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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. Sánchez

Amazon

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 Sáenz

Amazon

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 Ryan

Amazon

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 Gratz

Amazon

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 Zoboi

Amazon

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 Older

Amazon

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 Moldavsky

Amazon

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 Acevedo

Amazon

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 Sanchez

Amazon

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 Rivera

Amazon

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 Alsaid

Amazon

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 Quintero

Amazon

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 Medina

Amazon

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 Rivera

Amazon

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 Silvera

Amazon

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 Manzano

Amazon

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 Peñaflor

Amazon

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 Cordova

Amazon

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 Peña

Amazon

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 McLemore

Amazon

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 Milanes

Amazon

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 Mabry

Amazon

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 Aceves

Amazon

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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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

Fans of magical realism rejoice. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it acquired the rights to Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and will be turning the literary masterpiece into a Spanish-language series.

This is the first time the 1967 novel, considered “one of the most significant works of the 20th Century,” will be adapted for screen. For years, the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights, believing the story could not be done justice through a two-hour project, according to Deadline.

Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, García Márquez’s sons, who are serving as executive producers on the show, believe a series is an appropriate approach to the book.

“For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad. He believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice,” Rodrigo Garcia told BuzzFeed News, adding that the “current golden age of series,” with “the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content,” changed the family’s mind.

“The time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides,” he continued.

The series will be filmed in Colombia.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the multi-generational Buendia family, whose patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, a fictional town in the South American country.

The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages.

In a statement, Francisco Ramos, Netflix’s vice president of Spanish-language content, said, “We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform.”

He’s right. Since announcing the adaptation, fans of the magical realism novel have been celebrating the news.

There’s no word yet on when the series will debut and who will star in it.

Read: This Film About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is At The Center Of The Most Expensive Sundance Documentary Deal Of All Time

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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