How We Named the Stars
by Andrés N. Ordorica
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Pub Date 30 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 30 Jan 2024
Set between the United States and México, Andrés N. Ordorica’s debut novel is a tender and lyrical exploration of belonging, grief, and first love—a love story for those so often written off the page.
When Daniel de La Luna arrives as a scholarship student at an elite East Coast university, he bears the weight of his family’s hopes and dreams, and the burden of sharing his late uncle’s name. Daniel flounders at first—but then Sam, his roommate, changes everything. As their relationship evolves from brotherly banter to something more intimate, Daniel soon finds himself in love with a man who helps him see himself in a new light. But just as their relationship takes flight, Daniel is pulled away, first by Sam’s hesitation and then by a brutal turn of events that changes Daniel’s life forever.
As he grapples with profound loss, Daniel finds himself in his family’s ancestral homeland in México for the summer, finding joy in this setting even as he struggles to come to terms with what’s happened and faces a host of new questions: How does the person he is connect with this place his family comes from? How is his own story connected to his late uncle’s? And how might he reconcile the many parts of himself as he learns to move forward?
Equal parts tender and triumphant, Andrés N. Ordorica’s How We Named the Stars is a debut novel of love, heartache, redemption, and learning to honor the dead; a story of finding the strength to figure out who you are—and who you could be—if only the world would let you.
About the Author:
Andrés N. Ordorica is a queer Latinx poet, writer, and educator. Drawing on his family's immigrant history and his own third culture upbringing, his writing maps the journey of diaspora and unpacks what it means to be from ni de aquí, ni de allá (neither here, nor there). He is the author of the poetry collection At Least This I Know and currently resides in Edinburgh, Scotland
"Andrés N. Ordorica has written an intimate, necessary story of first love, first loss, and the promise of new beginnings. This empowering novel is required reading for anyone struggling to uncover their most authentic self. " - Zak Salih, author of Let's Get Back to the Party
"In Andrés N. Ordorica’s majestic novel, the emotional and intellectual life of Daniel de La Luna, a first-generation college student, is rendered beautifully, deftly. Belonging, for Daniel, is complicated by familial grief and self-doubt but a heart-shattering first love spurs him to cross and to erase the borders between him and those who love him. I’m especially moved by his bond with his Abuelo, which is impactful, instructive. Novels this well-written remind us reading is an intimacy, an immersive experience that enriches us beyond measure." - Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine
"How We Named the Stars is a novel of first love and last rites. Ordorica captures perfectly the challenges of building a life out of experience, out of allowing ourselves to feel everything. A beautiful tale of friendship and the comfort found in stories of the past and in the arms of elders, living and dead." - Richard Mirabella, author of Brother & Sister Enter the Forest
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 34 members
"How We Named the Stars" by Andrés N. Ordorica is truly so beautiful and gripping from the very first page. Ordorica weaves so much authenticity and poetry into everything he writes, every scene and statement so articulate and succinct, painting the perfect picture of these two boys' lives (especially Daniel's, who is the first-person narrator of this story).
"Stars" crosses a lot of heavy territory in terms of grief, racism, family issues, profound loss, queerness, and young love, holding appropriate space for each while remaining optimistic and hopeful - a very rare, and difficult, balance to strike. Throughout multiple points, it moved me to profound tears, recalling the same losses I've experienced in life (especially losing someone too soon) and attempting to live up to your family's expectations.
As the story is told from Daniel's perspective, he is our eyes and ears to this world, and he is an authentic, trustworthy narrator. How he sees the world - and interacts with those in his life, and even the way he processes grief in the end - is fundamentally good, so we root for his success, we grieve his losses, we are angry on his behalf, and we root for him along the way.
For a book tackling so many difficult subjects, Ordorica has truly crafted an extremely kind, sensitive, and deeply vulnerable perspective on grief and tragedy. His turn of phrase is nothing short of spellbinding, the sort of writing any author aspires to when planting a picture in your mind. It's truly no wonder he's a poet. Despite a book that should have felt bogged down under the weight of its own synopsis, it was a real page-turner and so well-paced. I could have easily read it in one day, but spaced it out just to savor his writing and take in every well-earned detail.
I'm grateful to have read this book, and I recommend "How We Named the Stars" for anyone who wants to experience a full spectrum of emotions about first love, grief, and loss, set in a world that feels lived in and authentic. Be prepared to smile and fall in love with both Daniel and Sam - getting to know them, even for a short while, is worth it in the end. Oh, and do have tissues handy.
