Cover Image: The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

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"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 and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee 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."

The cover sold me. And then the magical Gatsby-esque story really sold me.
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I'm not surprised that it took Vo's Jordan Baker for me to truly appreciate the Gatsby classic beyond a required reading list, but I am elated to experience this new perspective! Making any classic queer is a great start to catch my attention, but there's so much more....

First, this reimagining is intoxicating in it's 1920's flapper familiarity but truly breathtaking in both the writing and the addition of the fantastical. Even in her other writings, Vo masters illustrating the quiet but pulsating anguish of her characters, so much so that it feels like at any time the pages will burst with all these intense and fiery emotions that are kept bottled up (much like Jordan's paper creations). It seems almost criminal that Fitzgerald's Jordan Baker was a character so fleeting - but Vo redeems her with a depth that succeeds the traditional main characters of the story and yet enhances them, as well. The relationship between Jordan and Daisy feels raw and familiar, especially for anyone that grew up queer and crushing on your best friend. Jordan's interactions with Nick paint him in a warmth that drastically differs from the chill that emanates whenever Gatsby is around, atmospheric qualities that intensify these already emphasized characters. Ultimately, I understand these characters more through Vo's vision and am thrilled to have a more thorough image of a Jordan Baker that should be celebrated as much as the original. 

Though this will be a break-out hit for its connection to the beloved classic, the main takeaway I feel is that Nghi Vo is an author to keep on your radar, and if you haven't read her novellas, do yourself a favor and grab those now!!!
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While I haven’t read The Great Gatsby, I was so excited to see Nghi Vo’s retelling of it. I really enjoyed her novellas, so I knew this book would be good. The Chosen and the Beautiful was a magical retelling that recasts Jordan Baker as an adopted bisexual Vietnamese-American woman.

I usually briefly describe book’s summaries first, but I don’t really feel the need to do so. Again, I haven’t read the source material (I’ve only watched the 2013 film); I’ve been told this book very closely follows the events of the original book with the addition of some other aspects, namely paper magic.

Narrating this book from Jordan’s point-of-view was already an interesting choice since Jordan was a side character, but Vo took it one step farther by reimagining her as an adopted Vietnamese woman that sleeps with men and women alike. She’s educated and rich, afforded all the luxuries of the wealthy yet also still exoticized and held at arm’s length. Despite this, Jordan lives her life the way she wants to.

I really loved the prose; there’s magic in this book, yes, but the writing really created a mystical atmosphere. Jordan’s voice is both lively and apathetic, and I liked reading how she took in the world. Again, I don’t have much to say about the plot of this book because it is very similar to the original, but I liked the scenes with magic. The addition of paper magic added another layer to the sensationalism of a story set in the Roaring Twenties.

I will say that at a certain point, it became harder to tell what was an abstract thought and what was actually magic. This occurred mostly in the second half and really threw me off, especially some of the scenes at the very end. I read the first half of the book very quickly but once I slowed down in the second half because of this.

The Chosen and the Beautiful was a stunning retelling. I loved the prose, and reading from Jordan’s point-of-view was fascinating. If you want to read a magical reimagining of The Great Gatsby, you should check out The Chosen and the Beautiful!
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Such a refreshing take on The Great Gatsby. I remember loving that book when I was in school. The queer rep in this book was incredible, and the magical element was unexpected. The writing style is atmospheric and ethereal, and the overall story is beautiful
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After writing critically acclaimed fantasy novellas, The Chosen and the Beautiful is Nghi Vo's debut novel. This retelling of The Great Gatsby dazzles with its luxuriously louche writing, giving us a 1920s with magical elixirs and infernal bargains.

Told from Jordan Baker’s POV, we get The Other/Outsider as a narrator for the privileged, white, world of wealth where having your lineage known can open, or close, Society’s doors. Jordan is Vietnamese, adopted by a wealthy missionary, and brought back to the US. Not only othered by her appearance, Jordan’s bisexual and a paper magician.

We get the extraordinarily outrageous parties, the speakeasies, drowning in cocktails and sex of the original story but now gilt with demonic deals and magic.

