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Book Review: The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful
Nghi Vo
Hardcover / Ebook / Paperback
ISBN: 9781250784780
Tordotcom, June 2021, 272 pgs

Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful is a queer historical fantasy reimagining of The Great Gatsby. Vo’s debut novel, which came out in 2021, tells a coming-of-age story of Jordan Baker. Jordan Baker is a queer Vietnamese adoptee floating through the party-filled world of soul-selling, liquors filled with magic, and all-consuming desire.

Usually, I’m not a fan of fae stories, but I’m a fan of Vo’s style and way of depicting magic alongside the real world. Vo’s writing is flawless and a type all its own. The writing itself made The Chosen and the Beautiful untypical of fae stories; even though there are commonalities and genre conventions present in the novel, Vo blends them with the world, history, and characters in a way that just feels natural.

I never read The Great Gatsby, but from my literature classes, this is much improved on the original story. The characters from the novel are there. There’s Nick, Jordan, and, of course, Gatsby. They all want each other or someone else, and desire is sucking everyone dry. The 1920s classic dry wit is there, too, with some added queer readings and insults that sometimes had me laughing at the slight.

The Chosen and the Beautiful is the second book I’ve read by Vo, and I can say I’m a complete and true fan. The parties and magic and queer hook-ups, the speakeasies and outfits and affairs of those who live above the rest all added a touch of flair to the novel, making every scene and line flow like water.

Aigner Loren Wilson

Aigner Loren Wilson - A side profile of a Black woman staring out at the sea with the ocean, cliffs, and trees in the background.

Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black writer of speculative fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and games. She serves as a senior fiction editor at Strange Horizons and has guest-edited issues of Fireside Fiction and Apparition Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in FIYAH, Anathema, Arsenika, and other publications. When she’s not writing or editing for others, she’s learning, hiking, or loving on her fur babies—both human and animal. To check out her books, games, bread bakes, and other writings visit her website (aignerlwilson.com).