Cover Image: How We Named the Stars

How We Named the Stars

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Member Reviews

I received an eARC for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The book follows Daniel's recounting of his first year of college3,000 miles away from home and his summer in the mother country after freshman year. From finding his footing as a Mexican-American first-gen college student, to finding a little bit of himself and falling in love, to the messes that are heartbreak and grief.

Oh, my heart.

This book had me gripped, all of me, from the very beginning. I could feel the love and emotion from the very first page. I fell in love with Sam right along with Daniel. And Daniel's first-gen experience was so real it broke my heart, not because I felt sorry for Daniel but because I've been through all that he described. The book read like poetry, like a love letter, and I took my time reading it instead of trying to rush through it to get to the end. Whatever I write here won't do the book justice. It's too beautifully written.

I loved the snippets of Spanish and Mexican culture throughout the book, the way Daniel's self-doubt is expressed, the way he felt love, and above all seeing him go through heartbreak and grief. Everything about this book was so engrossing and I wanted to bury myself in the words and the lovely prose. I highly recommend.

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Andrés N. Ordorica begins the epilogue to his novel How We Named the Stars by explaining to the reader that it is not a memoir. This disclaimer stood out to me, not because it matters if the story is true or not, but because the writing feels so profoundly true to the human experience, that as a reader, I never even stopped to question if it might be fiction.

Ordorica writes with such viscerally emotional prose that even if you have never gone through the specific experience(s) of his protagonist, you can still deeply relate to the feelings attached to these moments. As I watched Daniel fall in love for the first time, I also felt those feelings of falling. Just as his heart was broken for the first time, my heart also broke. In addition to the central love story of the novel, Daniel is also navigating the triumphs and challenges of being a first-generation Latinx college student at a predominantly white university, exploring his identity as a young gay man, connecting with his family in México, and facing grief in the wake of unimaginable loss.

Ordorica writes with the slow, careful prose of a poet, and I highly recommend taking your time moving through this story. Also, please check the content warnings (included in the comments).

Thank you to NetGalley and Tin House for my advanced copy of this beautiful novel.

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I saw a reflection of myself in my college years that I did not expect. The story takes place around the same time as I left home for college. Both Daniel and I were the first in our family to go to college and come from a Mexican family that migrated to the U.S. for better opportunities. Daniel also feelt alot of pressure to live up to the expecations of his family and be a successful student. This book is an amazing depiction of the complex navigation of moving into adulthood through lots of self discovery and the development of independence.

The depiciton of loss, grief, and healing in this book was moving. I teared up several times as the words just seemed to pour out so much emotion. I loved that in Daniel's hardest moments, his grandfather and family in Mexico helped him get through all the pain. Daniel's grandfather completely had my heart! The special bond bewteen grandson and grandfather was endearing and powerful. They deal with some heavy issues that were not easy to resolve, but there is a hopeful outlook towards as they slowly heal.

What I didn't like:

The narration - it was written in the form of letters to Sam, recounting events and memories from the past. I felt like it limted the reader's view of the relationships between Daniel, his family, and friends.

The pining and yearning of young love - I remember what it was like being in love at that age...the hormones and emotional rollercoaster of having an underdeveloped brain. So I can understand why the author included it in the story, but reading it in my mid-thirties really tested my patience.

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I wasn't all the way sure what to expect from this novel, but as I got into it, I became obsessed. The writing is beautiful, the characterization real and nuanced, and the range of emotions Ordorica conveys left me gobsmacked. Definitely a fan of this author and will look forward to more work from him.

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A heart-breaking and heart-mending story of first love and first loss. It's a book that defies genre and breaks some of traditional publishing's rules in fascinating ways. Andrés N. Ordorica writes with such nuance and emotion, and I can't wait to see what he writes next.

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"How We Named the Stars" by Andrés N. Ordorica is a mesmerizing collection that weaves together poetry and prose to explore themes of identity, belonging, and the vastness of the universe. Ordorica's work stands out for its lyrical beauty and deep emotional resonance, inviting readers into a reflective journey that spans both the personal and the cosmic.

