Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.
Wow, I can’t believe we are nearing the end of Latine Heritage Month. This month has flown right by and it’s been a truly stellar month with so many Latine books and some wonderful friends visiting too. To end our series of book recommendations, today’s post is not a book recommendation per se – but a list of Latine books that we are looking forward to reading in the next few months! There are so many exciting Latine books releasing soon, so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to shoutout some books so we can all look forward to them together.
First, a quick recap of this week: we had Kaela Rivera visit us for an interview, where she talked about her exciting fantasy adventure, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls as well as Latine themes that intrigue her. We also had the pleasure of doing a cover reveal for Cafe Con Lychee by Emery Lee, an foodie enemies-to-lovers rom-com with Asian and Puerto Rican leads! And lastly, I reviewed Simone Breaks All the Rules by Debbie Rigaud, a coming-of-age contemporary about a Haitian teen with strict parents who makes a ‘Senior Year Bucket List’ to have fun and break free.
Before we share today’s list of books, be sure to check out last year’s book recommendation posts, and also check out our Latine SFF and Magical Realism, Latine Romance and Stories about Love, and Latine Contemporary and Coming-of-Age recommendations!
So, let’s dive into some Latine books that I’m really excited to read this year and for the first few months of next year. This isn’t a comprehensive list – so if you are looking forward to any other Latine books, please let us know in the comments!
Our Way Back to Always by Nina Moreno
Luisa (Lou) Patterson grew up across the street from Sam Alvarez in the small, quirky town of Port Coral. They used to be inseparable–spending every holiday together, shooting silly YouTube videos, and rescuing stray cats. But then middle school happened, including the most disastrous (and embarrassing) serenade ever, and Lou and Sam haven’t talked in the four years since. Sam is now the golden boy with plenty of friends, while Lou is an introverted romantic who’s happy playing video games and writing fan fiction. But it’s also the summer before their senior year, and life is knocking on Lou’s door.
With her older sister having given up a scholarship to Princeton to have a baby and work at the local botanica, all of their mother’s expectations are now riding on Lou’s shoulders. She’s retaking her SAT’s, signed up for way too many AP classes, and her sights set on colleges with fancy names like Duke and Vanderbilt. But when she finds the bucket list she and Sam wrote together as kids, before Sam’s father was diagnosed with cancer, she’s shocked to see that she hasn’t accomplished any of the goals she’d set for herself. Go to a party? Nope. Pull the greatest prank of all time? Still no. Learn how to be a really good kisser? Definitely not.
Torn between the future that her mother, sister, and younger self planned for her, Lou sets out to finish the list, and in a stroke of destiny or fate, Sam decides to tag along. Still trying to stay afloat amid the grief of losing his father, Sam himself is staring down a future that feels all too close, and is coming far too fast. But with the bucket list to guide them, Sam and Lou might just be able to find a way through the future, and also a way back to each other.
Two years ago, I read Don’t Date Rosa Santos and was enchanted by its at times heartfelt and at times heartbreaking story about family curses and finding your place in the world. I’m so excited that, with Our Way Back to Always, we get the opportunity to return to Port Coral. This story promises a childhood-friends-to-lovers romance and an exploration of grief – I cannot wait to read this.
Releases October 12. Add Our Way Back to Always on Goodreads.
Dragonblood Ring by Amparo Ortiz
After the Sire’s capture, teen athletes Lana Torres and Victoria Peralta travel to Puerto Rico with their former Blazewrath team. While Lana discovers her roots, nothing fills the void Blazewrath’s cancelation has left in Victoria. But it’s up to their team and the Bureau to protect their dragons.
But when reports of burning towns and kidnapped dragons dominate the news, Director Sandhar refuses to answer the girls’ questions. So they follow him into his Transport Charm into Le Parc Du Chasseurs.
In this French theme park, they find dragons forced to fight. When the Blazewrath World Cup ended, people turned to this illegal sport for wealth. So now, not only are the Sire’s followers looking to release him, the leader of this fighting ring wants Puerto Rico’s dragons to fight in Bloodbath too.
Earlier this year, I finally got the chance to read Blazewrath Games and I’m so excited to read the sequel, Dragonblood Ring! I’m looking forward to returning to the Blazewrath world, seeing Lana and Blazewrath Puerto Rican team again, and being taken on an adventure – particularly after the stunning conclusion of Blazewrath Games!
