23 Latinx YA Picks for Latinx Heritage Month and All Year Long

Looking for books for teens that feature Latinx protagonists? Check out these titles, running the gamut from contemporary immigration stories to science fiction. 

Looking for books for teens that feature Latinx protagonists? These 23 titles, across multiple genres, are just what you need. 

YA Latinx Fantasy books: Lobizona, Blazeworth Games, Cemetery Boys


Lobizona by Romina GarberSt. Martin’s/Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250239129.
Gr 7 Up–Manuela and her mother are undocumented, living in the United States and doing their best to stay under the radar of immigration authorities. Once a month, her mother keeps her heavily sedated for three days during her menstrual cycle, or at least that’s what Manu assumes is responsible for her debilitating nightmares and unbearable pain. Half of her heritage comes from her father, a werewolf with a criminal past and ties to an Argentine mob family. It’s only when she is invited to join a supernatural academy in the middle of the Everglades that she discovers who she really is and begins to make friends, fall in love, and learn to embrace the werewolf (or lobizona) part of her heritage. VERDICT Following “Harry Potter,” a number of authors have tackled the idea of magical schools for unusually gifted children. It would be easy enough to toss this book into that ever-growing pile, but ties to current events make this both relatable and timely. Recommended.—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage Public Library, AK

Blazewrath Games by Amparo OrtizPage Street. ISBN 9781645670797.
Gr 8 Up–Lana has finally realized her dream to become a member of the Puerto Rico Dragon Team in the Blazewrath Games. After fighting off a Fire Drake and a Dragon Knight trying to steal the dragon’s wish-giving crystal heart, she becomes famous and is awarded the Runner position on the team. But now, not only does she have to prove herself to her team, Lana also has to solve the mystery of the Dragon Knights and why they are terrorizing the Games and the dragons before they destroy all that she loves. In a nonstop, dragon-roaring adventure, this coming-of-age story will keep readers enthralled until the last page. Lana is a well-developed character, whose struggles with her white mother’s expectations, her Puerto Rican father’s heritage, and her love for her native island home give her an inner strength and determination to succeed. VERDICT This fun read will appeal to fans of dragon tales like Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road and adventures such as Daniel José Older’s “Shadowshaper Cypher” series.—Gretchen ­Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City P.L., VA

Infinity Son by Adam SilveraHarperTeen. ISBN 9780062457820. POP
Gr 9 Up–In a departure from contemporary fiction, Silvera has created an exciting fantasy series opener about two very different Latinx twin brothers. Brighton, vlogger and superhero fan, hopes he’ll evince celestial powers on his 18th birthday. His queer, fantasy-loving brother Emil prays they don’t materialize in him. In this Bronx setting, where phoenixes are reborn and hydra and ghosts exist, celestial Spell Walker heroes battle evil alchemist Blood Casters. VERDICT Fans of Cassandra Clare, Mackenzie Lee’s Loki, Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, Kiersten White’s Slayer and Marissa Meyer’s “Renegades” series will love this magical book that embodies it all: romance, heartbreak, deceit, shifting loyalties, revenge, power struggles, violence, and complicated origin stories.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasSwoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250250469.
Gr 9 Up–Yadriel is a transgender teen boy growing up in East L.A., where for centuries, brujos have been responsible for releasing the spirits of the dead, and brujas have healed the living. When Yadriel’s family can’t accept that he is a boy and not cut out for healing, Yadriel is forbidden from attempting the ritual to become a brujo. Refusing to abandon tradition and helped by his best friend Maritza, Yadriel completes the ritual in secret, but abruptly discovers that his cousin Miguel has just been murdered. When searching for Miguel’s spirit, Yadriel and Maritza instead stumble upon murdered schoolmate Julian Diaz, who demands that Yadriel help find out what happened to him. Thomas is generally successful at weaving various Latinx customs and traditions into this #OwnVoices supernatural romance. VERDICT A whodunit with a tender and forbidden love story that will draw readers in as it gradually unfolds to a gratifying conclusion.—Alea Perez, Elmhurst Public Library, IL


