23 Latinx YA Books You’ll Wish You Could Have Read When You Were Growing Up
When I was growing up, there weren’t a whole lot of books that I could really relate to. As a big reader, I loved getting involved in a new world and learning something interesting about a fictional character — but I could never really see myself in their lives because, let’s face it, most of the books we read as kids contained white characters. Although that’s still somewhat true today, the good news is that there are a lot more diverse books on the bookshelves today.
For all of us who still love to read, finding novels with Latinx characters is easier than ever. And just to get a little taste of what it would have been like if we had these types of books growing up, we’ve compiled a list of young adult books that revolve around Latinx characters and their lives. After all, you don’t have to stop reading YA books just because you’re all grown up. Instead, go back and delve into these powerful stories and relive your childhood — and maybe learn a thing or two in the meantime.
1. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. SánchezAmazon
This book has been described as a cross between The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Jane the Virgin. But what you really want to know that it is a laugh-out-loud YA story about what happens when you lose a sister and how it can help you find yourself. The stereotypes, pressures and expectations of growing up in a Mexican-American home come alive in Sánchez’s novel.
2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzAmazon
A book about family and friendship that has been described as a “tender, honest exploration of identity” by Publishers Weekly, this story revolves around Aristotle and Dante. As the two new friends who seem to have nothing in common spend more time together, their special friendship begins to transform them and help them each learn important truths about themselves.
3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz RyanAmazon
When Esperanza and her mama have to suddenly flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp, the young girl who grew up on a rich family ranch isn’t ready for the hard work or financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression. When her mama gets sick, Esperanza has to take matters into her own hands in order to rise above her difficult circumstances.
4. Refugee by Alan GratzAmazon
The lives of three refugee kids come alive in this novel, telling the story of Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to make it to Miami in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy whose homeland is torn apart by violence in 2015. It’s an action-packed novel that had me, honestly, in tears as I read about their timeless tale of courage, survival and the quest for home.
5. Pride by Ibi ZoboiAmazon
Whether or not you’re a fan of the classic Jane Austen story, this Pride and Prejudice remix gets a major update in Zoboi’s Afro-Latinx YA novel. It stars Zuri Benitez as a pride-full Afro-Latina who lives in a Brooklyn neighborhood undergoing gentrification. And, well, when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, you can guess what hijinks happen next… It’s definitely worth a read.
6. Shadowshaper by Daniel José OlderAmazon
The sequel to this book, Shadowhouse Fall, came out a few months ago but you simply MUST start with the “exceptional” (Publishers Weekly) first. The novel revolves around Sierra Santiago, an artist who discovers shadowshaping, a magic that “infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories.” But she must also gather her strength in order to unravel her family’s past and stop a modern-day killer, who is taking down shadowshapers one by one, so that she can save the future.
7. No Good Deed by Goldy MoldavskyAmazon
Have you ever heard the phrase, “no good deed goes unpunished”? Gregor Maravilla learns it the hard way when he goes to Camp Save the World, a summer program for teen activists. When a contest is announced at the camp, sabotage stars. Gregor is determined to win and, most of all, not let up-and-coming actress Ashley Woodstone ruin his experience.
8. The Poet X by Elizabeth AcevedoAmazon
A novel written by an award-winning slam poet is pretty much as beautiful and lyrical as you can expect thanks to this novel-in-verse told about an Afro-Latina heroine written by Acevedo. Xiomara Batista feels unheard in her Harlem neighborhood, but she has plenty to say and her words become like prayers after she invited to join her school’s slam poetry club.
9. Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres SanchezAmazon
Dani has learned to cope with her bland existence in suburban Florida but her life is turned upside down when her unloving mother is killed suddenly. All she can feel is total numbness and soon she is sent to live in New Mexico with an aunt she never knew she had. When she meets Paulo, their friendship transforms her life and begins to help her heal.
10. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam RiveraAmazon
Living in the South Bronx, Margot “borrows” her father’s credit card to finance a new stylish wardrobe and ends up grounded and having to work off the debt in her family’s struggling grocery store. But as she feels her prep school reputation slip through her fingers, she determines that she must get an invitation to the ultimate beach party — and nothing will keep her from her goal.
