in the blurb, in the book only once or twice and is never seen again. What happened there? Someone please remind me if it's like that in the original as well. 

Bonus points for all the LGBT characters. 

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*
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I used to love the Great Gatsby and I love this book even more. I think it is such a good retelling and everything that Vo added worked so well. I love that it was written from Jordan's perspective- we got so much more from the story while keeping most of the original plot. I also think Jordan works really well as a queer Vietnamese woman who was adopted into Daisy's world. The writing in this book is beautiful and the magical elements work also work really well. This is definitely one I want to read again and I am sure I will get even more out of it the second time around.
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Just like with The Great Gatsby itself, I went through a large portion of the book wondering what the point of it all was. From wholly irreverent narrator Jordan Baker (who, in all her attempts to be the puppet master of all those around her, to cut tension with wit or romance or just being entirely unexpected, just ends up being sad and distant) to magic that is both on the very fringes of the story and imperative at its center (which is never truly defined and only hinted at in such a way that probably should have been clever but felt only very frustrating because my engineer brain just wanted to know how it worked and instead got vague hand-wavy parlor tricks).

I will say that the descriptions were phenomenal - from setting the scene at speakeasies and parties to outfits and expressions, the book was a sensory experience unlike anything I've read since Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea. Also Jordan's and Nick's and Gatsby's dalliances with people of multiple genders from kisses to sex to flirtation - it felt very in line with the idea of roaring 20s debauchery with a more modern acceptance of sexuality.

But all of that felt like a hall of mirrors, keeping us from seeing what lies beneath. A distraction and a metaphor rather than sinking its claws in.
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Wow, what a beautifully written book and is a peek into the lives of immigrants, LGBTQ+, and people who would be considered "black sheep" as they weren't like the people they were around. I found it fascinating that she was so accepted for many things but also considered an outlier. I really like Nghi Vo's writing.
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The Chosen and the Beautiful is beautifully written, with lovely prose that only Nghi Vo can do. Unfortunately, this fell flat for me; I couldn't connect with the characters, and I got too confused by the magic system. Perhaps I would have a greater appreciation for it if I reread The Great Gatsby prior to reading, or even if I reread The Chosen and the Beautiful!
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The Chosen and the Beautiful was such a gorgeous book that completely captured my imagination and wrapped me up in its silky cocoon. 

This was a really interesting reimagining of The Great Gatsby, interrogating some of the events from the original text through a fresh new lens. It breathed new life into a classic tale and woven in some brilliant thematic commentary on social issues. Jordan Baker has always intrigued me as a character, but she’s often relegated to the shadows and forgotten in discussion of the original text. Here, she takes centre stage and we get her fascinating voice shining through. She’s a complex heroine, tangled in issues with her identity as a queer, Asian woman. I loved how the representation was discussed and heavily impacted how both Jordan interacted with the world and how the world around her viewed her. 

The biggest draw of this book has to be the writing for me. It was magical and ethereal from the very start, completely immersing you in this gorgeously created world. I loved how it invites you to question the narrative and piece certain aspects together yourself, particularly using prior knowledge of the original text. It has this intangible quality to it that I was just utterly addicted to. The literary feel to it only adds to this rich atmospheric tapestry, with flowery touches that never felt overly grandiose. Information is often released at a slow pace, allowing the writing to just breathe and for you to relax into this vividly imagined world. 

The Chosen and the Beautiful is a stunning book, with magic hidden in every page and a complex heroine at its heart. It provides a bold reimagining of a classic tale and invites you to weave together your own story from its pages.
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“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

I’ve always loved that quote from The Great Gatsby and was happy when I saw it used in this magical retelling.

The Chosen and the Beautiful has Daisy Buchanan. It has Jay Gatsby. It has Nick Carraway. And the entire story is retold through the eyes of Jordan - Daisy’s strong willed, queer, Asian American best friend.

The author breathes fresh life and new layers into this classic novel, while still honoring the original story. It read like a fever dream. The prose was utterly enchanting, & I drank the rich imagery up like the highest quality top shelf gin at the very best speakeasy in town.

Also, I am really loving the retellings that are coming out and flipping the script-  telling familiar tales through the female perspective. 

I appreciated that this reimagining has LGBTQ representation, addresses topics of racism and classism, and has a fun and unexpected layer of magical realism and the paranormal mixed into the jazz age. Yes, there is ghosts, magic, and those who sell their souls. It was enchanting. 🥂✨

Of course I pictured Gatsby as Leonardo DiCaprio. There’s no other way. I will now be rereading the classic story and watching the movie again. This book brought back all the feels, and more. 