YA Latinx Immigration stories covers: Come on In, Where Do We Go From Here

Immigration Stories

Come On In by Adi AlsaidInkyard. ISBN 9781335146496.
Gr 8 Up –An anthology of 15 short stories that focus on immigration through the eyes of young adults. These stories highlight the literal and emotional journeys of immigration, while also offering cultural views of travel, government, and geography. Written by popular YA authors who are themselves immigrants and/or the children of immigrants, these stories are about differences—being treated differently or living in a different place—and include life lessons about family and friendship. Share this book with all students to help them see themselves, or to see immigration through the eyes of a peer. VERDICT A recommended addition to any high school library and a great book to share with social studies teachers for use in the classroom.—Christina Pesiri, Island Trees H.S., Levittown, NY

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres SanchezPhilomel. ISBN 9781984812261.
 Gr 9 Up–Pequeña, Pulga, and Chico know that in Puerto Barrios, their future and the future of those around them is always uncertain. After Pulga and Chico witness the murder of Don Feliciano, they are pulled in to local gang leader Rey’s group, their lives and loved ones threatened unless they comply. Pequeña, who has suffered from Rey’s threats in silence and has given birth to his child, can see all too clearly the future she will have by his side. In desperation, Pequeña, Pulga, and Chico leave their beloved mothers behind, relying on each other as they make the dangerous journey from Guatemala to the U. S. This fast-paced novel provides a heartbreakingly brutal look at just some of the dangerous realities faced by many. Sanchez’s insightful descriptions of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, as well as their desperation and hopelessness, will elicit empathy in young readers. VERDICT A candid, realistic story that will leave readers thinking about the characters—and about our own world—long after the last page. Perfect for young adult collections in school and public libraries.—Selenia Paz, Harris County Public Library, Houston

The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia ZélenyCinco Puntos. ISBN 9781947627178.
Gr 8 Up–In this realistic fiction title, Julia records her thoughts, emotions, and experiences in diaries over the course of four years (ages 12–15). Readers experience the teen’s rage, sorrow, insecurity, and questions: Why does her family move so often? How can her father suddenly earn so much money? Why must he make such frequent, lengthy work trips? Who is murdering so many women and girls in Juárez? Why does her mother refuse to answer questions, instead retreating into her world of painting? When Julia’s father vanishes and she is sent with her younger brother Willy to live with their tía in El Paso, the anger long bubbling inside begins to seep out. This new time of transition and loss is scary and painful, but hope comes as she starts to heal and learns to live and thrive in the borders of her world. Julia’s entries are often poetic and at times humorous but always honest and even raw. VERDICT This high-interest, authentic coming-of-age novel adds an important perspective to young adult collections.—Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL


Latinx YA Magical Realism covers: Never Look Back, Darkest Red, Tigers Not Daughters

Magical Realism

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry. Algonquin. ISBN 9781616208967.
Gr 7 UpLittle Women meets The Virgin Suicides with a magical realist twist in this evocative and lovely novel. There used to be four Torres sisters: Ana, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa. Each with a strong individual personality, they captivated the boys of their San Antonio neighborhood with their beauty and ferocity. But when Ana died, falling out of her window, the sisters each reacted to their grief differently. But their memories are tangible as well as mental, as Ana’s ghost haunts them in the form of mysterious occurrences in their house. Mabry’s lyrical style weaves themes of sisterhood, death, and romance along with Shakespearean inspiration and paranormal elements to create something magical. ­ VERDICT This novel is sure to appeal to fans of Mabry’s other works, and could serve as an introduction to magical realism for those unfamiliar with the genre. An engaging, heartfelt exploration of the multifaceted inner lives of teen girls and sisterhood.—Ann Foster, Saskatoon Public Library, Sask.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemoreFeiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250162748.
Gr 8 Up–The story begins in the present day describing Rosella Oliva’s fifth-generation shoe-making family during their town’s yearly “glimmer”: a time of magical happenings one week every October. This time of year the shoes they craft overtake their wearers resulting in impulsive acts of love and desire. To understand why this occurs, readers will travel back to the summer of 1518, when an illness sweeps through Strasbourg, France, causing women to dance uncontrollably until death. Believing that witchcraft or demonic influence is responsible, the authorities blame an unassuming family of Romani descent and endeavor to cast out the evil in their midst. The stories and characters intertwine in short chapters of lush prose and two complex story lines. The author uses Hans Christian Andersen’s morality tale “The Red Shoes” as the basis for an original exploration of hidden sexuality in times past to guide readers’ understanding of LGBTQ issues today. It is a powerful exposé of how differences are misunderstood, judged, and villainized by fear. VERDICT A bold contemporary journey into generational secrets and perceptions of evil and otherness. Not just for fans of fairy tale fantasies, socially conscious teens will find plenty to grapple with here.—Jane Miller, Nashville Public Library