Nghi Vo’s writing is so luscious and decadent - heady and effervescent like champagne. And yet she doesn’t just dazzle and seduce. She makes you look at class inequality, misogyny, racism and the wrongs committed because of the protection of wealth and being white.

Even knowing the story didn't stop me from hoping for a different ending. My feels went from seduction to heartbreak by the end. This is glorious writing and storytelling. I can’t wait to see what Nghi Vo writes next!
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The Chosen and the Beautiful is a retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby told in the eyes of a queer and Asian version of Jordan Baker. Keep in mind that I have never read the original novel or seen the film adaptation, so I have no particular expectations prior to reading this book or ways to compare it to the classic novel.

This is definitely one of those "it's not you, book, it's me" cases because it did sound like something I would love, but then it turned out to be a disappointment for me. Before I dive in to why I ended up not liking this book, first of all I just wanna say that I love Nghi Vo's writing style. It's very atmospheric, captivating, and very read-between-the-lines kind of writing (which I love) and it definitely matched the tone of the story and really brought the world to life. It's the main reason why I pushed through to the end of this book. Secondly, I love how it was told through the eyes of a queer and Asian main character and how every single important character in this book were also queer. 

This book started out really great. It was magical and riveting and it piqued my interest even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on initially. However, the story lost its charm when I reached 60% through the book. It felt like as I kept on reading, I slowly lost interest and grew bored. One of the reasons for that was because of the unexplained magic. There's never a clear description for it and I personally just don't like that. Additionally, despite my saying that I loved the writing style, this was also one of the reasons why so many things got lost on me. Whenever they talked about certain things, I could never tell if it was metaphorical or literal. I feel like if the magic had been expanded more thoroughly, I would have ended up really liking this. Furthermore, even though I found the characters' relationships amongst each other to be complex and interesting, I also couldn't grasp the fact that they were all so obsessively in love with one another as I found each of them to be not so compelling and lacked depth. 

Long story short, I was bored for the most part of this book and I am saddened to say that I didn't really like it. However, my criticisms are mostly a me problem since it just didn't match up to my certain tastes. It is a beautiful book for sure and I would still recommend it to people.
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I do really love the source material for this retelling, so I am happy to report this is a great example where you can love the original and the retelling for different reasons because of their different strengths. Vo's writing is so dreamy and atmospheric, and while I'm not sure I connected emotionally with the book overall as strongly as I wanted to, I did really admire the craftsmanship on display. Come for the gorgeous cover, stay for the nuanced exploration of a queer Asian character in 1920s Long Island.
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The Chosen and the Beautiful is a retelling of the American classic The Great Gatsby, reimagining its breakout character Jordan Baker as a queer, Asian woman who had been adopted from northern Vietnam (many in the book call it “Tonkin”). Like its source material, The Chosen and the Beautiful is set in 1920s America – particularly 1920s New York where glittering excess is the norm, and magic lurks amidst its drama and mysteries.

There are so many things to love in this book. This is the first work of Vo’s I’ve reviewed, and I’d been enamored with her writing. Luxurious, sexy, and decadent, her prose flowed like honey that I could not stop devouring – I’d finished the novel in about three hours. Vo’s luscious writing creates an atmosphere so seductive and sensual one would simply find themselves absorbed in the glimmer within.

Vo’s version of Jordan Baker is one of acerbic wit and fascinating charm as the book’s leading protagonist. Especially adept with reading people and social surroundings with a graceful sharpness, she presents herself with a bold and fun flair. Underneath the charm, however, lies a woman also grappling with her chronic unease, never feeling fully home. Her narrative of self-exploration and growth to true confidence as she navigates her own relationships, her heritage, and life as a socialite make for one hard not to root for.

