ARC Review: SELF-MADE BOYS by Anna-Marie McLemore (2022)

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: September 6th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an Advanced Bound Manuscript obtained from ALA AC 2022
Content warning: racism, colorism, transphobia, queerphobia, 1920’s sexism, vomiting, PTSD

I will continue to read every and any retelling of The Great Gatsby. With McLemore being one of my auto-buy authors, this seems like a match in heaven. In this spin, Nick and Daisy are Latinx cousins, with Daisy abandoning her background to pass as white among the East Coast elite. Nick and Gatsby are both trans, giving them something else in common aside from a history with Daisy.

While the plot matches its source material approximately beat by beat, the character development and interpersonal relationships in the context of societal expectations makes this retelling shine bright like a chandelier at one of Gatsby’s parties.

McLemore really captures the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties, including the more sensual differences between the parties Gatsby throws and those he attends. It’s so easy to understand why young people flock to those social circles. But there is no avoiding the more unstable elements of the time period. There is a minor arc with Nick’s job that foreshadows the Great Depression that I thought was expertly done. The level of research is apparent, and I would love to look at the bibliography, if I’m perfectly honest.

It’s easy to identify McLemore’s favorite character. Daisy is a frustrating character, as it’s very hard to tell where the performance of Daisy ends and her real self begins. Though there is no magic in the text or world-building, the hold she has on the cast is spell-binding. It’s easy to understand how she attracted so many into her orbit, but, most importantly, what made her relationship to Nick so close to begin with. She’s given such grace as a teenage girl who wants more than she has back home. There’s also accountability present in a way that isn’t in the source material, and that’s in addition to the confrontations Nick has with about her abandoning her last name and essentially disowning him as her cousin. The relationship is thorny and as compelling as the romance at the book’s core.

The nuance crafted as Nick and Daisy navigate their elite circles in East and West Egg gives additional depth. There is no shying away from this complexity and how colorism complicates their potential relationships and connections. I can’t speak to the rep itself, but the way issues are presented influence the cast’s characterizations as well as some elements of the plot.

The ending of this novel made me squeal. Based on the subtler decisions made throughout the characterizations, it all clicks into place marvelously. I cannot give spoilers, but McLemore introduces relationships and concepts that give the reader hope of a happy ending. And wow, is that promise delivered.

One thought on “ARC Review: SELF-MADE BOYS by Anna-Marie McLemore (2022)

  1. Pingback: June 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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