Never Look Back by Lilliam RiveraBloomsbury. ISBN 9781547603732.
Gr 9 Up–This is a modern retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice Greek myth featuring Latinx teens. Eury and her mother lost their home to Hurricane Maria but Eury knows it was no ordinary storm. The death spirit Ato befriended Eury as a child. As she grew older, he became more possessive and sinister, wreaking havoc to get her attention and promising to take her to el Inframundo, the Underworld, so they could be together forever. While visiting her cousin in the Bronx, she meets Pheus, a talented and charming Afro-Dominican bachata musician. Pheus wants to spend all his time getting to know Eury and soon learns that her traumatic experience in Puerto Rico was created by a supernatural being, something outside of his comfort zone. When Ato finally succeeds in taking Eury to the Underworld, Pheus risks everything to bring her back but must follow the cardinal rule of all myths: Don’t turn around. This book seamlessly blends Caribbean and Greek myth into a contemporary teen novel, exploring realistic aspects of identity, stereotypes, trauma, and romance. VERDICT This #OwnVoices novel is highly recommended for all teen collections.—Marissa Lieberman, East Orange P.L., NJ


Latinx YA Realistic Fiction covers: Clap if you land, Punching the Air, Furia

Realistic Fiction

The New David Espinoza by Fred AcevesHarperTeen. ISBN 9780062489883.
Gr 9 Up–Muscle dysmorphia is a little-discussed type of body dysmorphia that strikes mostly men and boys who try to become as buff as possible. It grips David Espinoza, a self-described “stick figure,” who commits to a summer of intense bodybuilding after bully Ricky sucker punches him, posts the video, and kids start calling David “Bitchslap.” At the gym, a muscle man named Alpha, who’s competing to win the Mr. Florida title, speeds his transformation with steroids, and soon his young admirer is hooked as well. His drug use tests the love of his little sister and his father, a Mexican immigrant who must bear witness as David cuts family ties to move in with Alpha. It also masks the warning signs of his idol’s downfall, whose inevitable fate provides the impetus for David’s turnaround. VERDICT A much-needed novel about steroid addiction from the point of view of a high school boy who’s the victim of bullying.—Georgia Christgau, LaGuardia Community ­College, Long ­Island City, NY

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth AcevedoHarperCollins/HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062882769.
Gr 9 Up–A deadly plane crash brings secrets to light and families together in this novel told in verse. Camino lives in the Dominican Republic where she spends her days swimming and serving as an apprentice to her aunt, a healer, as she makes house calls. Yahaira is a chess champ and lives in New York with her parents and next door to her girlfriend. Alternating between Camino and Yahaira’s perspectives, the story explores the grief of losing a loved one while discovering sisterhood. VERDICT Crisp verse depicts heartbreak and bravery, while expert pacing culminates in a lyrical achievement in storytelling that is highly recommended.—Samantha Lumetta, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra CuevasBlink. ISBN 9780310769774.
Gr 8 Up–Isabella has faced a lot of heartbreak and disappointment. Her beloved grandmother, who instilled in her a passion for cooking, recently passed away, and her parents divorced after a rocky marriage and her father’s affair. The silver lining: she’s spending the summer in France with her father and new stepmother and participating in a highly selective cooking class for young people at the restaurant of the world-famous Chef Grattard. Cuevas does a wonderful job of weaving together a coming of age, early love story with compelling characters and the beautiful scenery of Europe. What makes the story unique is the emphasis on career success while also maintaining self-care and a moral compass. Isabella is a character who many teens would love to have as a friend, with her raw honesty, ambition, and genuine passion for her loved ones as well as the culinary arts. VERDICT A heartwarming testament to the power of female friendships, the drive for success on one’s own terms, and accepting one’s family, even if they turn out differently than originally thought.—Margaret A. Robbins, University of Georgia, Athens

