New York City, 1922. Nicolás Caraveo, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Minnesota, has no interest in the city’s glamor. Going to New York is all about establishing himself as a young professional, which could set up his future—and his life as a man—and benefit his family.
Nick rents a small house in West Egg from his 18-year-old cousin, Daisy Fabrega, who lives in fashionable East Egg near her wealthy fiancé, Tom—and Nick is shocked to find that his cousin now goes by Daisy Fay, has erased all signs of her Latina heritage, and now passes seamlessly as white.
Nick’s neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious young man named Jay Gatsby, whose castle-like mansion is the stage for parties so extravagant that they both dazzle and terrify Nick. At one of these parties, Nick learns that the spectacle is all for the benefit of impressing a girl from Jay’s past—Daisy. And he learns something else: Jay is also transgender.
As Nick is pulled deeper into the glittery culture of decadence, he spends more time with Jay, aiming to help his new friend reconnect with his lost love. But Nick’s feelings grow more complicated when he finds himself falling hard for Jay’s openness, idealism, and unfounded faith in the American Dream.
The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite classic novels, so I was thrilled to came across this LGBTQ retelling.
I listened to the audiobook ARC, and the narrator did a wonderful job with these characters. Prepare for the writing to transport you to the glitz and glamor of the Roaring 20s in a setting of extravagant parties and mansions in East Egg. The author states that she always felt like Nick was in love with Jay, and I also got the same vibes when I read the original Gatsby many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed her queer and more diverse version of this classic. I also appreciated the content warnings and context notes she gives before the story begins.
Some of these characters are struggling with 20s perceptions of race, sexuality, and status. Nick, a trans Latinx boy, continually has to prove himself in the business world where he’s judged by the color of his skin. When he arrives in New York he discovers that Daisy, his Latinx cousin, has changed her last name and now passes for white. I was never a fan of Daisy in the original version and found her shallow and frustrating. She has her moments in this retelling, but I was in her corner by the end.
The story sticks to much of the original structure – until around the last twenty percent. And I have to say I greatly prefer this ending, but no spoilers here. If you’re a fan of retellings and are looking for a new spin on a classic, you can’t go wrong with Self-Made Boys. It’s a beautiful story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.