If you’re a Great Gatsby fan and/or enjoy the lavish eccentricities of the 1920s and a bit of fantasy, this is a must read!
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Read if you're in the mood for:
- a Great Gatsby re-telling
- a strong, sarcastic female protagonist
- lots of 1920s vibes

I was so excited when I first heard about this fantasy re-telling of Gatsby with magic, queer characters, and an adopted female Asian main character — a revamped version of Jordan Baker — to replace Nick Carraway as our guide through this summer of Roaring Twenties excess.

Unfortunately, I felt this fabulous premise fell victim to the author simply trying to do too much. That’s a LOT to pack into one slim book, and nothing was quite as advertised.

I was most disappointed in the fantasy aspect of the novel. There was a severe lack of worldbuilding and the magic system was never explained to readers. There’s a vague idea about demons and possibly about selling your soul to the devil, and Jordan possesses some kind of intriguing ancient Asian magic involving paper, but those two elements felt so disconnected and were never fleshed out. The book would have been more successful if it had left the halfhearted attempt at fantasy out altogether.

As for the re-telling, the author did do a good job evoking a ‘20s atmosphere and describing Gatsby’s parties, but diehard fans of the original book will likely be irritated by some of the changes and omissions.

I’m hate to say it, but unless you really want to read a unique Gatsby re-telling, you may want to give this hyped book a miss. Despite what the blurb proclaims, you definitely shouldn’t pick it up expecting a well-constructed fantasy or a story with a strong LGBT+ element.
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The Chosen and The Beautiful was really not what I thought it would be? I knew this was going to be a Gatsby retelling, but I didn’t at all expect it to lift so much from the original novel as it did. I thought some of the big plot points were going to be different and/or at least presented in a different way? But that didn’t happen.

I did love Nghi Vo’s writing, though! It was very easy to read and get lost into and Jordan’s perspective was really interesting, especially when there was a sprinkle of magic through it. I also did appreciate that pretty much everyone was queer 😀

The magic bits were cool? But, since the book pulled so much and so heavily from the original text, they felt out of place. They were only relevant and mentioned at very specific moments, so it was a little bit like two different stories mashed together.

I’m sure lots of people will enjoy this, especially if you had a hard time with the classic–Nghi Vo’s writing made this a much more interesting story. I’m just… disappointed and like I didn’t read something new.
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A gorgeously written book with language that was completely F. Scott inspired, but with a confusing setting that leaves you wondering where in place and time you truly are.

I struggled with this read a bit. The writing style was impressively Gatsby-esque and so flowery and beautiful, but at first I actually kept wondering what country we were in (America), as the time and place wasn't perfectly clear to begin, and then the slips of fantasy into the storyline were so quick and quiet that I felt confused and ungrounded in the true nature and setting of this book. 

A beautiful idea but one that I struggled to hang onto as a reader.
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This one was a struggle for me, but I think it could be more my own burnout on retellings of classics than anything to do with Vo. I adored Vo's writing in her fantasy novellas and I long to see her return to that genre. I wanted to fill the gap left in my heart by The Singing Hills Cycle, but this just wasn't new and exciting enough for me. It was strange to go from such original stories to one that is, by definition, so derivative. I prefer retellings when they go in a completely new direction and are only loosely-based on the source material, which wasn't the case here.
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Step into the luxurious world of the elite in this imaginative retelling of The Great Gatsby we follow Jordan Baker, adopted Vietnamese queer golf star, as she tells her side of the story where magical elements are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of the Jazz Age setting. The glitz and glamour of high society are enhanced with Vo's dreamy and immersive prose. Fiercely independent Jordan is no stranger to being seen as an exotic object and while on the surface, the focus is on the frivolity of parties and socialites, the complexities of the characters show a darker more serious undertone that cannot be overlooked.
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Rating: 3.5/5

This book has left me feeling conflicted and weird. The moment I started it, it felt like reading The Great Gatsby but overtly queer and with magic and demonic powers. It also almost feels like a waking dream, the way the writing flows and the way Jordan is as a narrator. This is probably a great example of unreliable and unlikeable narrator. I don’t even really know what to say about this book, other than it was compulsively readable even as it has left me feeling out of sorts. Like, I think I enjoyed The Chosen and the Beautiful, but also I can’t tell if I did enjoy it. I’d definitely still recommend this book, but it’s a weird one and I can’t quite tell if it’s a good weird or not.
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I have a little mixed reaction about The Chosen and the Beautiful. While I did enjoy Nghi Vo’s visual and lyrical writing, it took me a bit to fully immerse myself into the world. This might shock many but I have never watched The Great Gatsby nor have I read the book. To say that I was confused about the setting and the connection between the characters is an understatement. In the same vein, this means that I’m not sure how much this book has deviated or stayed the same as compared to the original classic. Regardless, once I got used to the setting, the book just pulled me in.