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De LeonS. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534438248.
Gr 7-10–Everything is changing. American-born Liliana and her twin brothers live in Boston with their El Salvadoran mother and Guatemalan father, who has been mysteriously absent for weeks. No one talks about where her dad is or when he is coming back, and Liliana doesn’t have the heart to ask her mother, who is often crying and exhausted. The book opens just as Liliana has been accepted into METCO, a program to desegregate schools by putting good students from low-performing urban schools into high-achieving suburban schools. VERDICT A timely addition to most collections, this realistic fiction title will resonate with many readers.—Katie Llera, Brunner Elementary School, Scotch Plains, NJ

Furia by Yamile Saied MéndezAlgonquin. ISBN 9781616209919.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Camila “Furia” Hassan navigates a world of lies in Rosario, Argentina. At home she plays the respectful and innocent daughter who is dedicated to learning English and attending medical school. Obedient to her abusive father, loyal to her rising-soccer-star brother and dedicated to her overwhelmed mother, Camila does not show her true colors. The headstrong Latina has dreams of her own: To earn a scholarship to a university and play soccer in the United States, to stick up for women’s rights in her beloved hometown, and to pursue her own relationship with Rosario’s local soccer hero and international heartthrob Diego “El Titan” Ferrari. With a mix of Spanish words, vivid dialogue, and rich description, Mendez paints a realistic image of a young woman battling to become herself against the odds. Instances of abuse and child death are described in a sensitive manner for mature readers. VERDICT This book is a powerful and realistic novel.—Emily Bayci-Mroczek, Naperville Public Library-Naper Boulevard Library, IL

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor NameyS. & S./­Atheneum. ISBN 9781534471245.
Gr 7 Up–Nestled in Miami, Lila has been surrounded by her Cuban family and has her life planned out after high school—take over her abuela’s bakery, move in with her best friend, and keep seeing her boyfriend Andrés. Lila’s best friend Stef wants to do missionary work in a rural village in Africa, Andrés breaks up with her, then the worst thing happens—her abuela passes away. Lila is left numb and, in an attempt to feel something, she goes for a run that lasts hours without telling anyone. Worried, her family makes the decision to send Lila to England to stay with family. There, Lila misses her Cuban family, sunny weather, and her old life. She is stuck in the past and can’t seem to move on. New scenery helps Lila reflect on her life and bring into focus what she wants, which may not be what she thought it was. It also doesn’t hurt that she meets a cute boy named Orion. The teen’s sweet love story and desire to find herself while trying to stay connected to her Cuban heritage is a relatable message. VERDICT Readers who have often wondered about stepping outside their comfort zone can find courage in Lila’s story.—Katie Llera, Brunner Elem. Sch., Scotch Plains, NJ

Where We Go From Here by Lucas RochaPUSH. ISBN 9781338556247.
Gr 10 Up –This much-needed Brazilian import, addressing the stigmas surrounding those living with HIV, could not be more welcome. The accessible prose, narrated by three young men in Rio, unveils life in the age of antiretrovirals. Rocha deftly handles the romantic woes and glories, as well as the triumphs of friendship, within the gay community: the camaraderie of Rio’s drag queen scene; the complicated behavior of men who haven’t come out for various reasons; the lack of parental support (or the blessing of having understanding parents and families); and the daily burden of hiding who you are. VERDICT An authentic, deeply felt debut, this book is chock-full of poignant conversation starters for books clubs and collections serving older teens.—Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School H.S., New York City

Running by Natalia SylvesterHMH. ISBN 9780358124351.
Gr 8 Up –The better part of Cuban American teenager Mariana (Mari) Ruiz’s life has been spent in smiling service to her father Senator Anthony Ruiz’s political aspirations. Mari’s unwavering support of her father, however, is tested by intense scrutiny during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Increasing unease over her role comes to a head when Mari bolts prior to an important television interview. Fallout from her disappearing act strains Mari’s relationship with her parents and worsens her status at school. While seeking social refuge with student activist Jackie Velez, Mari discovers that her father does not hold the values that she thought he did. Caught between supporting her family and standing up for what is right, Mari must choose a side that she believes in. Sylvester delivers a captivating coming-of-age narrative about the power of truth and finding your voice. VERDICT This powerful novel will provoke much discussion on topics like the political machine, youth activism, and environmental justice. Highly recommended for all libraries.—Pearl Derlaga, York County P.L., VA