Thanks to Tin House and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed everything that was happening in this story, the characters were what I was hoping for and felt like they were realistic. Andrés N. Ordorica has a great writing style that worked well overall and I enjoyed reading this. It was a great debut novel and I was invested in what was going on.
How we Named the Stars is a beautiful, heartbreaking love story about the coming of age of Daniel de La Luna. From the first chapter of the book, we know that Daniel's dear friend Samuel has died and the book is written as a letter to Samuel posthumously. The writing is exquisite and the charcater development is so realistic that you feel that you know and understand Daniel.
This book covers to many topics including race and class in academia, sexuality and relationships with family. I highly recommend this book although be prepared with a box of tissues. It is a beautiful read but not an easy read emotionally.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tin House for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This story about love and loss and grief and queerness and family hit so many beautiful notes. It's an exploration of growing into one's self amidst and despite and because of tragedy, and Ordorica does just that so well in his debut novel. It felt lyrical and prosaic throughout, so it is no surprise that Ordorica has a poetry background.
I adored the framework for this novel: both the month by month re-telling of Daniel and Sam's story and also the Tío Daniel letters and diary entries that begin each chapter. It helped really sink in the idea that Daniel was taking time to find his footing as a young man named after someone he knew so little about. It was really lovely to watch him uncovering the mystery of who this person was and bringing the memory of his uncle back to his family just as he was bringing his own self to them.
The characters felt rich and fleshed out, even the ones we only saw for a few moments or interactions. Daniel, Sam, Abuelo, Diego, Naomi, Bernie-Bernice, Luis: I knew them and what was important to them and how they interacted with the world. They were in community with Daniel in different ways, all important and necessary and so wonderful to read about.
There were some times when I felt like Daniel or other characters were speaking in a very "written" way as opposed to the way people naturally speak, but after a bit I realized that it really fit with the narrative. Whether intentionally done or not, it works with the story of Daniel remembering all of these instances; of course a person would paraphrase or re-write their memories as they go through them to document such as Daniel has here.
It's rare that a book will have me tearful but still hopeful, still smiling and excited to turn pages. Often a book about grief is hard to read and while there were certainly difficult parts to get through, there are similarly difficult parts of life. Having a story like this where our beloved main character makes it out on the other side is something really special.
Thank you to W. W. Norton & Company and Netgalley for access to an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!
Even though I just finished this book, I am already thinking about the next reread. There is such a wonderful mix of devastating, heartbreaking, and beautiful emotions that I feel as though I left a part of myself in this book.
HOW WE NAMED THE STARS by Andrés N. Ordorica tells the story of Daniel as he embarks on the new adventure of college with new friends, experiences, and his roommate Sam. Daniel is an extremely relatable character who struggles with feeling at home in college while dealing with a lot of struggles he’s internalized as a classic overthinker. He feels lost in all of the new experiences that college brings (a relatable experience for many of us) and is still trying to understand who he is in his queerness while navigating situations he’s never experienced before. His roommate Sam becomes an important person in his life. We follow Daniel throughout his first year away in college as he experiences wonderful beautiful things as well as incredible loss and grief.
What makes this book so unique, is while it is narrated in first person, the narrator, and main character Daniel is addressing Sam in a second person narration style using “you”. I haven’t come across many books utilizing second-person narration, so I was immediately drawn in. Ordorica weaves an incredible story with poetic prose and remarkable characters that I fell for instantly.
I don’t feel that my review truly captures just how magnificent the writing is here. Ordorica is simply amazing with his words, it is clear that he is an amazing poet because his words flow effortlessly off the page. His writing was so easy to follow but incredibly vivid and real. This story truly touched my soul.
As much as this story is about the beauty of first love and friendship there is also a heavy dose of grief, immense loss, and how we begin to heal. HOW WE NAMED THE STARS is an ode to love and honoring those who we have lost along with the ways we can move on while still keeping them in our thoughts. It’s worth it to talk about those we have lost and remember things about them in order to heal.
Daniel is a character I wanted to hug many times throughout this book. He goes through so much and has some important epiphanies that are relatable to all. Growing up is hard but there is also beauty in the difficulty, and for anyone who has struggled with confidence, anxiety, overthinking, or being unsure of yourself or who you are PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. Be ready to cry and fall in love with the characters and this book.
Thank you to Andrés N. Ordorica for writing this book. I’ll be sure to read more from him in the future. Also thanks to NetGalley and Tin House for this e-ARC!