26 Must-Have Latinx YA Books Filled with Romance, History, and Magical Realism

This eclectic roundup of YA titles features the latest by Anna-Marie McLemore, Indigenous literature from Latin America, and some delectable rom-coms.

This eclectic roundup of YA titles features the latest by Anna-Marie McLemore, Indigenous literature from Latin America, and some delectable rom-coms.

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780759556058.
Gr 9 Up–Mateo is a gay Mexican American teenager with dreams of stardom. He and his friend Adam want to be drama students at the prestigious Tisch School at NYU. He begins to doubt that dream when another actor at an audition makes a racist comment. Mateo has always had trouble sewing together all of the different parts of his identity. He’s never felt fully Mexican or fully American. Mateo’s carefully constructed path to acting school is disrupted when his mother and father are arrested by ICE agents. This is a novel about the human face of the immigrant community and is an insightful look at U.S. immigration policy and the families it affects.

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062996510.
Gr 9 Up–When 16-year-old Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she works hard to learn English and fit in at her new high school. No matter how much effort she puts into her studies, though, she is still caught in moments of confusion, as teachers and classmates talk rapidly and sprinkle their speech with American idioms. When she meets Harrison, a handsome, blonde-haired boy in her math class, Ana begins to come out of her shell, making more of an effort to communicate. Andreu creates a realistic portrait of the obstacles facing English language learners in the United States. By cleverly blocking out portions of text, she mimics what language sounds like to the ears of someone who has not yet achieved fluency. An engaging novel about language, culture, and empathy. Highly recommended for all libraries.

The Witch Owl Parliament by David Bowles. illus. by Raúl the Third. Lee & Low/Tu Bks. ISBN 9781620145920.
Gr 8 Up–After a century of exilethe shape-shifting witch owls have returned to the Republic of Santander to take back the land they feel was wrongly taken from them, by force if necessary. Healer-in-training Cristina Franco Pedregón dies in battle against the witch owls, and her brother Enrique Franco resorts to engineering and alchemy prohibited by the Christian Church to revive her before she is lost forever. Now part machine, Cristina must decide whether to continue her work outside the Church, if she even can. This graphic novel is easy to follow and it leaves readers with much to ponder, setting up a historical and magical steampunk world that can only grow from here. For teens who enjoy intellectually stimulating, action-packed tales.

Muted by Tami Charles. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338673524.
Gr 10 Up–Living in Shohola Falls, PA, Haitian American 17-year-old Denver and her friends Dalisay, who is Dominican, and Shakira, who is Black, sing in an R&B group called Angelic Voices. When they are noticed by popular singer and producer Sean “Mercury” Ellis, their world, which looks bright and promising, becomes full of deceit and isolation. Charles’s heartbreaking novel-in-verse shows the harsh realities of the music industry and runs parallel to the real-life #MuteRKelly and #MeToo movements.

Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger by Margarita Engle. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534464964.
Review pending:  Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply. He wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts—but is it enough to withstand el período especial?

The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas by María García Esperón. illus. by Amanda Mijangos. tr. by David Bowles. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140152.
Gr 5 Up–This text features sacred stories that have been passed down within and by Indigenous cultures of the Americas for thousands of years. Each of these mesmerizing stories pulls readers in, leaving them wishing they could remain within these worlds much longer. Tales provide lessons humans should heed and stories about how things came to be, such as the stars, the sun, and the moon.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. S. & S. ISBN 9781534448667.
Gr 9 Up–At the age of 17, twin sisters Moon and Star Fuentez’s lives are still controlled by their mother. Star is a “purity culture” social media influencer whose flawless natural beauty is the focus of her ambitious mother, while Moon, a “size 16,” is required to be their porter and photographer. Only Moon’s secret acceptance to Tulane University’s art program in the fall gives her hope. Recounted in a highly descriptive manner with a healthy dose of magical realism, Gilliland-Vasquez’s second book weaves together themes of healing from fat- and disability-shaming, homophobia, and domestic and religious abuse.

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062996831.
Gr 9 Up–When Carmen Aguilar starts her summer internship at Dreams Come True, she is dreading the long days ahead dressing up as a party princess. Quitting is not an option since she needs the internship to graduate high school, so she does her best to play the part. No matter how bad she expected it to be, she did not imagine that her ex-boyfriend, Mauro, would be one of her coworkers and her dance partner. As if things couldn’t get worse, Carmen learns that the company has been hired by her younger cousin, Ariana, for her quinceañera. A charming novel that will appeal to teens looking for a love story.

The Immortal Boy/El Inmortal by Francisco Montaña Ibáñez. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140442.
 Gr 9 Up–Ibáñez carefully unravels a memorable parallel narrative in this dual-language novella. Set in Bogotá, Colombia, five siblings between the ages of five and 13, abandoned by their father, share a one-bedroom living space and struggle to feed themselves. Across the city, Nina has recently arrived at an orphanage following her parents’ political imprisonment. There, she becomes fascinated by a mysterious child known as the “Immortal Boy,” who chases away bullies and speaks to no one. An unforgettable and tragic story, with many entry points for deep discussions.

Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz Keil. Soho Teen. SBN 9781641291712.
Gr 9 Up–When Iph, a 17-year-old of Greek and Mexican descent, learns of her father’s plans to send her brother away, she sets out to rescue him. But a chance meeting with the generous, nonbinary George opens her mind and heart as they wander Portland. As a kind, questioning, neurodivergent teen with anxiety, Orr was never the son his father wanted. In alternating perspectives, this contemporary reimagining diverges from its inspirations: the myth of Iphigenia and Orestes and the Brothers Grimm’s “Brother and Sister.” An insightful reimagining of myth that champions an array of social causes. An absolute must-read, especially for teens and educators who love advocacy, myths, or folktales.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316460279.
Gr 9 Up–In Austin, TX, Pen Prado’s Mexican American family runs Nacho’s Tacos, a popular place to eat and gather and the community hub that neighborhood residents turn to in times of need. Xander lives with his abuelo and lives in fear of his undocumented status being revealed. When Xander takes a job at Nacho’s Tacos, he finds a place to belong and a family as his relationship with Pen progresses, but those things are threatened by J.P., or El Martillo, a loan shark who has corrupt members of law enforcement on his payroll. This YA contemporary debut is not to be missed.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250624123.
Gr 8 Up–In this novel inspired by their own experience, McLemore employs the device of magical realism as smoothly and artistically as protagonist Ciela creates pan dulce in her aunt’s panadería. This first-person narrative opens like a fairy tale, recounting how her great-grandmother passed the gift of matching specific Mexican sweet bread to each client’s needs. This ushers readers into the spring night of Ciela’s junior year when she deposits an unknown white boy at the ER. Both of them were sexually assaulted, something that she cannot think about, much less talk about, so she mentally ascribes her own narrative to avoid splintering. A masterpiece intertwining painful teen realities involving injustices based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender with trauma and healing within loving, supportive families.

Chunky by Yehudi Mercado. illus. by Yehudi Mercado. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780062972798.
Gr 4-8–Middle school student Hudi has become a regular at his local hospital, due to a variety of injuries and other health issues, including losing a lung. His doctors and parents are fearful that his weight isn’t helping his health, so, despite a lack of interest and natural ability, he finds himself thrust into the world of team sports. But Hudi’s humor and imagination keep him going—along with support from his imaginary mascot, Chunky, a chipper, furry, horned pink creature who calls himself Hudi’s “biggest fan”—as life at home with his family becomes more stressful. In this graphic novel, Mercado offers relatable insights into the life of a child who is eager to fit in but also coming into his sense of self, sometimes with the help of adults and sometimes in spite of them. A compelling coming-of-age memoir.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite. Inkyard. ISBN 9781335145802.
Gr 9 Up–Keziah Leah Smith is a YouTube vlogger and activist. She’s just turned 18, and she’s excited about attending her first Black Lives Matter protest—but an interaction with police at the rally ends with Kezi losing her life. Her sisters Happi and Genny and her best friends Ximena and Derek decide to honor Kezi by taking a road trip on Route 66. The question of Blackness and acceptability is examined—the novel makes it clear that there are multiple ways to be a Black person in America and that acceptability doesn’t equal safety.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823447176.
Gr 9 Up–Charlie Vega is struggling, and who can blame her? She’s bullied by her mother about her weight, resigned to being overshadowed by her thin and popular best friend Amelia, withdrawn from her Puerto Rican extended family after the death of her father, and tossed aside by her admittedly unworthy crush. When she meets a new coworker, Brian, it’s not easy to let go of her insecurities in pursuit of her own happiness. Charlie’s romantic journey is adorable, perfectly encompassing all the giddy hopes and insecurities of first love.

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338620825.
 Gr 9 Up–At 17, Felipe, who enjoys living with his single, artsy, and understanding mom in an apartment complex, is comfortable with being gay. However, he’s uncomfortable with being fat and feeling too vulnerable to others’ judgments. Then Caio, a more outgoing boy from a neighboring apartment, is sent by his own overprotective mother, who is going away for a 15-day vacation, to stay under Felipe’s mom’s care. Felipe and Caio interact socially for the first time in years, though as kids they happily played mermaids together in the complex pool. This LGBTQ–themed story with a soul that goes well beyond exploring queer identity will delight teen readers of realistic fiction.

