Book Review: SELF-MADE BOYS by Anna-Marie McLemore is Triumphant
In Anna-Marie McLemore's spin on The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway is Nicolás Caraveo, a trans Latine boy from Wisconsin who heads out to New York to make a future for himself and maybe, just maybe, pay back his family. There he finds that his cousin Daisy Fabrega is known as Daisy Fay, alluring, white, and nearly-engaged to Tom Buchanan, whose racist family would be aghast to discover Daisy is brown.
Self-Made Boys is a triumph of a novel. Part of the Macmillan Remixed Classics series that has been blowing me away since its inception, McLemore's addition is heartbreaking and victorious, emotional and triumphant. It takes the known classic and flips it on its head with hard-hitting race, class, and queer conversations. In Self-Made Boys, the stakes are high as the characters whirl through glittering parties and make secret plans. There's intrigue and secrecy and the book will keep you on the edge of your seat as you tear through the pages.
I loved this book so, so much. I never connected on an emotional level to The Great Gatsby, but this book? This book took hold of my heart and reeled me in from the beginning. Nicolás is a propulsive narrator, driven by his desire to show his appreciation for his family back home. Daisy is larger than life, Gatsby is a boy both broken and made whole, and Jordan is possibly my favorite character.
This book doesn't shy away from creating queer characters in the 1920s in New York, whether they're gay, lesbian, or trans. They exist in the fabric of this story just as they exist in the fabric of history. Life as a queer person is different, but it's not impossible. I found that so beautifully enlightening, so wonderfully life-giving.
The twists and changes made from the original bring this story to life in ways I couldn't have imagined. The ending was baked into the beginning, into the characters' very histories. It's a book so brilliant I can't even comprehend how another human came up with it because it feels divine.
If you're looking for a well-known story that flips what you think you know on its head, paired with writing so gorgeous I could live on it and be satisfied, and a super queer, very brown story, I highly recommend Self-Made Boys. I think this book is everything.
I continue to be impressed with the Remixed Classics series, which has tapped some of the best authors out there to write YA reimaginings of classics. I adored So Many Beginnings, fell head over heels into the world of A Clash of Steel, and want to live forever among the pages of Travelers Along the Way. And now Self-Made Boys has arrived to fill my soul and wreck my heart. I highly encourage you to find your own copy today (that is an affiliate link to Bookshop, meaning if you use it I may get a small commission). You'll never regret reading a McLemore book, and this one is simply stunning.
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