Cover of Self-Made Boys, featuring a brunet young man holding onto a blonde young man surrounded by flowers

About the Book

Title: Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix
Published: 2022
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Achoo
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia x3
Talky Talk: It’s a Reeeeemix
Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+ Representation
Relationship Status: Summer Loving Reading

Content Warning: Self-Made Boys features scenes of homophobia and racism (unfortunately) accurate for the 1920s.

Cover Story: Achoo

These are lovely and dashing young men. The number of flowers around them would have my face swollen up and my nose and eyes running like faucets due to allergies, but they look fantastic. (It also reminds me of the Bookstagram trend of using fake flowers in shots, which I’ve never loved. But to each their own!)

The Deal: 

Nicolás Caraveo is a newcomer in New York City. He came to the city at the behest of his cousin, Daisy Fabrega-Caraveo, and a chance meeting with a stock broker who wants him to put his math skills to use on the market. Daisy, who’s reinvented herself as Daisy Fay, a white-passing woman, is living the high life thanks to her almost fiance, Tom Buchanan. She sets Nick up in a cottage next to a garish mansion owned by a young man named Jay Gatsby. 

When he stumbles home drunk one evening, Nick meets Gatsby and a friendship begins. Gatsby introduces Nick to a world he didn’t know existed, filled with queer folks and trans boys just like Nick—and Gatsby, himself. Soon Nick also comes to the determination that Gatsby’s in love with Daisy, and all of his extravagance is for her. Nick doesn’t like what his cousin’s become since she moved to New York, and he’s not quite sure that she’s worthy of Gatsby’s obsession, but he ultimately wants both of them to be happy, so he’ll do what he can to bring them together.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia x3

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

Nick, Daisy, and Gatsby are all interesting people with fascinating stories to tell. But they are SO wrapped up in each other, and the many machinations they have going for and with each other, that it would be super hard to wedge into their group. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve got the patience for that much drama.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

There’s a lot of chemistry floating around Nick’s life along with all of the illegal booze. That said, the relationships are all a bit muddy and possibly based on a lot of fantasy and/or presumptions that they’re what the various folks “should” be doing, rather than real emotions. I wouldn’t consider much of it swoony, but there are some sweet notes near the end of the novel.

Talky Talk: It’s a Reeeeemix

Self-Made Boys is the fifth book in a remix series that takes classic tales and gives them new life. In this case, The Great Gatsby isn’t glaringly cisgender or white any longer—the main character is Latine and trans, and Gatsby and Daisy are trans and Latine, respectively. It’s lovely to read a classic story with a more diverse cast, but—to be quite honest—The Great Gatsby is not my favorite novel, and even with the changes, Self-Made Boys still felt like a dated reference in a Train song (i.e., it doesn’t quite hold up to a close examination from a reader removed from the era). For a hot second, I thought about re-reading The Great Gatsby to see how close the two books were, but I quickly realized that I no longer have to follow a prescribed summer reading list and kiboshed that idea. (So, you know, I can’t say for sure if Self-Made Boys is close to the original or not.)

I also really missed the magical, fantastical elements McLemore always includes in their novels. They’re so good at weaving magic into their books, and this one was severely lacking of those elements. I’m sure they had to follow a more prescriptive formula with this book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish they could have included a little fantasy amongst the 1920s glitz.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+ Representation

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Although I already called out the transgender rep in this book, there are other characters who are eventually revealed to be queer in a few different ways that make this book more queer than not, and I’m all for that. 

Relationship Status: Summer Loving Reading

Although I truly liked your diversity, Book, I still felt like I was back in high school while we were hanging out, prepping for a new school year’s English class. I read YA for the great stories and nostalgia-inducing themes, not to actually feel like a teenager again.

Literary Matchmaking

The Weight of Feathers

If you, too, like your McLemore books with more magic, head back to their debut (and then make your way through the rest of their catalog).

The Diviners (The Diviners #1)

Also revisit the glitz of the 1920s with Libba Bray’s series, this time with more paranormal serial killers.

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1)

And experience another retelling set in the 1920s with Chloe Gong’s book about star-crossed lovers Juliette and Roma.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Feiwel Friends, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Self-Made Boys is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.