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée WilliamsAbrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419734939.
Gr 9 Up–Set against the backdrop of New York’s transit system, an unlikely love blooms between two budding artists. Alex, a talented baseball player with a demanding Dominican father, secretly writes poetry. He doesn’t want to let his father down but he wants to explore his own dreams outside of baseball. However, he knows baseball is the way out of poverty and the bridge to respect in a world that sees him as just another thug. Isabelle is a brilliant dancer with a bright future. To the outside world, everything looks perfect—her wealth and beauty provide her opportunities and privilege—but there are things she wishes she could change, like her mother’s elitist attitude and prejudices. There’s also the secret about her brother. Isabelle and Alex meet on the subway and fall in love, but when her father loses his job, Isabelle’s whole world is turned upside down. This is a love story that sheds light on self-hatred and colorism in the Latinx community. VERDICT Serious romantics will enjoy this love story set against racism, classism, colorism, and mental health stigma.—Cicely Lewis, Meadowcreek High School, Norcross, GA

Punching the Air by Ibi. Zoboi & Yusef SalaamHarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062996480. POP.
Gr 8 Up –Sixteen-year-old Amal is tried and convicted of an act of violence against a white boy. While there is a sense that he might not have done what he was accused of doing, it is unimportant whether this is the case for the book to work. Through Amal’s first-person verse narration, readers learn about his aspirations as a poet and artist, as well as his experience entering the prison system as a young Black man. The authors do an excellent job of showing how the prison experience can dehumanize young men and how their inherent talents can be overshadowed by their feelings of powerlessness and rage. VERDICT This book will be Walter Dean Myers’s Monster for a new generation of teens. An important, powerful, and beautiful novel that should be an essential purchase for any library that serves teens.—Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Lib. Svcs., OR


YA Latinx SciFI covers Each of Us a Desert, Sia Martinez, Sanctuary


Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez GillilandS. & S./Simon Pulse. ISBN 9781534448636.
Gr 9 Up–Sia and her father, a park ranger, live alone in the Arizona desert mourning the disappearance of Sia’s mother after she was deported to Mexico, escaped, and attempted to walk across the Sonoran Desert to return home. Years have passed and while most people believe Sia’s mother has died, she still makes a monthly trek out to the desert during the new moon to perform a candlelit ritual she hopes will guide her mother home. Sia encounters new student Noah during one of her desert rituals and though she is initially bothered by his intrusion in her sacred space, she soon discovers an undeniable attraction to him, especially when the duo is paired up to work on a school assignment. When Sia and Noah witness an unidentified flying object crash in the desert, they are shocked to see Sia’s mother emerge from the wreckage. Debut author Gilliland uses lush descriptions of setting and desert imagery paired with lively dialogue to craft a story that blends science fiction with Mexican folklore, all within a contemporary young adult novel that explores grief, friendship, immigration, consent, and the powerful bond between mother and daughter. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for most collections.—Samantha Lumetta, P.L. of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza & Abby SherPutnam. ISBN 9781984815712.  
Gr 7 Up–A stunning work of YA dystopian fiction driven by the ardent voice of a teenage protagonist. The novel captures the United States’ currently ominous immigration policies and extends them to violent extremes, making the stress and fear of living as an undocumented person come alive through the foil of a technocratic surveillance state. Vali, a girl of Colombian descent, lives in small-town Vermont with her mother and brother. The family lost their father to a traumatic immigration incident, and Mom supports them by working on a dairy farm. Vali is undocumented but carries a “fake chip” in her wrist that she uses to scan into her public school and various government buildings. The plot points get the blood pumping, and the familial portrait rendered throughout the fast-paced drama is rich in symbolism. VERDICT This novel is a triumph in its genre and so politically astute that it sears.—Sierra Dickey, Ctr. for New Americans, Northampton, MA

Each of Us a Desert by Mark OshiroTor Teen. ISBN 9781250169211.
Gr 9 Up–In a future where the world is mostly dry desert after La Quema burned everything, Xochitl is counted on in Empalme to pass on the truths confessed to her by the villagers to the god Solís—an essential task that must be done to keep dark truths from manifesting as dangerous pesadillas. Exhausted from the heavy burden of this ritual and beginning to question her role as cuentista, a role she never chose and does not want to spend the rest of her life doing, Xochitl makes the drastic decision to keep a story her friend gave to her—a story that could have dire consequences for Empalme. VERDICT A cross between Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire, this haunting story will stay with readers just like the stories Xochitl has kept.—Selenia Paz, Harris County P.L., Houston

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