Ordorica masterfully navigates the space between the intimate and the infinite, drawing connections between the stars in the sky and the stories we tell to make sense of our place in the world. His writing is both evocative and accessible, making profound observations about life, love, and the human condition through beautifully crafted pieces that resonate with warmth and authenticity.

What makes "How We Named the Stars" so compelling is Ordorica's ability to capture the universal in the particular. His poems and short stories are grounded in specific experiences and moments, yet they speak to broader truths about the nature of connection, the search for meaning, and the beauty of the natural world. The collection is a testament to the power of storytelling to bridge gaps between people, cultures, and even between humanity and the cosmos.

The diversity of forms and styles within the book showcases Ordorica's versatility as a writer. From poignant vignettes to lyrical explorations of celestial phenomena, each piece contributes to a cohesive whole that celebrates the richness of human experience. The interplay of light and darkness, presence and absence, speaks to the complexity of existence and the enduring human quest to understand it.

Ordorica's work is not just about naming the stars; it's about the act of naming itself—how language shapes our understanding of the world and ourselves. "How We Named the Stars" invites readers to ponder their own relationships with the universe, encouraging a sense of wonder and curiosity that transcends the boundaries of the page.

In conclusion, "How We Named the Stars" by Andrés N. Ordorica is a stunning collection that offers a unique blend of poetry and prose, grounded in the tangible yet reaching for the ineffable. It's a book that celebrates the beauty of the natural world, the complexity of human emotions, and the timeless quest for meaning. Ordorica's voice is a welcome addition to the literary landscape, offering insights and reflections that are both profound and deeply moving. This collection is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the power of language to illuminate the mysteries of the human heart and the universe beyond.

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(𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘴 𝘵𝘰 @tin_house #𝘨𝘪𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘥.) 𝗛𝗢𝗪 𝗪𝗘 𝗡𝗔𝗠𝗘𝗗 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗥𝗦, a story of love, grief and personal growth, is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. I’m so awed, that it’s hard to know where to begin, but I’ll start with the author. This is the debut novel from queer Latinx writer Andrés N. Ordorica. He’s also the author of a poetry collection and that talent is evident in this novel. Reading his prose was pure pleasure. They can best be described as transcendent.⁣⁣
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This book is about Daniel De la Luna, a young man who’s moved across the country for college. He’s anxious about fitting in, becoming his true self and living an authentic life. The weight of his Mexican family’s pride rests heavy on his shoulders, as does the mysterious legacy left by the uncle he’s named for, but knows little about. Upon meeting his roommate, Sam, Daniel immediately feels both comfort and attraction. Over the course of their year together that only grows.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Rest assured, I’ve given nothing away. Daniel, who writes the story to Sam, tells us all that and more at the very start. As the book opens, Daniel reveals exactly where the story is headed and then proceeds to take the reader on a 12-month journey that absolutely broke me. His voice IS the story: honest, raw, and heartfelt. Though I couldn’t put it down, this was not an easy book to read. I cried many times; the first at only 6%. But, please know that the story was also filled with moments of joy and that each tear shed was surrounded by wisdom and grace. Really, 𝐀𝐋𝐋 the stars. This book WILL be high among my best of 2024.
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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How We Named the Stars was really beautiful. The writing style was so simple but poetic, and the emotion that came through every scene really made the book enjoyable. It took me a while to get into it because while the writing is wonderful, it was also incredibly slow.
Overall, the story and the writing style were enough to keep me engaged and invested until the end.

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When Daniel starts his first year at a selective college in the Northeast, he questions whether he can succeed in an environment where he seems so different from many of his classmates. Soon, though, he finds a growing friendship with his roommate, Sam, a popular athlete. Sam quickly becomes the center of Daniel's world. But just as Daniel begins to believe they may have a future together, Sam pulls away. Devastated, Daniel chooses to spend the summer with some of his family in Mexico. As he navigates his complicated feelings about Sam, he also finds himself opening up to a new relationship and learning more about the uncle who he is named after but who died before he was born. When tragedy strikes, and Daniel's life is changed forever, he finds himself struggling with questions about his identity and what path he wants to forge.

