Representation matters because people should feel seen in the books that they read. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, here are our favorite young adult books written by Latinx authors about Latinx characters.
Latinx Authors You Need to Read ASAP
1. Raquel Vasquez Gilliland — Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
When I started reading Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, I didn’t get up until I finished it. Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s writing is stunning. This lyrical book discussing family, immigration, first love, and some emotional trauma all while exploring the vastness of our universe.
It’s been three years since Sia Martinez’s mom’s deportation and ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Then one night, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.
2. Laura Taylor Namey — A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Like Lila Reyes in A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, Laura Taylor Namey is Cuban American and has said if she could live anywhere in the world, it would be London.
Lila Reyes never planned on spending her summer in England but when her life seems to be falling apart, her parents have the perfect plan. Go live with their friends in Winchester, England to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
3. Jennifer De Leon — Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From
Jennifer De Leon was the second recipient of the We Need Diverse Books grant for her debut book. Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From. This book is more timely than ever and tells the story of Liliana Cruz, a first generation Latinx American who transfers to a nearly all-white wealthy suburban high school she does what it takes to fit in. In order to do so, she builds walls around herself. However, when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable. But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.
4. Janelle Milanes — Analee, in Real Life
Janelle Milanes has written two amazing books that I couldn’t recommend more that you read! Both feature characters that are Latina, just like Janelle.
Her most recent book, Analee, in Real Life is about Analee Echevarria is a Cuban-American teen who, since the death of her mom, struggles to say what’s her mind. Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game. Although, despite how much Analee loves her online world, she wishes she could confess her feelings for her video game partner-in-crime Xolkar, a boy named Harris whom she’s actually never met. Things quickly become complicated when Analee enters a fake relationship with her lab partner, and a love triangle ensues. But Analee in Real Life is about so much more than Analee’s love life, and the dynamics of her Cuban-American family, her best friend, and her emotional journey are equally as compelling. If you love this book, definitely read Janell Milanes’ debut novel, The Victoria in My Head.
5. Lilliam Rivera — Dealing in Dreams
Lilliam Rivera is originally from the bronx, just like Margot Sanchez, the main character of her debut novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez.
Her most recent novel,Dealing in Dreams is set in the near future and is about sixteen-year-old Nalah who leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. Her dream is to give up her questionable lifestyle and move the the exclusive Mega Towers. Now Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder for a chance to live in the Mega Towers. She must cross the border in a search of the mysterious gang the Ashé Riders. But the closer she gets to her goal the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone—she cares about.
6. Carmen Rodrigues — The Universal Laws of Marco
In the summer before eighth grade, Marco Suarez kissed his best friend Sally Blake, and a spark was ignited. She left, never explaining why, only to return his senior year. But things are different this time, Marco has a girlfriend named Erika Richards, a full scholarship to college, and he’s busy with his friends and making money to support his family. The spark doesn’t matter, not anymore. But as Marco navigates the final days of high school, he learns that leaving home is never easy and a first spark is hard to ignore.
7. Matt Mendez — Barely Missing Everything
Just like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in El Paso, Texas. This is his debut novel and boy is it a good one! To quote Jason Reynolds on the matter “Mendez, a gifted storyteller with a distinct voice, is sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape.”
Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself. His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need? Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a road trip to visit Mando, a man on death row who just might be Juan’s dad. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi, Juan’s mother, is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…
8. Benjamin Alire Sáenz — Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Sáenz has won multiple awards, including the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Pura Belpré Award, which is awarded to authors for excellent portrayal of Latina Experience in Children’s publishing. He is definitely an author you want to check out and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the perfect place to start!
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as they start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—maybe more than a friendship—and it’s the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. Aristotle and Dante discover first love and loss, and this beautiful lyrical novel will never leave you.
9. Margarita Engle — Soaring Earth
Soaring Earth, is a memoir from Margarita Engle about her adolescence during the turbulent 1960s. In Soaring Earth, Margarita’s childhood straddles two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. After the revolution transforms Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, it changes Margarita’s plans in its wake. Casted into uncertainty, she grapples with the philosophies of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. Despite overwhelming circumstances, she finds solace and empowerment through her education. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.
10. Alexandra Diaz — The Crossroads
After crossing Mexico into the United States, Jaime Rivera thinks the worst is over. Starting a new school can’t be that bad. Except it is, and not just because he can barely speak English. Jaime struggles to call this strange place “home”, as his home is with his parents, abuela, and the rest of the family. But when gang violence in Guatemala means he can’t return home, he’s not sure if he wants to stay either. The US is not the great place everyone said it would be, especially if you’re sin papeles—undocumented—like Jaime. When things look bleak, hope arrives from unexpected places: a quiet boy on the bus, a music teacher, an old ranch hand. Powerful and moving, this touching sequel to The Only Road explores overcoming homesickness, finding ways to connect despite a language barrier, and discovering what it means to start over in a new place that alternates between being wonderful and completely unwelcoming.