12 YA Novels with Latinx Protagonists Falling in Love, Having Adventures, and More

Latinx Heritage Month starts on September 15 and ends on October 15. These novels for teens celebrate the broad range of the Latinx experience.

Latinx Heritage Month starts on September 15 and ends on October 15. These novels for teens celebrate the broad range of the Latinx experience.


Ballad & Dagger by Daniel José Older. Rick Riordan Presents. ISBN 9781368070829.
Once upon a time, the Caribbean island of San Madrigal was home to “that particularly wonderful mix of humanity...Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates” as well as Indigenous peoples, European Jews, and freed West Africans. But the island sunk during a hurricane, scattering its inhabitants to Brooklyn. Fifteen years later, high school junior and piano prodigy Mateo lives with two aunts (one corporeal, the other ghostly). His musical dreams get suddenly waylaid when, according to prophecy, he’s identified as one of “three initiated, fully awakened children of the original spirits” and the trio—when found—will raise and restore Madrigal.

Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316460385.
Aarón’s mom recently died from cancer. Mia’s mother abandoned her family; her father, consumed by his heartbreak, died from alcoholism. Both families haven’t been able to recover from their losses, but DJ Aaron and trumpeter Mia hope to escape their trauma with a spot at a fancy school that is offering music scholarships to kids in their San Antonio, TX, neighborhood. In alternating chapters, we see how each teen struggles to fight their demons and change their destinies.

Diamond Park by Phillippe Diederich. Dutton. ISBN 9780593354254.
It was supposed to be a quick trip to pick up their dream car, a 1959 Chevy Impala, from Magaña’s godfather. High school seniors Flaco, Magaña, Tiny, and Susi leave Houston and head to Diamond Park.  This moving and fast-paced story at its core is about freeing a friend, but it’s also about Flaco finding himself. 

Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas & Marie Marquardt. Knopf. ISBN 9780593425855.
Malena Rosario finds herself in Florida after her home in Puerto Rico is destroyed by Hurricane María. The last thing she expects is to be attacked by the school’s administration for not wearing a bra to school. Ruby McAllister is used to speaking out but is secretly uncertain about her own future. When she sees how Malena is being treated, she speaks up. Malena and Ruby’s lives become intertwined as they fight for what they believe in and discover what they have inside.

Rima's Rebellion: Courage in a Time of Tyranny by Margarita Engle. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534486935.
After taking readers to 1991 Cuba in last year’s Your Heart, My Sky, Engle travels further back in Cuba’s history to the 1920s, where women are struggling to win the right to vote. Rima, having been born illegitimately, faces bullying constantly—but finds solace in riding horses with her grandmother. As women fight for suffrage, Rima finds inspiration and strength in others, and during these unprecedented times, begins falling in love.

[See also: Seven Not-to-Miss 2022 YA Books with Latinx Protagonists]

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250803351.
When her father, the most famous Dragador in Hispalia, is injured, Zarela Zalvidar must learn how to fight with dragons herself if she wants to maintain a hold on the arena that belongs to her family. Her only hope is an unwilling dragon hunter she must convince to help her. This fantasy novel based on medieval Spain is sure to be a favorite with fans of fantasy, adventure, and of course, dragons.

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823447183.
The author of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega returns with this timely novel about what can happen when small lies get out of control. Teen Kat Sanchez has a secret—she is also 21-year-old Max Monroe, a popular social media influencer with a fun and adventurous life. At least, online she is. But when the person Kat has been stealing from to create her online persona finds out, her life quickly spirals out of control.

 Lulu and Milagro's Search for Clarity by Angela Velez. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063071780.
Ever since their perfect older sister Clara left for college, Lulu and Milagro have been pursuing their own goals—studious Lulu hitting the books and working hard to obtain a summer internship at Stanford, and fashion-forward and fun-loving Milagro devoting more time to her boyfriend. When they suddenly find themselves on a weeklong field trip exploring possible colleges, Lulu and Milagro find new friendships and discover truths about themselves and Clara.

 Before Takeoff by Adi Alsaid. Knopf. ISBN 9780593375761. 
This exquisite piece of speculative fiction powerfully highlights the challenges facing young adults by creating a microcosm of the world’s problems inside the Atlanta airport. Strangers James, cued as Latinx, and Michelle, biracial French and Thai, witness and experience the prejudice driving many acts of fear and rage. They move through the chaos while sharing vulnerable conversations, particularly the fears of facing a world that often seems more bad than good.

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250624147. 
Although many people no longer remember the lore of the nearby lake, Bastián has always been privy to its secrets. Only one other person knows the secrets of the lake—Lore, a genderfluid nonbinary teen with dyslexia who has just moved to Bastián’s town after an event they refuse to speak about. Although Bastián and Lore share feelings of anxiety and shame around their neurodivergence, they find themselves revealing more of that part of themselves as they attempt to calm the magic of the lake.

The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta. Farrar. ISBN 9781250754851.
Indir is a Dreamer, part of a long line of seers who has been raised in the Temple of Night surrounded by her mother and aunts. Right before the king dies, the teen sees the oncoming chaos and destruction his blasphemous son will bring, and that somehow she’s a part of it. Saya can also see what others can’t, but instead of being trained to use her abilities, she has been exploited by her mother and has never lived in one place for very long. The girls must fight for their own survival and the survival of their community in this intense duology opener. 

The Turning Pointe by Vanessa L Torres. Knopf. ISBN 9780593426135. 
Torres’s novel reads like a love letter to Minneapolis and the 1980s. At the center of this throwback is 16-year-old Rosa Dominguez, the daughter of a demanding ballet instructor. Torres’s coming-of-age novel tackles guilt, a family enduring a father’s alcoholism, a mother’s withdrawal of love, and a sister’s disability. While carrying these family burdens, Rosa learns to navigate the new terrain of a budding romance and desire. 


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