The central characters in the original The Great Gatsby are also given more in-depth explorations that breathe new life to these familiar characters. Daisy’s backstory is given new sides and depths that make for a more complicated, if not slightly terrifying portrayal. Nick, the narrator for Fitzgerald’s original work, is examined by Jordan inside out; and his personality and role in the story is revealed on a new light. Gatsby, the eponymous central figure in the original, comes across as more opaque and sinister in his quest to prove himself a worthy suitor for Daisy yet also heartachingly sincere. Their relationships to Jordan and each other are explored, examining and revealing new, interesting relationship and power dynamics. Love so easily burns, that it easily turns to obsession and its poison is sometimes left hidden. On the other hand, it too can be something fragile, something that needs to be tended to with much care in order to stay alive. Vo’s writing in this aspect is so rich, layered, and complex that even I still have a hard time unpacking it entire.

The Chosen and the Beautiful retains the hedonistic and liberation of the Jazz Age, and gives it a new dimension. The base cautionary tale in The Great Gatsby persists in how the wealthy engage with black magic, demons, and other cultural magic in their pursuit of pleasure – often in expense of others, especially the less powerful and people of colour. On the flip side, as Jordan and other characters are queer, The Chosen and the Beautiful also critiques the social restrictions and potentially deadly consequences of self-expression in the 1920s – especially for women.

Vo’s choice to cast Jordan as an adopted Vietnamese woman also works in her benefit: through Jordan’s eyes, part of the high society yet slightly apart due to her heritage, we see the intersection between class disparity, race, and white supremacy in which the themes lightly threaded in the original—hedonism, white supremacy, and xenophobia—are given a fuller, more realised depiction. Vo’s expansion also serves to explore the darker, less ideal undercurrents of the Jazz Age particularly for people of colour, immigrants, and queer people. Being an adopted woman of Vietnamese heritage, Jordan’s dazzling life as a socialite is constantly undermined by her status as an immigrant – always seen as an exotic attraction by her peers and somehow a “free pass” for casually racist remarks. While her wits serve her well enough to pass every social relatively unscathed, her privilege as a socialite is put in stark contrast with the impending Manchester Act—a fictional act mirroring the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and Immigration Act of 1924/Johnson-Reed Act including the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act—designed to keep “unwanted unworthies” out and repatriate those who’d “overstayed their welcome.” Vo even critiques the “white saviour” complex in Jordan’s adoption and the blase reaction of some characters to the news: being ignorant of the malicious, xenophobic undercurrents and thinking that everything could be solved with simple solutions and money. Vo’s writing had been so enthralling just as Gatsby’s parties, I found myself drawn in the drama Jordan had found herself entrenched in and forgetting the real, urgent issues facing Jordan’s way and everyone like her in the early 1920s. Once the party glamour and its golden leaves flake off, the grave reality sets in and it sets in quick for everyone involved.

I loved the magical realism in The Chosen and the Beautiful. Vo’s touch of magic is subtle, yet it adds a vitality to both the deceptively-dangerous shimmer of the high society. Major themes that permeate this novel include the desire to love and to be loved and the lengths to which people will go for satisfy that desire. There’s a palpable sexual and romantic tension in all the characters (and yes, I do mean everyone. Not Tom, though), and magic both innocuous and infernal serve to underline the nature of their users’ desire. In Jordan’s case, her heritage, her paper magic, and the matters of the heart remain superficially linked for most of story; but a twist at its end inextricably links them in a beautiful ode to her desire and her heritage. The Chosen and the Beautiful also explores the different faces people present to the world, and how this affects perception. Magic too, adds to this theme with a short but impactful scene that affects Jordan’s relationship with her heritage and her paper magic.

For the most part, Vo’s creative decisions had worked for her benefit. Contrary to my expectations for a dramatic reinvention, however, Vo follows her source material rather faithfully in terms of main plot – perhaps a little too faithful for my liking. I’d been hoping for more liberties being taken, more discussions as to how magic and its cultural aspects, how it affected the high society, and the infernal forces at play. As I’d elaborated above, I enjoyed the liberties Vo did take with The Chosen and the Beautiful, but I definitely wished that her original ideas had more impact on the main narrative than they did so that I could truly see her creative freedom diverging from Fitzgerald’s source material.

