This week we’re celebrating our fellow deb Stephanie’s release of THEY COULD HAVE NAME HER ANYTHING!
A heartfelt, warm, and occasionally disturbing literary novel about family, racism, and dreams – those both fragile and terrifying. This is the story of a teenager caught between two worlds – her close-knit family in Queens and her private school full of rich white girls swimming in privilege they can’t even see. As one of the only Latina students, Maria struggles to fit in amongst her peers. But back home, her dreams of college and her deepening depression fracture her ties with her community and family. Navigating the competing desires of her parents and her peers, Maria must forge a path of her own and figure out what it is she really wants – and what she’s willing to give for that.
I loved the character of Maria – complex and real and full of wants and needs of her own, conflicting even amongst themselves. Stephanie created a very real person out of hopes and mistakes and dreams that I still heard in my head for days after. Maria goes after what she wants with all the drive and focus of a teen unsure of themself, but hoping, still, that no one will notice. She makes terrible decisions, like any teenager, like any of us. But even when I wanted to turn away or peek through my fingers, Maria’s strong sense of self kept her relatable and appealing.
The other characters were equally fully fleshed out, to the point where I actually felt pity for the more reprehensible of them. Even those characters who seemed to have it all, clearly didn’t, and were broken in their own messy, if less obvious ways. That doesn’t excuse their behaviors, but proves that the glitz and the glam that can so dazzle us is often only just that – a dazzle and nothing more.
And that explosive ending – everything you knew must be coming, but never could have expected to happen like that. Yet it works and it leaves you satisfied, if somewhat uneasy.
They Could Have Named Her Anything is a brilliant debut, one that tells both an excellent, well-paced story and opens the door onto conversations about race and family, privilege and feminism.