This is a perceptive and touching book about finding yourself in a world full of both secrets and surprises. Well written and with strong characters, it explores important themes around first love, class, and loss.

Highly recommended.

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Written like poetry, I appreciate Ordorica's beautiful language. Queerness and loss, yes - and also discovery. This is what I love about small presses - they'll take more risks, offering readers work that is fresh, what we haven't seen before. Thank you.

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Real Rating: 3.75* of five, rounded up for respect of ambition

Books about first love are, I think we can all agree, among the most relatable stories there are. Everyone not a sociopath has had a First Love. We can all recall the feelings, the sensations, the sheer exhilaration of falling in love for the first time, and I suspect most of us not sociopaths also recall the returned love from the one we just fell in love with, even if not the first time. So, when choosing a story to tell, a debut novelist really starts out on a higher slope if they choose first...and for added charm forbidden...love.

What a shame I was not utterly ensorcelled by this iteration of the story.

I suspect some of this is due to the author's use of the character's journal as a narrative frame. This necessitates alternating first- and second-person narratives, sometimes in the same sentence; I assume this was an attempt to create a sense of immediacy unavailable in third-person omniscient narration. What happened instead was a sense of muddledness, a lack of clear character-building through different, or just differentiated, voices. The result was that I felt like this was an audiobook. Someone reading to me, unless I am in love with him, makes me utterly fuddled, and sends me into a defensive coma. It took me two weeks to read this not-very-long book.

My last critical comments are about the use of description: I am a lot less interested in rocks than the author appears to be. Is the color green talismanic for some reason? Why? If I am not given a hook to hang my response on, all it does, when a motif is repeated like the use of green is here, is start feeling like I am missing something. That is never a good thing.

So, for the sin of writing a first novel without some very firm editorial guidance, I docked stars. But that said, there are things I loved about this tale. I was particularly pleased that Spanish appeared throughout the read. The chapter titles being in Spanish when Daniel is in Mexico was a lovely touch, and offered me a distinctively culture-specific frame for those chapters. Daniel feeling his way through the bewildering maze of the US culture, through the school's culture, and through his forbidden love for another man, was absolutely terrific. It was, at times, unfocused due to the issues I mentioned above, but never so much so that I was unaware that Daniel...and Sam...were enmeshed in their emotional growth into love. Self-love, as always, has to precede lasting love for others. That is the universal agony of first gay loves, I fear.

Speaking of which...Sam being seen in all his waffling glory only through Daniel's eyes was, at first, odd...back the narrative framework issue...but ended up feeling so exactly like the first-love malaise that I quickly began to warm to it. First love is, of necessity, solipsistic. We can never really get out of that self-referential stage of being in love with love until, and unless, we go all the way through it. Daniel going home to stay with his abuelo and delve into his namesake uncle's life and times was a really suitable way to guide him through the thicket of his self-absorption. His emotional flowering struck me as both truthful and effective...I believed it, and I believed he was changed in the ways shown, by the discoveries he made.

While I am on the subject, I feel the necessity to address a critique of the author's handling of societal homophobia that I have seen brought up several times. It can seem as though the inevitable experience of others’ hateful judgments of himself and of Sam were lightly brushed off. I did not read them this way. As the novel is framed as a journal, the lack of sustained responses to and obsessions with homopohbia struck me as Daniel having, developing, and imparting to the more-affected Sam, a sense of homophobia being an external not internal problem...something imposed from outside. That is exactly how I think homophobia *should* be perceived. It is only a problem for one when one is interacting with the homohobes. That is a major positive in my opinion of the read because it shows the need to decenter the hate.

A mixed reading experience, one with major positives and a bunch of small negatives. A first novel, I hope not an only novel, from a man whose emotional journey is, quite clearly, only beginning, and which I am glad I can share.