Still, Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful had been a wonderful reimagination of the classical American canon, with powerful explorations of Asian diaspora experience and an equally strong queer narrative. Obviously, what this book had aimed to be was simply a bit too different with my expectations; and this disparity left me to wonder if having constantly consumed epic, sprawling fantasies had influenced my expectations to the point of bias against fantasies that didn’t quite fit the bill.

The Chosen and the Beautiful was definitely a more low-key fantasy than what I usually read, but I cannot deny that I was bedazzled by this new version of Jordan Baker.

New York has been infused with bottomless magical fever that reveal the depths of desire both innocuous and darkly poisonous in a sweltering, familiar drama. Daubed in gold and dipped in honey, Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful delivers a smooth and clever reimagination of an American classic tangling race, sexuality, magic, and class. Nghi Vo’s creative choices clearly serve to her benefit, adding more depth and fuller dimensions. The sumptuous decadence in her writing intensely seduces readers to a thrall from start to finish, the full gravity of the Jazz Age’s unsavoury realities delivering a clear, quick gutpunch as once the party glamour dies and the gold drips its last luxury.

Thank you to Tordotcom for giving me a galley of The Chosen and the Beautiful to read! I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The Great Gatsby is such an iconic book, and I was intrigued to hear about Vo's retelling. Adding magic, queerness, and a WOC protagonist to the classic 1920s setting seemed like a surefire recipe for a fascinating read. Unfortunately, this book didn't quite do it for me like I hoped. I had a hard time getting into the book. The magical world never felt fully fleshed out enough for me to "get it" and Vo's descriptive writing style, while beautiful, just never really captured me and pulled me in.
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This book made me really feel the need to re-read The Great Gatsby, or, more to the point, made me wish I had paid better attention the three times I've already read it.  Fortunately, I remembered enough to be able to glean the relevance of Nghi Vo's reinvention of the original.

Vo's imagination takes us to a 1920s New York where magic is real and Gatsby may or may not have literally sold his soul to the devil in order to win Daisy's heart.  Here, the story is told by Jordan Baker, and incorporates flashbacks to Daisy and Jordan's childhood in Louisville, giving more flesh to both characters.  Daisy remains largely the same as she was when we all read her in high school, but Jordan is queer and a Vietnamese adoptee, who wants to have her own agenda, but hasn't quite figured out what it is yet.  Oh, and when she's not playing golf or partying, she's been known to cut out paper shapes and bring them to life.

Perfect for fans who are ready for Gatsby with even more of an edge, what will really stand out to readers is Vo's sumptuous writing.  Her descriptions of the mundane border on magical, and her descriptions of the magic are so down-to-earth that the reader, like the characters, has difficulty telling which is which, lending the entire story a glittery shine that lingers even after the last page is turned.
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I think so many people will love this, even if it wasn’t for me. I loved the vibe and the aesthetic and some scenes were fantastic and some were downright swoon worthy. But this never really hooked me. I think a big part of the reason why is because so much of the beginning is directly from the Great Gatsby and I was confused because I haven’t read it and don’t remember the movie, and because of that I never connected with the story.
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A dark fantasy retelling of The Great Gatsby - fun to read and beautiful to envision. 

