Reviews tagging 'Cultural appropriation'

Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore

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novelty_reads's review

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emotional lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


ARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Confession: I didn't really like The Great Gatsby when I read it a few years ago.

I loved the movie though and, book crime or not, I watched it before reading the book. In fact, it quickly became my favourite movie and while it isn't currently, I was excited to delve back deeper into the Gatsby-esque world of 1920's America in Self Made Boys. I also hoped that perhaps it may even spark a love for the original book for me. While I likedthe book, I didn't love it. Although that may also be because it was an English Lit book for school.

Self Made Boys is a remixed classic of The Great Gatsbyfeaturing a vastly diverse cast of characters. It follows Nick, a transgender boy who arrives from Wisconsin to New York City to live alongside his cousin, Daisy and her partner, Tom in the cottage they leased to him in the West Egg. While living there, Nick becomes fascinated by his neighbour, the enigmatic Jay Gatsby who throws wild parties all for the likes of impressing Daisy. He also discovers that Jay is also a lot like Nick. He's transgender too. As the two get closer together, Nick falls in love with Gatsby as he tries to reconnect him with his first and lost love.

I think I preferred this book more than the original which is a testament to the writing of Anna-Marie McLemore. This book, while sticking to and maintaining the heart and soul of The Great Gatsby and what makes it so special, was able to completely reshape it in a way that kept the story fresh, alive and modern. It had heart, it had tenderness and it had character and I absolutely loved the story it shaped up to be.

I loved all the characters from Nick to Gatsby to Daisy. In the original book, I admittedly didn't like Daisy much, not even in the movie either. But this book elevated her character and really developed her more. She wasn't just a rich girl who was about to marry an old-money man, she was a Latina girl who's heritage she hid to fit in with the rich-white society she was hoping to marry into. She was by all means a flawed character but I loved how honest she was, how real she felt and how she developed and grew from trying to meet other people's expectation and mould herself truly into who she wanted to be. And her ending? Satisfying. I loved that she ended up happy and I loved the twist.

For me, Nick, whether be in the original book or movie, always seemed like a passive sort of character. We saw everything from his perspective but we didn't really get to know him that well. I was so happy with this book that we got more glimpses into who he is. I liked seeing his work relations too and I found I learned a lot about commerce, finance and how markets operate economically from this book. I also liked how we also got more glimpses into his family life and how accepting his parents were of his coming out. I overall just enjoyed reading from his perspective and he provided a captivating lens that helped navigate the story well.

I was also really impressed with the hints of transgender history the author incorporated in the book. Admittedly I didn't know much and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to learn through reading. I also liked how we learned more about Latin-American's and how they lived in 1920's society. I also loved how the reflections on the racial systems were handled in this book and Nick's perspective on how his cousin was changing herself including changing her family name to appear more "white" for the sake of fitting in.

All in all, this book was a fantastic take on the Great Gatsbytale with flawed and real characters that made this book come alive on the page. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who loves The Great Gatsby because, despite the few changes to the original story, Self Made Boys keeps the essence of Gatsby's legend and brings it forward to a new generation of readers. 


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