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This is a beautifully written debut novel, a coming-of-age story about the relationship between college roommates and family histories. Andres Ordorica is at the beginning of what promises to be a successful career. Read this one now and wait patiently for what comes next!

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What a touching and heartbreaking coming of age. It reminded me of Akella’s “The Sea Elephants” or A Little Life. So good to see nonwhite queer stories being centered!

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It still makes me nervous whenever I write a negative review for a debut novelist who is still alive (Lately, I have been reading novels from the 1800’s so not a lot of risk of offending authors there).

To Mr. Ordorica – You have an important voice. Please don’t let this review derail you, and I have been wrong about a lot of books. You also might not have found the perfect editor for you yet.

So….wipes sweaty palms….deep breath….let’s get this over with…..

1. Narrative voice – The book is written in an awkward, weird mix of first and second person perspective. “If you asked me to explain why I chose this constellation to be yours—which of course you would, being you—I’d say that….” It should have been in third person perspective.
2. Formatting was confusing. The header says 1989 and then a character says it is 2011.
3. Far too many descriptions of the landscape. I would start by reviewing every instance of “green” and “rock”.
4. Far too many uses of the word “like”.
5. At least the first paragraph needs to be rewritten. It was so confusing and disorienting that I had to read it 3 or 4 times, partly the confusion relates back to the aforementioned messy 1st/2nd person perspective.
6. If Daniel is a poor student on scholarship, why doesn’t he have a summer job?
7. I didn’t feel vested in the romance which had so much potential. Think of the greatest romances of our time. Jay Gatsby creates an entire empire for Daisy, and Noah builds a house for Allie in The Notebook. What does Sam do? He tells Daniel to go to class. Say what?! What is so special about Sam? Daniel could have taught Sam Spanish, shared tamales, danced reggaeton together. Maybe Daniel has never had a birthday party, and Sam blows up hundreds of ballons in their cozy little dorm room. Maybe they watch a movie, and he gently covers him up with a blanket. Maybe Sam teaches Daniel to drive so every time Daniel drives he thinks of Sam. Maybe Sam teaches Daniel math, Sam tutors him, fingertips brush, and Daniel is so shy that he types I love you into the calculator. But instead they eat pretzels at the food court with Sam’s dad, and Sam gives Daniel a one-time pep talk. Is this what romance is these days?

How We Named the Stars feels like a draft and needs a lot of work.

Mr. Ordorica –You have promise, and I would be happy to proof your future works.

*Thanks, NetGalley, for a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion.

How much I spent:
Electronic text – Free/Nada/Zilch through NetGalley provided by publisher

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This is the second novel that I have read where the protagonist addresses a dead loved one in second-person, and I find that it really works for me. It's an effective way to create intimacy and absence, and I really felt the connection that Daniel was trying to hold with Sam. The prologue was stunning, and a fantastic way to introduce Sam's voice in order to round him out, instead of only seeing him through Daniel's perspective and Ordorica's writing is poetic throughout. I found the dialogue a bit stilted, which made it more difficult to have a concept of the other characters, because it felt like all of their voices sounded similar, but the feel I got for Daniel and Sam was real, and I did cry.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the e-ARC!

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I don't know where to start with my review of this book. When I first started reading it, I couldn't remember what it was supposed to be about and didn't look it up to refresh my memory before jumping in. Because of this, I had to stop reading it around 3% as I was not prepared for the immediate feelings this was bringing up of my own loss that even years later I am still grieving. After a few days to prepare myself, I jumped back in, and let me tell you, I devoured this book in one day. I only mention this, not as a negative about the book, but to try to have anyone who reads this review understand how quickly and beautifully the author's words made an impact on me.

I know it is early in 2024, but out of all the books I've read this year, and probably all of 2023, I have not read an author who wrote so masterfully. I was brought along through the entire story, never once feeling like I was missing something or that I was left out somewhere and would need to "figure it out" later.

Truly this was a beautiful story of love, loss, and friendship, but also finding yourself and the will to move forward after such profound loss.

