Teen Latino Titles

Compiled and annotated in 2011 by Alma Ramos-McDermott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann Members of the CAYASC of REFORMA

Sweet 15Adler, Emily & Echevarria Alex.
Sweet 15.
New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-761-45584-4
Destiny’s parents want to throw her a Quinceañera, but Destiny doesn’t want one – not only because she’s a tomboy but also because it’ll cost too much money. She doesn’t know how to speak up for herself because of her domineering mother and mouthy older sister.
Age: 12+
Culture: Puerto Rican
Other themes: Quinceañera


Return to SenderAlvarez, Julia.
Return to Sender.
New York: Knopf, 2009.
ISBN 978-0-375-85838-3
When 11-year-old Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor rollover and can no longer work on their Vermont farm, the family hires three Mexican undocumented immigrant brothers. The oldest brings his three daughters along, as his wife is missing after trying to cross to the United States. Even though Tyler considers himself a law-abiding, patriotic American, he befriends the oldest girl, Maria. The story takes place over the course of a year and is told from both Tyler’s and Maria’s points of view as they wait for news from Maria’s mother, dodge immigration authorities, and try to keep the farm going.
Age: 10+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Immigration

Leaving GlorytownCalcines, Eduardo F.
Leaving Glorytown: One boy’s struggle under Castro.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0-374-34394-1
Arbitrary arrests, starvation and forced separations are endured by the Cuban people as the Communist regime became more oppressive. Readers gain an insight into the loving closeness Calcines shared with friends and family, and understand his mixed emotions when his family was finally granted their visa after 10 years of planning and waiting. Calcines opens the readers’ eyes to what is being endured in Cuba by those living there now, and what was left behind by those able to escape to America. Both middle and high school readers will benefit from this knowledge and, hopefully, gain a fresh perspective on what it means to be an American.
Age: 12+
Culture: Cuban
Other themes: Immigration

Tortilla SunCervantes, Jennifer.
Tortilla Sun.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010.
ISBN 978-0-811-87015-4
Twelve-year-old Izzy Roybal must spend the summer with her maternal grandmother in New Mexico when her mother signs on to do a research project in Costa Rica for graduate school. Kept from information about her mother’s Mexican-American roots and her Anglo father, who died before she was born, Izzy is impatient to learn the truth. An enchanted baseball with missing words, a neighbor boy obsessed with a treasure map, a six-year-old orphan, and the village healer all offer clues to Izzy’s past.
Age: 11+
Culture: Mexican American, Biracial/Bicultural
Other themes: Family problems

I will save youDe La Peña, Matt.
I will save you.
New York: Delacorte Press, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-385-73827-9
Kidd’s mom killed his father and herself, so he was sent to live in a group home. When he was 17 yrs. old, he ran away and got a job working at a campsite near a beach. While there, he met a girl named Olivia and fell in love. Unfortunately, an ex-best friend, Devon, who he knew from the home, shows up. Devon has decided rich people are the cause of problems in the world, and wants to kill all of them – especially Olivia. Kidd feels his only choice is to protect Olivia, even if it means confronting Devon for the first time in his life.
Age: 14+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Mental illness

The firefly lettersEngle, Margarita.
The firefly letters: A Suffragette’s journey to Cuba.
New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-805-09082-6
In this new historical fiction release, Engle follows the lives of Fredrika, a Swedish Suffragette who visits Cuba in the mid 1800’s teaching about freedom for all – including slaves, women and fireflies; a slave girl Cecilia, who dreams of her former life in Africa while wishing for freedom; and Elena, a rich planter’s daughter who is in her own kind of prison within the walls of her rich life. The three voices combine to tell the story of slavery in Cuba during this time period.
Age: 12+
Culture: Cuban
Other themes: Slavery, Women’s Rights

When the Stars go BlueFerrer, Caridad.
When the Stars go Blue.
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-312-650004-9
Soledad loves the feel of the dance floor beneath her feet, the way music makes her feel. She loses herself in her roles, and only comes back to Earth with the sound of the audience’s applause. Into this world comes Jonathan, an avid musician who appears to share the same musical intensity. Together they embark on a romantic summer adventure performing with a competitive drum and bugle corps, with Soledad playing the role of Carmen. As the summer draws to an end, another suitor vies for Soledad’s attention. The ensuing jealousy brings her stage role into reality, and her entire career as a dancer is in jeopardy.
Age: 14+
Culture: Cuban American
Other themes: Dance, Performance

90 Miles to HavanaFlores-Galbis, Enrique.
90 Miles to Havana.
New York: Roaring Book Press. 2010.
ISBN: 978-1-596-43168-3
Julian is 9 years old when the revolution comes to Cuba, and fear of what it will mean to him and his two older brothers forces his mother to send him and his brothers to the U.S. in what was known as Operation Peter Pan. Julian and his brothers join thousands of children shipped to foster homes and camps, struggling to figure out their new lives while missing their old lives. On this life-altering journey, Julian learns how to grow in ways he’d never thought possible.
Age: 12+
Culture: Cuban
Other themes: Immigration, Refugees