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the digital ARC.  All opinions are honest and my own.
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The Chosen And The Beautiful is a sapphic retelling of The Great Gatsby. This novel is told by Jordan Baker, a queer, adopted golf star, Vietnamese socialite, and magician. This book is beautifully written. It is full of mystery, intrigue, lost ghosts, and magic. Vo puts the reader in the 1920s and shows the hoops women had to go through to live. And the struggles that queer characters had to undertake to survive in a world that did not accept them.
	This book is atmospheric and draws you into Jordan’s story. Painting images of the 1920s and the magical world of Gatsby, and once you’ve entered this world, you won’t want to leave. Jordan is a modern woman who owns her sexuality and does what she wants. Through Jordan’s eyes, Gatsby came off as possessive and did everything he could to try and steal Daisy away. Even though she was married and has a child, Gatsby objectified her and wanted her for his own.	This reimagining of the novel brought up race, sexuality, gender, and class which was absent in the original. It shows how Jordan is objectified and exoticized by those around her. The Chosen And The Beautiful is the perfect example of how to reimagine a classic. In the future, I hope more classics are reevaluated to present characters who were overlooked in the originals and represent people who previously were in the background. 
	As opposed to the original, Gatsby is more sinister. While trying to win Daisy’s heart, this reimagining shows Gatsby in stark contrast to Nick’s view of Gatsby. Jordan views Gatsby as a man doing everything he wants, including manipulation and seduction to get to her friend, Daisy. She sees how Gatsby stands apart from the crowd and feeds off those around him. Even her glimpses of him when his facade slips are something else entirely that barely shows him as the romantic, dreamy bachelor that we know from the original.
	The plot of the novel mirrors that of the original book. I found it fascinating to see the twists and turns that Vo’s story told while knowing ultimately how the tale must end. The magic gave an element of whimsy to the book. I enjoyed how the magic was always present and that Vo showed the reader the magic and beauty of this reimagined world. However, the book could have dug deeper into the magic and established the magic system.
	Five well-deserved stars. I loved this book and Vo’s take on the classic. I will read anything Nghi Vo writes. Her writing and storytelling are impeccable. This is a book you won’t want to miss!
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A Gatsby retelling with magic, queer characters, and a POC protagonists. The story is told from a Vietnamese protagonist, Jordan Baker, who is adopted into the world of wealth. It follows her story as she encounters Daisy, Tom, Nick, and Gatsby. Jordan is a bisexual character and the story really is full of diverse POC characters and sexualities. It still keeps to the main points of the original story but further elaborates on some aspects, and of course there is the magic element and the whole demon pacts. My favorite aspect of the story was the power dynamic in the relationships between Jordan, Nick, and Gatsby. I was just so fascinated by it. The relationships between all the characters were really interesting, especially when you get to see it from Jordan’s perspective. This was truly a magical read, and if you love the original Gatsby this will be a thrill for you too. 

*Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
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True confession: I have never read The Great Gatsby. Not a single word. So reading Nghi Vo's luxurious reimagining of The Great Gatsby was very exciting. The Chosen and the Beautiful is as gorgeously written as the two novellas that precede it. The added ghosts for the full gothic sense, as well as the foregrounding of race and gendered identity bring a renewed life to what I am told was a very glittery required reading. The pace of the story itself felt a little slow at first, but that may have been me wondering how much demon blood figured into the original story.
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"At Gatsby's. the clock stood at just five shy of midnight the moment you arrived. Crossing from the main road to the gates of his world, a chill swirled around you, the stars came out, and a moon rose up out of the Sound. It was as round as a golden coin, and so close you could bite it. I had never seen a moon like that before. It was no Mercury dime New York moon, but a harvest moon brought all the way from the wheat fields of North Dakota to shine with sweet benevolence on the chosen and the beautiful."

And so it begins, a charm of a retelling of the most unexpected (to me) story to be retold, but then again, why not?
Gatsby is a Jazz Age fairytale and Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre, had more than their fair share of being retold. So, yeah! It was refreshing.

As the cover, and the blurb, suggest, Gatsby is being told from the perspective of Jordan Baker, Nick Caraway's (the narrator of the original) love interest. Jordan is a queer Vietnamese adoptee who inherited nothing from her people other than her looks and the paper magic. Jordan can breathe life into paper by cutting it into shapes. But her talent remains unhoned and, in my opinion, detached from the story. But do not let that deter you. Because more often than not, I found this retelling much more interesting, and at times more rewarding, than the original.

But let's get back to the story. Jordan has embraced the role of being some exotic species. She meets raised eyebrows with utter disdain and she identifies herself with New York's nightlife, that is where she belongs and not to any place or race. It's the Jazz age after all: the high time of prohibition. and beyond the night ahead, Jordan doesn't exist. But of course, she does in a very complicated way to herself as to others.

"I existed in a kind of borderland of acceptable and not, sometimes more on one side, sometimes more on another."

But other than the omnipresence of Gatsby and Daisy as we knew them in the original book, Jordan represents all the interesting stuff the original lacked. For example, Americans are about to vote on the Manchester act (which is another element added to the story to provide space for social commentary. I don't think it's a real thing, but it is no less true). And when the Act passes, Jordan isn't sure anymore of where she stands. It was just a thing discussed during dinner time, but something shifts within Jordan once it becomes a reality.