11. North of Happy by Adi AlsaidAmazon
Carlos Portillo has his entire life laid out in front of him and he is comfortable with that. But when his brother Felix is tragically killed, Carlos begins to question everything as he hears his brother’s voice giving him advice and guiding him to rebel against his father’s plan. And so, Carlos runs away from Mexico City to the United States to pursue his dream.
12. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel QuinteroAmazon
Filled with the beautiful diary entries of Gabi Hernandez, this book is all about this high school girl as she uses her poetry to help her forge her identity. Along all of that, we read about her struggles with college applications, all the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out and the foods that Gabi craves as she grows up.
13. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg MedinaAmazon
Yaqui Delgado isn’t the protagonist of this novel. Instead, it’s Piddy Sanchez who, while on her way to school one morning, learned that Yaqui wants to kick her ass. She doesn’t know who Yaqui is or what she’s done to piss her off, but soon the harassment begins to escalate and avoiding Yaqui and her gang becomes Piddy’s only life goal. Things get difficult in this all-too-realistic novel in which our heroine tries to decide who she really is.
14. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby RiveraAmazon
Juliet is leaving the Bronx and heading to Portland, Oregon, after just coming out to her family and not being sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. Still, she’s planning to figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing over the course of one magical summer. In this novel, Juliet takes on interning with her favorite author while trying to figure out her life.
15. They Both Die at the End by Adam SilveraAmazon
When Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to tell them that they are going to die today, the two boys connect while looking for a new friend on their End Day. Thankfully, they have an app called Last Friend and through it, they form one incredible bond as they live a lifetime in a single day.
16. The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia ManzanoAmazon
Things get a little crazy in Evelyn’s Spanish Harlem neighborhood in 1969 after a Puerto Rican activist group dumps garbage on the street and set it on fire, causing her Abuela to step in and take charge and Evelyn to be thrust into the action. Through everything going on, Evelyn learns more about her Latino heritage and what happens when you are a young Latino growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America.
17. All of This Is True by Lygia Day PeñaflorAmazon
This genre-defying YA novel is told in a series of interviews, journal entries and segments from the book within a group about a story of a scandal that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Involving one of the deepest, darkest secrets (and its devastating consequences), you’ll love reading the story of Miri Tan, Soleil Johnson, Penny Panzarella and Jonah Nicholls.
18. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaAmazon
The first novel in the Brooklyn Brujas series (the second book, Bruja Born, is out now too), Labyrinth Lost is all about Alex — a bruja in the most powerful witch generation who, unfortunately, hates magic. When she performs a powerful spell to get rid of her powers but instead ends up vanishing her family into thin air, she has no choice but to team up with Nova, a brujo boy, to try to save her family.
19. Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la PeñaAmazon
Danny is a half-Mexican boy with a powerful pitching arm but because he’s not built and he goes to a private school where everyone judges him for the color of his skin, he doesn’t fit in anywhere. To find himself, he decides to spend the summer with his dad’s family and confront the demons that have always been in front of his face.
20. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemoreAmazon
In this take on Romeo & Juliet, this beautifully written and richly imaginative YA novel is about two families who have been rivals and enemies for twenty years. The Palomas and the Corbeaus don’t get along but when Lace Paloma’s life is saved by Cluck, his touch leads her to a world where falling for him could turn his own family against him.
21. The Victoria in My Head by Janelle MilanesAmazon
Victoria Cruz is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents who dreams of being a rock star. But thanks to her paralyzing stage fright, she has settled for living her dream inside of her fantastical double life. Yet when she meets a boy named Strand whose band is looking for a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to amke it all a reality… but first, she must confront her insecurities.
22. All the Wind in the World by Samantha MabryAmazon
This breathtaking tale of dread and danger, romance and redemption, takes place in the bone-dry Southwest of the near future. The land is a bit magical but deeply dangerous. That’s where Sarah Jac Crow and James Holt fall in love but a horrible accident sends them on the run to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch. But did they pay a price too high for their love?
23. The Closest I’ve Come by Fred AcevesAmazon
This story about transversing real and imagined boundaries and discovering new things in the world revolves around Marcos Rivas. He yearns for love and wants to get out of his hood, and especially away from his indifferent mom and her abusive boyfriend. When, in a new after-school program, he meets Zach and Amy and their friendship inspires him to open up about his future.
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