Recently, there has been an explosion of fantastic YA books by Latino authors and I’ve been loving it. For this list I’ve included young adult books written by authors of Latin-American descent. Many of these are classics while some are new releases. And as with great YA stories, they’re perfect for teen and adult readers alike.
Best YA Books by Latino Authors
Here are 20 of the best YA books by Latino authors:
The New David Espinoza
Published: February 11, 2020
David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again the fall.
Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.
As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.
This Train is Being Held
Published: February 11, 2020
Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.
Isa is a dancer. She’d love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren’t dead set against it…just like she’s dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa’s privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she’d ever tell that to Alex.
Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?
Everything Within and In Between
Published: October 5, 2021
For Ri Fernández’s entire life, she’s been told, “We live in America and we speak English.” Raised by her strict Mexican grandma, Ri has never been allowed to learn Spanish.
What’s more, her grandma has pulled Ri away from the community where they once belonged. In its place, Ri has grown up trying to fit in among her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in an attempt try to live out her grandmother’s version of the “American Dream.”
In her heart, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when Ri was young, would accept her exactly how she is and not try to turn her into someone she’s never wanted to be. So when Ri finds a long-hidden letter from her mom begging for a visit, she decides to reclaim what Grandma kept from her: her heritage and her mom.
But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be and finding her doesn’t make Ri’s struggle to navigate the interweaving threads of her mixed heritage any less complicated. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri herself.
Salty, Bitter, Sweet
Published: March 3, 2020
Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. And after moving in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. She balances her time between avoiding the awkward “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.
The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside down?
Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.
How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?
Published: July 14, 2020
When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.
In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.
But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From
Published: August 18, 2020
First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.
Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.
There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.
There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.
And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.
So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And 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.
Clap When You Land
Published: May 5, 2020
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
We Are Not From Here
Published: May 19, 2020
Pulga has his dreams.
Chico has his grief.
Pequeña has her pride.
And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.
In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Published: August 11, 2020
It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”
Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.
Then one night, under a million stars, 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.
As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.
Never Look Back
Published: September 15, 2020
Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .
Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.
Published: September 15, 2020
In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.
At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.
On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.
But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.
A Thunderous Whisper
Published: October 9, 2012
Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he’s been off fighting in Spain’s Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he’s as far from a whisper as a boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. Mathias’s father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. For the first time, she’s making a difference in the world.
And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Published: March 26, 2013
One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.
Once Upon a Quinceañera
Published: July 5, 2022
Carmen Aguilar just wants to make her happily ever after come true. Except apparently “happily ever after” for Carmen involves being stuck in an unpaid summer internship. Now she has to perform as a party princess! In a ball gown. During the summer. In Miami.
Fine. Except that’s only the first misfortune in what’s turning out to be a summer of Utter Disaster.
But if Carmen can manage dancing in the blistering heat, fending off an oh-so-unfortunately attractive ex, and stopping her spoiled cousin from ruining her own quinceañera—Carmen might just get that happily ever after—after all.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Published: February 2, 2021
Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her?
Because it’s time people did.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Published: October 17, 2017
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
Published: September 1, 2020
It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked–from buses to grocery stores. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee.
Now on the run, Vali and her family are desperately trying to make it to her tía Luna’s in California, a sanctuary state that is currently being walled off from the rest of the country. But when Vali’s mother is detained before their journey even really begins, Vali must carry on with her younger brother across the country to make it to safety before it’s too late.
Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity
Published: February 8, 2022
Overachiever Luz “Lulu” Zavala has straight As, perfect attendance, and a solid ten-year plan. First up: nail her interview for a dream internship at Stanford, the last stop on her school’s cross-country college road trip. The only flaw in her plan is Clara, her oldest sister, who went off to college and sparked a massive fight with their overprotective Peruvian mom, who is now convinced that out-of-state-college will destroy their family. If Lulu can’t fix whatever went wrong between them, the whole trip—and her future—will be a waste.
Middle sister Milagro wants nothing to do with college or a nerdy class field trip. Then a spot opens up on the trip just as her own spring break plans (Operation Don’t Die a Virgin) are thwarted, and she hops on the bus with her glittery lipsticks, more concerned about getting back at her ex than she is about schools or any family drama. But the trip opens her eyes about possibilities she’d never imagined for herself. Maybe she is more than the boy-crazy girl everyone seems to think she is.
On a journey from Baltimore all the way to San Francisco, Lulu and Milagro will become begrudging partners as they unpack weighty family expectations, uncover Clara’s secrets, and maybe even discover the true meaning of sisterhood.
When We Make It
Published: September 21, 2021
Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.
When We Make It is a love letter to anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez’ debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet
Published: April 6, 2021
Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between not disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.
Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.
Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.
There they are: 20 of the best young adult books by Latino authors. Which of these have you read, and which would you recommend?
Looks like a lot of good books on this list. Thanks for introducing them to me.
Afoma Umesi says