It is rare for me to rate something that isn't sci-fi or fantasy 5 stars, but this was a no-brainer for me.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review from Netgalley. Thank you to Tin House Books.

I believe the prologue of How We Named the Stars is absolutely beautiful. I cried a little when I read it the first time, and then read it again when I finished the book. The entire book itself is full of beautiful, emotional writing. When I finished, I discovered Ordorica is a poet, so that makes sense.

With that said, I want to say the book lacks substance because so much relies on language alone. Most of the book is just paragraphs of Daniel’s, the narrator, thoughts. Not exactly much happens until the third part. Until then, so much is just what’s in his head. However, it’s difficult to say the book lacks substance since the point seems to be emotional, not plot-focused. Still, it fell flat for me.

Speaking of the plot, essentially it’s supposed to be adjacent to a love story between Daniel and Sam. At least, that’s how I feel. Perhaps others would say it’s a full-on love story. But as I said, so much is in Daniel’s head. I find it hard to discuss this without spoilers, but the links between Daniel and others felt weak. If more time was spent with those other characters, where we as readers see them being themselves instead of Daniel telling us about them, perhaps the links would feel stronger. Besides Daniel and Sam, and really just Daniel, there is nothing to be said of these characters. I know nothing about them or their development. With Sam, I had trouble understanding why Sam felt the way he did. It was like, it just happened because it needed to be that way for the book. There was no development of character or feelings.

In the third part of the book, things change in many ways and there are so many scenes with other people. People talking and things happening. This was like a breath of fresh air. To be honest, while reading the first and second parts, I was getting frustrated. It was Daniel’s constant thoughts. If there was a scene with dialogue, each line was followed by a paragraph of Daniel’s thoughts. I didn’t know if the whole book would be this way, but I didn’t want to give up. The prose itself was lovely.

I guess all of this boils down to the old adage of “show don’t tell.” This book almost solely tells us what is going on. It was disappointing. My frustration would rate it two stars, but my feelings while reading Ordorica’s use of language would give it four stars. Normally, a three star rating from me usually means it’s a middling book. But I can’t say that’s the case here. There are two strong reactions to this book, and three stars is just the average.

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I really loved "How We Named the Stars" and look forward to recommending it. This beautiful coming-of-age story quickly drew me in since Daniel and Sam are such engaging, relatable characters. Daniel's friends, Sam's mother and Daniel's abuelo were also wonderful characters. The book is very funny at times. I also loved the influence of queer elders in the book. I like how Ithaca was also like a character in the story. I could see that Andrés Ordorica is a poet because of his beautiful descriptions of birds and the landscape.

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Daniel moves across the country to attend college. He’s sensitive and overthinks things, but builds a connection with his roommate Sam. Their friendship becomes something more as Daniel explores his sexuality and his place on campus. Daniel is eager, but Sam is hesitant. After freshman year ends, Daniel decides to spend the summer in Mexico with his grandfather to find space from his feelings and learn more about his late uncle and namesake. When Daniel’s life changes forever, and he must come to terms with tragedy, he discovers his uncle’s story is tied to his more closely than he realized.

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley and Tin House, but all opinions are my own.

This is such an absolutely beautiful story. It is a queer coming of age story, and a love story but not a romance. It’s angsty, but my inner elder sad girl loved that about this book. I loved seeing Daniel become Daniel, even when he was messy and unsure, and especially when he was messy and bold. If you feel like this is giving “Ander and Santi Were Here,” I agree!

This book takes the perspective of Daniel’s journal reflecting on the past year. For that reason, there was quite a bit of telling vs. showing. Some dialogue seemed… not quite how people talk, which also took me out of the story at times. Still, I really really enjoyed this one and I’m grateful for a wonderful experience with my first ARC!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Lovely, heartwrenching, and ultimately uplifting novel. I found the scenes with Daniel & Sam, and Daniel & his abuelo, to be particularly moving. It took me a little to get used to the rhythm but once I fell into it, I just loved the way it was written. Overall I enjoyed the novel more on second read, because I better understood the uncle’s narrative.

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