"The thing is, Jordan, we Nordics, we've produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. That's what the Manchester Act wants to protect. do you see?
There were a dozen things I could have said to that, ranging in order from least cutting to downright murderous."

However, there are a couple of scruples I had with the book. Its writing is magnificent, but some of its magnificence depended on pulling lines straight from the original, which serves as an ode to the magic conjured up by F. Scott Fitzgerald and put the Great Gatsby on a high pedestal among the great American classics. Another thing was that Jordan's magic was stitched very loosely to the story. I really wanted to feel it strong enough to talk about it. Maybe, I wanted it strong enough to influence events, but mostly, it had no bearing over the story.

Finally, I find this retelling very commendable and highly recommendable.
Many thanks to NetGalley for this Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this really delectable read.
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4.5 stars

I discovered Nghi Vo with The Empress of Salt and Fortune which I adored, so when I saw she was writing a queer retelling of The Great Gatsby with an Asian main character I was so excited! I haven't read the original book but I love the story, the atmosphere, and now that I've read The Chosen and The Beautiful I don't even want to read Fitzgerald's version because I feel I can only be disappointed.

I loved the magical and mysterious and sensual atmosphere, it's both glittery and dark. The narration makes you feel the heat and stickiness of the summer, it feels like one of those summer days where one minute the sky is clear and sunny and the next it starts getting dark and heavy and you're waiting for the storm to arrive.

It's beautiful and terrible, glamorous and dangerous. If you like the Gatsby, the 1920s, wonderful and magical parties, complex characters and relationships, I highly recommend this book.

Content warnings: racism, homophobia, abortion, domestic abuse, death
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5 stars 

Nghi Vo creates a powerful, lyrical, and layered narrative that - while based on characters, settings, and symbols that most readers will recognize from their preexisting knowledge of _Gatsby_ - far surpass what Fitzgerald even nears in the impetus. 

Jordan Baker, as written by Vo, is a riveting character, and it is through her experiences and growing awareness of the world around her and her own identity that I truly began to realize how much is missing from the original work AND what a force this novel is as a standalone effort. The women are at the center and so is queerness. At no point does a woman identifying character become an accessory to a male character, and I love that there are so many different women depicted here: various ages, SES circumstances, racial and ethnic identities, and  authentic and created selves. These characters are complex and intriguing, and they are making lives for themselves; the men barely factor, and that is a refreshing take in comparison to the predecessor. Similarly, sexuality is an essential but not limiting aspect of many characters' identities. Most of the characters depicted here are queer - including most of the main characters - and there is no long, brooding conversation around this. They're just living their lives in a space where this is the norm, even if it is not explicitly discussed in every circumstance. 

The treatments of race and Jordan's origin story are arresting. There are both subtle and explicit conversations around these subjects, and the ways in which Jordan comes to understand her own experiences evolve organically and painfully over the course of the novel. It's quite disturbing to note the timeliness - in historical fiction - of her specific concerns. 

Vo's style is incredible. Every description is lyrical, thoughtful, and expansive, and the imagery stuns. The _Gatsby_ symbols are foundational to many discussions of literature, and to be able to take those images but make them so much more meaningful... my mind is blown. 

The hype on this one is truly well-deserved. I loved this, recommend it highly, and can't wait to read more from Vo (back catalogue included).
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Incredible and dazzling aren't enough to describe this book. Nghi Vo is a literary genius and I forever stand by that. The prose overpowered that of Fitzgerald's, and I already know that this will be an instant classic hit among Gatsby and non-Gatsby fans alike. I thought that the book was truly well-paced, and I have nothing to complain there at all. Vo's inclusion of Jordan's heritage meant so much to me as a Vietnamese American, and I know that I'll always adore this novel.
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Lyrical and heartbreaking. Gatsby with magic twined in created something special. I loved Jordan flaws, claws, and twists. Can I please have more queer speakeasies!
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