The Red UmbrellaGonzález, Christina Díaz.
The Red Umbrella.
New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
ISBN 978-0-375-86190-1
After Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in Cuba, 14-year-old Lucía’s parents decide to send her and her younger brother Frankie alone to the U.S. until they can obtain exit visas for themselves. The children are sent to a foster family in Nebraska and must adjust to a new climate, language, and culture, as well as being without their parents for nearly a year.
Age: 12+
Culture: Cuban
Other themes: Immigration, Refugees


Dark DudeHijuelos, Oscar.
Dark Dude.
New York: Atheneum Books, 2009.
ISBN: 978-1-416-94945-9
Rico, growing up in the 1960’s in Harlem, is tired of being hassled for his light hair and skin, of working multiple jobs, and of the violence in his neighborhood. To avoid military school, he runs away and hitchhikes to Wisconsin. As he tries to adjust to living in a rural setting, Rico tries to find himself and, while doing so, falls in love and becomes at peace with what life has to offer him.
Age: 14+
Culture: Cuban American
Other themes: Friendship, Life Experience


MuchachoJohnson, Louanne.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0-375-86117-8
Eddie Corazon attends an alternative high school for juvenile delinquents in his drug and gang infested neighborhood. While trying to live up to his “bad boy” image, he meets and falls in love with Lupe who makes him think about his future and where his actions will take him. Instead of a life spent on the streets, Eddie has choices. How he handles his reality and what he does with those choices is up to him.
Age: 14+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Alternative schooling

Life AfterLittman, Sarah Darer.
Life, After.
New York: Scholastic, 2010.
ISBN 978-0-545-15144-3
In 16 years Daniela Bensimon has seen much in her native Argentina—the terrorist bombing of the Jewish community center in 1994 that claimed the life of her aunt and her unborn cousin, and the 2001-02 economic meltdown that forced her father’s clothing store out of business. He has sunk into a deep depression, while the family starves and faces eviction. Through relatives, they are allowed to immigrate to the United States, where Dani protects another outsider from bullies and forms a bond with this mildly autistic classmate and his twin sister, who lost their father in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While clumsy handling of historical and cultural information mar this novel, it also depicts with accuracy and honesty the bond between two outsiders and circumstances that drove Dani’s family to the United States.
Age: 12+
Culture: Jews in Argentina, Argentine American
Other themes: Immigration, Terrorism, Disability 

Confetti GirlLopez, Diana.
Confetti Girl.
New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0-316-02956-8
Middle school is not going well for Lina and her best friend Vanessa. Lina’s mom has unexpectedly died, so her father buries himself in his books while Vanessa’s mom, recently divorced, creates endless supplies of cascarones, confetti filled eggs. The girls hatch a plan to set up their parents with each other and, in between Spanish dichos (sayings), the girls pursue their own love interests with not-so-successful results. The angst of adolescence comes through, making Confetti Girl true-to-life.
Age: 10+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Adolescence

GringolandiaMiller-Lachmann Lyn.
Curbstone Books, 2009.
ISBN: 978-1-931-89649-8
During the political upheaval in 1980’s Chile, Daniel’s family flees to the United States where he assimilates into a new life playing guitar with a rock band and dating. He hopes to become a citizen when he turns 18. Into his new life comes part of the old when his father is released from prison. After years of torture, his soccer and fun-loving father has been replaced by a paralyzed, bitter man. Daniel will have to face the demons his father has faced and make a decision for himself as to what he will do with his new knowledge.
Age: 14+
Culture: Chilean American
Other themes: Political unrest

What Can't WaitPerez, Ashley Hope.
What Can't Wait.
Minneapolis: Lerner/Carolrhoda, 2011.
ISBN 978-0-761-36155-8
Marisa, a high school senior with dreams of studying engineering at the University of Texas, struggles to balance her schoolwork with family responsibilities that include babysitting her niece and working at a supermarket in her Houston neighborhood. A boyfriend who wants her to attend college near him further complicates matters. Perez sets up a seemingly intractable conflict between a teenage girl’s loyalty to her family and her quest for individual fulfillment and success, showing both sides of the values that have kept Marisa’s impoverished family together and with the bare necessities at the same time as those values reduce the options of its most ambitious members.
Age: 13+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Family problems

The Queen of WaterResau, Laura and Farinango, Maria Virginia.
The Queen of Water.
New York: Delacorte, 2011.
ISBN 978-0-385-73897-2.
This collaboration is a novel based on Farinango’s childhood and adolescence as a servant in Ecuador. Like many indigenous children, Virginia is sent at the age of seven to a family that abuses her and breaks their promise to pay her and give her an education. The lively and ambitious girl overcomes her feelings of inferiority and learns to read, then secretly borrows the textbooks of her masters to teach herself science and history. Resisting the wife’s regular beatings and the husband’s sexual advances, Virginia eventually escapes their household, returns to her family, and works her way through high school and to a better life.
Age: 14+
Culture, Quichua, Ecuadorean
Other themes: Child abuse, Slavery, Indigenous peoples

