Young Adult Novels By Latino Authors People Of Every Age Should Read
Whether you’ve got a summer vacation of soaking up all the Young Adult (YA) fiction on the beach your melanin skin can handle or taking a weekend to revel in another world that reminds you of all those summers long ago, there’s not a soul who doesn’t love YA fiction. Trust.
These days, there is more and more fiction that hits close to that bilingual, multicultural home. These Latino authors will crack open your soul in ways that nobody else can. Are you ready to bear your heart and mind to an alternate reality, reminiscent of all the feelings you carry into the 3-D? If so, here’s the list for your 2019 reads.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Afro-Dominican Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, so you know it’s worth a read. Xiomara Batista is confused by how puberty has shaken her body and turns to slam poetry to understand her Harlem life, big feelings, and unstoppable passion. Fall in love with a character who refused to be silent and pray that it’s contagious.
Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia
New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia gives us a romance-mystery centered around a high school senior athlete whose career is ruined after she’s mysteriously pushed down the stairs. Oh, small detail, it coincidentally happened after she learned her boyfriend’s deep dark secret. Guaranteed plot twists inside.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Haitian and proud Afro-Latina Ibi Zoboi gifted us all a more relatable retelling of Pride & Prejudice with characters of color. Zuri Benitez is a proud Afro-Latina, and when the wealthy Darcy family moves across the street, Zuri’s pride gets in the way of an undeniable tension between cute boy Darius. Toss in college applications and gentrification of Bushwick and you’ve got yourself a new classic.
The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lillam Rivera
Rivera’s debut YA novel was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and has been lauded by the likes of NPR, The New York Times and Teen Vogue.
Here’s what we know about Margo, from publisher Simon and Schuster’s website:
“Things/People Margot Hates:
Mami, for destroying her social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
I mean, same?
Dealing in Dreams by Lillam Rivera
Alright, next to no one has read this yet, but it’s set for a March 2019 release and with Rivera’s track record, the hype is real. We’re ready to read about 16-year-old Nalah in a dystopian reality on the streets with dreams set on the exclusive Mega Towers. What moral standards will she set, betray, and cross to achieve her dreams, and what’s really most important anyway? Learn from her successes and mistakes this March. I know I will.
The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos
Boricua NoNieqa Ramos isn’t going to give you some dumb teenage boy drama, because most teens of color have a lot more on their plates. Macy, por ejemplo, is bullied at school and comes home to an incarcerated father, CPS separating her and her brother and the very real biological struggle of being a teenager.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Published in 2015, Adam Silvera has become one of the most loved contemporary YA fiction writers. In his debut novel, we follow teen Aaron after his father commits suicide. He confides in the only person he loves, Thomas, and is grappled by his burgeoning gay identity. He shockingly decides to go to a conversion therapy, memory altering, life-changing Leteo Institute. Find out how his story ends.
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
That’s right. Brooklyn-raised Adam Silvera’s back and teaming up with infamous YA novelist Albertalli to create the story of two teen boys who meet at a post office. Of course, a summer romance ensues. Read it before it’s adapted into a movie (seriously!).
Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova
Ecuadorian Cordova knows that her YA readers could not hang with just one book with the element of magica, so she gave us an installment. It’s everything you wish The CW’s Charmed reboot would be, with two bruja sisters growing up in Brooklyn with all the Latino stories we grew up with. It’s not magic realism. It’s real magic.
The Go-Between by Veronica Chambers
Panamanian-American Chambers who has this kind of impact on her readers:
Caption: “Despite being a fabulous and entertaining read, The Go Between touches on an number of important themes, so the story also gets you thinking. It’s another part of the immigrant experience. Cammi is wealthy and privileged, but she’s Mexican, so she’s assumed to be a scholarship kid. She grew up speaking and is fluent in English, but is surprised to hear people say that she has an accent and that she can’t actually follow everything her teachers and classmates are saying. And she’s happy to have a new experience in LA, but she still misses Mexico – her family, food, culture, language. Cammi both struggles with and revels in her new life in L.A.”
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
Manzano’s own upbringing seeps into this classic which is set in 1969 Spanish Harlem. Evelyn is leaning as far into her Americanized culture as possible and is faced with embracing her Puerto Rican culture when her abuelita moves in. Evelyn starts to see her neighborhood and world in a new, deeper way. Get it for your cousins who swear they’re white.
Honor Among Thieves by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine
Mystery meets sci-fi in a big way when Zara Cole, a petty criminal comes face to face with aliens who want her to come along for the ride of a lifetime… around the universe. This one is written by New York Times bestselling authors based in Mexico.
The Living by Matt de la Peña
When a young teenage boy takes a summer job on a cruise ship, he comes home to a world forever changed. A massive earthquake destroys California and Shy is fighting for his survival. Check into this novel if the apocalyptic world isn’t enough of a thriller for you.
Efrain’s Secret by Sofia Quintero
Boricua-Dominicana author Sofia Quintero is the black feminist we need to rewire the white patriarchal handbook we’ve all absorbed as teens. Efrain Rodriguez is a smart teen in the Bronx whose willing to do anything to jumpstart a new life as a college graduate. With no other way to pay the bills, Efrain becomes an honor student by day and drug peddler by night.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Mexican-Cuban author, Celia C. Pérez, shares the untold yet ubiquitous story of young punk Latinos in America. Follow the story of 12-year-old María Luia O’Neill-Morales, or as she prefers to be called, Malú. She’s half-Mexican, half-white and she’s angsty af, partly because her mother wants her to be “less punk rocker and more señorita” and partly because…why not?
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle has published over forty novels and children’s books, almost all entirely set in the perspective of Cubanos. In this award-winning YA novel, 14-year-old Tula knows her worth in a world that wants to sell her for marriage. She refuses.
Evolution by Stephanie Diaz
Okay, so you have to read two more books before you get to the final installment of the brilliant Extraction series. Trust you’ll want to know how Clem moved away from her birth planet only to discover that those in power plan to destroy her home planet.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
For our freshly young adult readers, this novel centers around Stef Soto, the daughter of taco truck owners, and recipient of bully’s nickname “Taco Queen.” When it looks like her prayers of the truck ceasing to exist might come true, she becomes its unlikely champion, saving her family business and realizing that, really, there is a comfort to be found in a warm tortilla.
Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina García
This one is an oldie (published in 2011) but a goodie. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants from the perspective of three different girls at a summer camp in Switzerland. García tells the story as only a Latina can.
=A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez
While this isn’t strictly YA Fiction, this coming of age memoir is for your inner child, who, too early on, was warned by your mami about men seducing you with pastries. Hernandez story of her Cuban-Colombian family bringing her up in NYC as she begins to understand her queerness, what it means to be bilingual in two different rooms, and how to find your true self.