Jordan’s an interesting character. Aloof and uncaring about others, Jordan does what she wants as she was adopted into the Baker family and is a part of the high society life. Magic runs in her veins. She endures conversations that have racist undertones and lives in a time where an Act was about to pass that bans all Asians. Through her, Nghi Vo discusses white supremacy, racial discrimination, and class struggles.

As mentioned before, Nghi Vo’s writing is enchanting. She perfectly described the lavish and dazzling lifestyle of a socialite and the magical elements of Jay Gatsby’s mansion and parties. The complicated relationship between the characters remains a mystery for me. Daisy, Jordan, Nick, Jay, and Tom’s lives are intertwined with magic and by fate. Feelings are messy and throw in the five of them, it becomes chaos.

Ultimately, this is Jordan’s story and her perspective of a queer Asian in the 1920s. The Chosen and the Beautiful is another beautiful creation by Nghi Vo. I just wished there were more explanations for certain things such as the magic and had more time to understand the relationship between each and every one of the characters.

Regardless, I had a wonderful time reading The Chosen and the Beautiful. Nghi Vo never fails to draw me into her works and I’m sure this will not be the last time.
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This work is a stunning reimagining of The Great Gatsby, told from the perspective of Jordan Baker- a queer, Vietnamese young woman.

Vo’s reimagining of Fitzgerald’s classic novel immerses the reader in quite literally a magical world. While maintaining the elegance of the original story through intentional and beautiful prose, Vo introduces fantastical elements and explores themes of sexuality, racism, and identity. I became completely captured by Vo’s brilliant writing, and I believe this work will sit deeply with me for a long time. 🌼
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My thoughts are pretty conflicted on this one. Firstly, in terms of things I enjoyed, the magic system was really unique, and when the action started to pick up around the 75% mark I couldn’t put the book down. I also loved the discussions it offered about culture, race and queerness during this time period. 

However, as a whole this book didn’t entirely captivate me. I wasn’t aware when I picked this up that it was a Great Gatsby retelling. Retellings aren’t usually my cup of tea and as The Great Gatsby is not one of my favourite classics anyway, I wasn’t that interested in the core story. Additionally, the writing, while it will definitely work for other people, just left me confused. It was often very abstract and flowery and at times I really struggled to understand what was going on. I also didn’t particularly like the main character, Jordan. 
Despite that, I do think that a lot of people will enjoy this. It was very magical and atmospheric, and overall my ambivalent feelings might be more of a me thing than the book itself. 

Content Warnings: racism and racist slurs, xenophobia, intimate partner abuse, adultery, white-saviour complex and stealing of a child from Vietnam, abortion, death of a loved one, body horror, murder, car accident, alcohol use, gun violence, passing mention of war, passing mention of suicide
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3.5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ 

As many have mentioned in their reviews before me, this was a very ambitious retelling of The Great Gatsby. I’m not going to say it subverted that book but it really took the story in a different direction. Told from the point of view of Jordan Baker, a Vietnamese-American woman who grew up as a transracial adoptee to a rich, white high society family it was already giving us something the original sorely needed, which was a diverse take on “the ails of rich folks” as viewed by those who are within but still held outside the circle. 

I very much enjoyed how we have the addition of demons into powerful high society, magical realism, the idea of literally selling you soul for power, and exploring sexuality in a new way that is really very attractive. Give me all of the LGBTIA+ sexiness, darlings. Just admit it, we all secretly (or not so secretly) wanted Nick and Gatsby to hook up in the original story. Those two were made for slash fiction. 

I will say that the prose is very atmospheric and frilly. I lost the thread a few times and sort of drifted out of the story feeling a little lost. I love dreamy, surreal settings but sometimes I got distracted and then things got a little dull and oppressive just like the very hot summers with no air conditioning in West Egg, Long Island. Because of that I don’t think I enjoyed this as much as I had hoped to. 

Overall I enjoyed it for what it was, super creative and really different from the stuffy original.
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The Chosen and the Beautiful broke my heart because I wanted so much more from it. I have loved some of Vo's other novellas and so I was so excited for this queer Asian retelling of The Great Gatsby - which was a book I really did not enjoy ever since my first reading of it. But what I found instead was a book that seemed not to interrogate with the original material enough. Taking a side character perspective of The Great Gatsby I was expecting more subversion and a new lens to the classic. However, I instead felt that the basic story of The Chosen and the Beautiful sticks pretty closely to the original - even though it's been a while since I read it.

And for the new perspective of Jordan to be so different from the original, maybe that was my own fault for expecting it to interrogate the classic. But, I haven't read it in a while, so I tried to move past that. As a transracial adoptee I was even more excited for The Chosen and the  Beautiful. And it's another way this book broke my heart. While I understand that Jordan's identity revolves mostly around being treated as 'exotic' by her peers, I felt that there were some opportunities for Jodan to examine her feelings which were not discussed.
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