IllegalRestrepo, Bettina.
New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-061-95342-2
When Nora’s father, Arturo leaves their home in Mexico to search for work in the U.S., Nora stays back with her mother, Aurora and her grandmother. Nora struggles to make sense of her loss as the three women live in poverty awaiting Arturo’s return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides she and Aurora must go to Texas to find Arturo. After a harrowing and dehumanizing border-crossing experience, they find themselves alone in a new place, unable to speak the language. Nora must find the strength to meet these challenges and locate her father—all while pining for friends, a pair of new shoes, and a Quinceañera.
Age: 12+
Culture: Mexican
Other themes: Immigration

The DreamerRyan, Pam Munoz.
The Dreamer.
New York: Scholastic, 2010.
ISBN 978-0-439-26970-9
Through vignettes real, embellished, and imagined—for Ryan ventures several times into the realm of pure fantasy—readers observe the 12-year process in which young Neftalí Reyes, with the support of his siblings, Mamadre, Uncle Orlando, and other caring adults, resists his tyrannical father’s goals for him and grows into the world-famous poet Pablo Neruda. He adopts the pen name to circumvent his father’s fear that his literary and political pursuits will embarrass the family. Exquisite illustrations and design enhance this fictionalized childhood biography of the Nobel Prize winning poet from southern Chile.
Age: 10+
Culture: Chilean
Other themes: Poetry

Last Night I Sang to the MonsterSáenz, Benjamin Alire.
Last Night I Sang to the Monster.
El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2009.
ISBN 978-1-933-69558-3
Eighteen-year-old Zach Gonzalez wakes up in a rehab center with no idea how he got there or why he is there. He doesn’t want to remember, even though he’s told that remembering and confronting the pain is the only way he will recover. With the help of his therapist, Adam, and his roommate, a 53-year-old writer named Rafael, he confronts his traumatic childhood, which includes an alcoholic father, a depressed, agoraphobic mother who sexually abused him, and a violent older brother who killed their parents and himself. Zach comes to acknowledge what it means to have been spared, to accept and love himself, and to draw strength from the “family” of people who have helped him.
Age: 14+
Culture: Mexican American/Biracial/Bicultural
Other themes: Disability

A Good Long WaySaldaña, René, Jr.
A Good Long Way.
Houston, TX: Pinata Books, 2010.
ISBN 978-1-558-85607-3
Saldaña depicts one day of crisis in the lives of three working-class Latino teens. High school freshman Roelito López is awakened at 2:30 in the morning by his older brother, Beto Jr., fighting with their father over a missed curfew. Beto Jr. leaves home to stay with old friend Jessy, but she cannot offer him shelter out of fear of her abusive father. The next day, Jessy breaks down in class, remembering her own attempts to run away from her alcoholic parents, while Roelito looks for his brother at school and Beto Jr. goes to work with his father in order to reconcile with him. The novel explores a man’s responsibility—a father for his family, and an older brother for his younger brother—and a girl who has to give up responsibility for her dysfunctional family in order to save herself.
Age: 12+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Family problems

The Last Summer of the Death WarriorsStork, Francisco X.
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors.
New York: Scholastic, 2010.
ISBN 978-0-545-15133-7
After his father’s death leaves him and his developmentally disabled sister orphans, and his sister dies under suspicious circumstances, 17-year-old Pancho Sanchez is sent to live in an orphanage, where he plots his revenge against his sister’s alleged killer. His plans are interrupted, however, when he is assigned to be the caretaker of an Anglo boy dying of brain cancer. In a story with parallels to Don Quixote, Pancho learns about D.Q.’s “Death Warrior Manifesto,” living life to the fullest, and helps D.Q. to live out his manifesto in the face of harrowing chemotherapy treatments, an overbearing and mentally unbalanced mother, and heartbreak at the hands of the beautiful Marisol.
Age: 14+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Death and dying

Marcelo in the Real WorldStork, Francisco X.
Marcelo in the Real World.
New York: Scholastic, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0-545-05690-8
Sheltered in a special school for much of his life, Marcelo Sandoval is told he must spend the summer before his senior year of high school working at his father’s law firm so he can learn about and get by in the “real world.” At the firm, Marcelo is bullied and exploited by a fellow intern, finds himself in ethical dilemmas when he discovers his father has made improper advances to a female employee and the firm has concealed evidence to assist a corporate client in a liability suit, and learns about love, lust, and the costs of making moral choices. This book about a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome is a thoughtful multigenerational (appeals to teens, their parents, and their grandparents) novel. It is one of the few novels for teens depicting an upper middle class Mexican-American family. Equally valuable is the way Stork incorporates Marcelo’s “special interest,” world religions, into the plot as he ultimately applies the lessons he absorbed from the holy books.
Age: 12+
Culture: Mexican American
Other themes: Disability