This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano. Philomel. ISBN 9780593116876.
Gr 8 Up–Recent high school grad Ellen Lopez-Rourke likes “Harry Potter” as much as the next teen, but never imagined herself joining a local Quidditch team. The summer before college brings lots of changes for Ellen. Ellen’s first-person narrative is strong and relatable. Teens will identify with her struggle with identity (as emphasized by the fact that people are often confused with her Latinx-Irish hyphenated last name), and Ellen’s desire to change the world even if the adults in her life don’t always understand why. A timely coming-of-age story. Recommended for most collections.

Our Way Back to Always by Nina Moreno. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780759557475.
Gr 8 Up–Senior year is about to begin when Lou unearths “Lou and Sam’s To-Do List Before We Graduate,” a six-year-old bucket list Lou created with Sam, her ex-best friend. When Sam discovers Lou found the list, he’s determined they’ll complete it together before the end of the school year. For Lou, this means getting close to Sam again, which has her wary given her past experience. For Sam, it’s his chance to prove he can complete something, despite a recent tragedy throwing his life off course. A comforting, feel-good read, with an endlessly hopeful message of being true to yourself. A definite purchase for library shelves.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. ISBN 9781534496194. 
Review pending: The highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an achingly romantic, tender tale sure to captivate fans of Adam Silvera and Mary H.K. Choi.

The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063025769.
Gr 9 Up–In a California high school where the Gay/Straight Alliance consists of straight white students, a group of queer and non-cisgender friends find refuge in French Club. It doesn’t matter that most of them don’t take French. Being LGBTQIA+ in a heteronormative environment is not easy and they need each other. Mark is the transitioning son of a politician who would prefer to pretend that he does not exist, so Mark tries to stay out of the public eye. But when a peer is attacked for being gay and the school administration does nothing, Mark decides to run for class president, representing change. A recommended purchase for any library but especially those where books by Becky Albertalli and Benjamin Alire Sáenz are popular.

Simone Breaks All the Rules by Debbie Rigaud Simone. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338681727.
Gr 6 Up–High school senior Simone Thibodeaux has always played by her parents’ rules—whether she wanted to or not. With a perfect older sister not offering much help rebellion-wise, and as graduation—and more importantly, prom—looms, Simone joins with two friends with similarly strict parents and the trio composes a senior year bucket list to help them finally let loose. Fans of Jenny Han and Brandy Colbert will find much to cheer about in this entertaining and charming novel.

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria. HMH. ISBN 9780358329732.
Gr 9 Up–Sisters Eden and Dani grew up living a double life—swordplay and school, friends and fire. Being a part of a dragon slayer family entails grueling practice, but also lying to anyone who isn’t born into the clan. Eden, who practices diligently, avoided her schoolmates, graduating high school with the basic credits. Dani, who’d rather watch a dragon movie with her friends than actually spend time with a dragon, tries to avoid her pedigree, going to parties and doing anything to live the average teenage life. The plot will resonate with young teens though the language, violence, and characters skew older.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. ISBN 9781250313973.
Gr 9 Up–This dark reimagining of Peter Pan concentrates on 18-year-old Wendy Darling. She’s struggling to get over the disturbing events of a kidnapping five years earlier that left her in the middle of the woods with no memories of what happened, and her two younger brothers missing. When kids begin disappearing in her sleepy hometown of Astoria, OR, it reignites the drive to find out the truth about her past. A captivating mystery that will ensnare those who enjoy retellings and stories with a touch of magic.

Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narvaez Varela. Cinco Puntos. ISBN 9781947627482.
Gr 7 Up–This novel uses magical realism and multiple poetic forms in telling 13-year-old Anamaria Aragón Sosa’s story. Set in Cuidad Juárez, Mexico in 1999, the work focuses on a time of fear as girls and women disappear daily, particularly those who are poor with dark skin. The sudden appearance of a woman claiming to be Anamaria’s own 30-year-old self lends mystery to the plot. Thirty speaks cryptically to Anamaria, offering advice, encouragement, and a composition notebook for writing poetry. This is a moving story of a girl on the cusp of womanhood who learns to empathize with others’ sadness and finally to care for herself.

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez. Dial. ISBN 9780593324486.
Review pending: An unforgettable debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it," touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity, and gentrification, for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and Elizabeth Acevedo.

 Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa. Skyscape/Amazon. ISBN 9781542027052.
Gr 9 Up–Julián “Jules” Luna is a closeted gay teen pressured by his father to be a machismo, heteronormative Mexican American. He has endured both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father, who refuses to allow him to acknowledge his true self. One night, a drunken tweet results in Jules inadvertently outing himself to his entire school. While some students harass him, his core group of friends supports him, and a Twitter flirtation evolves into a long-distance relationship with Mat, a Vietnamese American teen living in Los Angeles. Jules dreams of escaping Corpus Christi, TX, going to college in L.A., and being close to Mat. When a hate crime forcibly outs Jules, his dad kicks him out of the house. Tender, touching, hopeful, and hilarious; enthusiastically recommended for all collections.


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