They Could Have Named Her Anything
In They Could Have Named Her Anything, seventeen-year-old Maria Rosario, a denizen of Queens, makes a long journey to the Upper East Side each day where she attends Bell Seminary as a scholarship student. Although one of the only Latina students, she doesn’t fit in with the other girls in the Students of Color group, yet she sometimes leans into the stereotypes foist upon her, as she does in math class to bully her teacher into accepting it when she moved from her assigned seat in the front of the room to the back where she daydreamed about Andres, her boyfriend who called her a “corpse” after she lost her virginity to him.
That fateful move brought her into a collision course with Rachelle “Rocky” Albrecht, one of the wealthiest girls in a school full of rich students. Maria and Rocky gravitate towards each other, Maria envying Rocky’s wealth and privilege, Rocky jealous of Maria’s close family. Yet, the two also clash with secrets and misunderstandings. Although told primarily from Maria’s point of view, the book also has sections told from the points of view of Rocky, her dad, Charlie, and Maria’s father, Miguel.
Typically, this is a book I would like, given the diversity of the characters, the coming of age story, and the questions of identity and sexuality. However, They Could Have Named Her Anything wasn’t for me. One issue I had was that it didn’t seem to fall fully into the young adult or adult category and so was awkwardly straddling both. Another is that personally, I found the writing style choppy, as though I was in a bumper car or driving on a road full of potholes. It’s possible that this was done deliberately to reflect Maria’s circumstances or state of mind, but I found it detracted from my enjoyment of the book, so much so that at several points, I was tempted not to finish it.
That said, Jimenez did write some lovely passages, and I thought the idea of being hemmed in my one’s name—or liberated by it—interesting. I suspect that there would be readers who would really adore this book, but unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little A for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.