The Chosen and the Beautiful is a 2021 novel by Nghi Vo. This marks as her first full-length novel debut.
It is a Historical Fantasy retelling of The Great Gatsby told through the perspective of Jordan Baker as a queer, Asian socialite residing in 1920s New York City. Her life is forever shaken up when she crosses paths with known partygoer Jay Gatsby and naïve Nick Carraway.
This novel contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptational Diversity: Jordan Baker, who is traditionally depicted as a Caucasian woman in the original and other adaptations, is reimagined as an Vietnamese adoptee in this novel.
- Adaptational Karma: In The Great Gatsby, there are never any consequences for Daisy killing Myrtle Wilson, or Tom getting Gatsby murdered by Myrtle's husband. Here, Myrtle rises as a ghost, and with an assist from Jordan, decides to hunt the Buchanans down.
- Adaptational Sexuality: Nick is Ambiguously Gay / Ambiguously Bi in the original; here he's very much sleeping with Gatsby as well as with Jordan, and the friend the rumors out West were about is a man, not a woman.
- Adaptational Villainy: While Daisy isn't a good person in Fitzgerald's version, she's not malicious, just shallow and selfish. Here, however, she murders her paper double with absolutely no compunction, and actively covers up her killing of Myrtle by dragging the body off the road (as opposed to passively letting Gatsby take the rap). It's also implied she covered for Tom when his reckless driving got a previous mistress of his killed.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Nick is in love with Gatsby, who is fond of him and more than willing to sleep with him, but only really loves Daisy. Jordan is also in love with Daisy, who of course only loves Gatsby and Tom.
- Affably Evil: Gatsby's effusively friendly, but he's also a very dangerous person, willing to threaten Jordan if she doesn't help him get a meeting with Daisy set up. Jordan notes that he seems almost more unhappy about the fact she forced him to spell out the threat, and thus stop pretending they're just buddies having a nice conversation, than about her attempt to refuse.
- Hotter and Sexier: There are several semi-explicit scenes between Jordan and Nick, and in general the book makes it clear that the characters are definitely having sex.
- Deal with the Devil: Gatsby is rumored to have made one, bolstered by his tell-tale single black fingernail (a sign of infernal dealings, although some socialites also paint a single nail black to be edgy, so it's not a sure thing) and the mysterious men in black suits who are always at his parties. He achieved his wealth and status by offering Hell a foothold on earth—his house and the eternal wild parties, at which Hell can conduct business dealings with no one with the wiser. When he stops throwing the parties because Daisy doesn't like them, he's in trouble.
- Friendly Enemy: When Gatsby demands to know how he can make Jordan like him, since he wants them to be close for Daisy's sake, she says that just because she doesn't like him doesn't mean they can't be friends.
- Mythology Gag: At the end of the book, it's mentioned several times that Jordan has a gold hat. The epigraph for the original, written by Fitzgerald himself, is about a "gold-hatted lover", and Jordan is in love with Daisy.
- Power Incontinence: Jordan knows she can do paper magic, and is strong enough to pull off some pretty impressive feats, but she has very little control and no awareness of the rules. This means there's about a fifty/fifty chance it'll blow up in her face whenever she uses it (literally, when she makes a paper lion as a child and accidentally causes it to combust). It takes running into Khai's paper-cutting troupe for her to start learning.
- Rule of Symbolism: The "Eyes of TJ Eckleburg" billboard, staring down at the ash heaps, make its appearance, staring down at the characters to judge them. When Daisy kills Myrtle, the spell Gatsby does to conceal the crime makes the billboard's eyes close. A very intoxicated Jordan forces the billboard to tell her what happened by cutting a mouth into it, after which the eyes fade away, revealing an older billboard for a circus—most importantly, a lion, which symbolizes the first act of paper magic Jordan ever did, foreshadowing her intent to follow Khai's paper-cutting troupe to Shanghai.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Subverted; while Jordan's Aunt Justine assures her that as a Baker, the Manchester Act, an upcoming law which will mandate the deportation of "undesirables" (Mexicans, Asians, demons, ghosts), won't apply to her, Jordan isn't so sure. She does end up leaving for Shanghai, just in case.
- Third Wheel: Jordan is constantly being dragged into the Nick-Gatsby-Daisy drama to prevent Nick being one of these. At one point she jokes that they "complete the coupe".
- Truth in Television: There was no Manchester Act in real life (for one thing, the US has never had any immigrants from Hell, at least as far as anyone knows), but it mirrors several real racist immigration laws, such as the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Jordan repeatedly mentions how beautiful Daisy's bright blue eyes are, and the effect they have on people.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Paper-cutting magic, which is common in Vietnam but derided in the West, can create seemingly living creatures—including people, who in Vietnam were reportedly given full rights under the law. Much of Jordan's angst, and the refusal to take things seriously she covers it with, comes from making a paper copy of Daisy to cover up for Daisy's Gatsby-induced breakdown, and then murdering her. Nick is also made of paper; the original Nick was killed in a car crash.
- With Friends Like These...: While Daisy can be fun enough to have a drink or attend a party with, at the end of the day she's always asking Jordan for huge, taxing favors or lots of emotional support, and never gives anything back or even properly thanks her. (Jordan is facing a pretty big issue—the incipient passing of a racist law that might get her deported—and Daisy never so much as gestures at helping.) She assumes that Jordan's at her beck and call, in a way that's not explicitly racist like Tom's rants about "racial mixing" but is definitely of the same stripe.
- You Know I'm Black, Right?: As in the original book, Tom has a habit of going off about how the "Nordic race" is better than everyone else and needs to protect itself from the "horrors" of interracial marriage. He's perfectly comfortable doing this in front of Jordan, and when she has this reaction, he brushes it off by saying that of course he doesn't mean her.