Self-Made Boys: An ARC Review
Updated: Aug 9, 2022
*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
It's 1922 and Nicolás Caraveo, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Wisconsin, has his sights set on a high-paying job in New York. Nick, having recently come out as a trans man, goes to New York to fund a better life for his family, to whom he thinks he owes a debt for accepting him and aiding in his transition. With the support of his cousin Daisy, Nick moves to West Egg and rents a small home from her. When he gets to New York, he is shocked to find that his cousin has bleached her skin to pass as white, and is going by the name Daisy Fay, hiding her Latine identity from everyone, including her wealthy fiancé, Tom. In order to protect her true identity, Daisy introduces Nick as the son of one of her family's maids, much to his dismay.
Nick is not in West Egg long before he is introduced to his wealthy and mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby, who regularly throws lavish parties the likes of which Nick has never seen. After an embarrassing first meeting in which Jay helps a drunken Nick back to his rental home, he receives his first invitation to one of Gatsby's lavish parties. It is at this first party that Nick would discover Jay Gatsby's trans identity and also, seemingly, his past with his cousin Daisy.
Upon discovering Gatsby's feelings for his cousin, Nick quickly realizes that the spectacle of the parties and the placement of Jay's house directly across the lake from Daisy's own are no coincidence: it's all to get her attention and to show her what he had made of himself. When Nick discovers that Tom is cheating on Daisy (and possibly worse), he decides that he needs to do anything to get his cousin away from that man, and he believes that setting her up with Gatsby is his best shot. While the two seem to hit it off, Nick begins to grapple with his own feelings for Gatsby, and what those feelings say about the type of self-made man he is.
This book was absolutely incredible. It is a tender love story, with an incredibly queer cast of characters and wonderful explorations of gender identity, colorism and sexuality. Nick thinks a lot about the kind of man he is, but before Jay, he doesn't know any other trans men and has a certain idea in his head of what a man must be. He grapples with the idea of being a gay trans man, something he didn't think was possible, as he assumes the default man to be straight. This book was as fun as it was tender, and I couldn't help but read it all in one sitting. I have never felt seen by any other book quite as I did by this one. I feel confident in saying there is no other book out there like this one, and no other author writing books quite like Anna-Marie McLemore. I can't wait to see what they do next.