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
Había una vez . . .
There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita.
But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.
Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether.
Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?
Read The Last Cuentista‘s synopsis, friends. I instantly added The Last Cuentista because I loved Higuera’s middle-grade debut, Lupe Wong Won’t Dance, but after reading that synopsis… I really cannot wait to read it. It sounds devastating, beautiful and heart-aching. I cannot wait to read Petra’s story and see the choices that she will make and the paths she will take.
Releases October 12. Add The Last Cuentista on Goodreads.
We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera
Pedro, Luna, and Rafa may attend Fairfax High School together in Los Angeles, but they run in separate spheres. Pedro is often told that he’s “too much” and seeks refuge from his home life in a local drag bar. Luna is pretending to go along with the popular crowd but is still grieving the unexpected passing of her beloved cousin Tasha. Then there’s Rafa, the quiet new kid who is hiding the fact that his family is homeless.
But Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find themselves thrown together when an extraterrestrial visitor lands in their city and takes the form of Luna’s cousin Tasha. As the Visitor causes destruction wherever it goes, the three teens struggle to survive and warn others of what’s coming–because this Visitor is only the first of many. But who is their true enemy–this alien, or their fellow humans? Can Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find a way to save a world that has repeatedly proven it doesn’t want to save them?
I love the way Lilliam Rivera writes complex teens with fascinating stories, so clearly I’m looking forward to We Light Up the Sky. I’m a huge fan of science-fiction and the themes that emerge from alien invasion storylines – so to have this story from the perspective of three Latine teens? I’m intrigued, and cannot wait to see what Rivera has in store for us!
Releases October 26. Add We Light Up the Sky on Goodreads.
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl
After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.
When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.
This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late.
I had the pleasure of receiving an early readers copy of this and friends, The Grimrose Girls is so compelling. It blends murder mystery set in a boarding school, best friendships, with fairytale princess twists too. I’m enjoying my read of this, and I’m looking forward to all of you picking this up when it releases next month in November!
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Twelve year old Witchling Seven Salazar wants to be anything but a Spare witch. But during The Black Moon Ceremony when every Witchling in the magical town of Ravenskill is placed in their coven, that’s exactly what happens. Joining Seven in this coven of unwanted witches is Valley Pepperhorn, self-styled monster hunter and giant bully, and new witch in town, Thorn La Roux, a master with a magical needle and thread who has a terrible secret. Unfortunately, it gets worse.
When their coven does not seal, and their magic is in danger of being stripped away, Seven invokes the dangerous Impossible Task, a magical contract with a high price. Now, it’s up to the Witchlings to fell the elusive Nightbeast, or risk being toadafied.
I enjoyed Ortega’s debut, Ghost Squad, last year, so I’m really looking forward to her forthcoming witchy middle-grade releasing next year! I’m intrigued by the story’s idea of ‘unwanted witches’ and where the story will go and what friendships we will see form between the main characters, and I cannot wait. Plus, the cover illustrated by Lissy Marlin is such a beauty.
Releases February 2. Add Witchlings on Goodreads.
Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity by Angela Velez
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: Lose Your Virginity) 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.
I love roadtrip stories, but a roadtrip between two sisters?! I adore stories that explore sister relationships and the sometimes wonderful, sometimes fraught bond between two sisters who are very different. Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity sounds like an incredible coming-of-age story and I genuinely cannot wait to dive into this come next year.
Releases February 8. Add Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity on Goodreads.
Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie
Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.
So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love–and sexuality–never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.
We at The Quiet Pond are huge fans of Racquel, so I think I can speak for the three of us when I say: Ophelia After All is one of our most anticipated books of 2022! Personally speaking, Ophelia After All will explore questioning sexual identity, a narrative I’m really curious and excited about since there’s a dearth of stories that explore questioning. I know I’m going to love Racquel’s debut, and cannot wait to read it next year.
Reclaim the Stars edited by Zoraida Córdova
Reclaim the Stars is a collection of bestselling and acclaimed YA authors that take the Latin American diaspora to places fantastical and out of this world. From princesses warring in space, to the all too-near devastation of climate change, to haunting ghost stories in Argentina, and mermaids off the coast of the Caribbean. This is science fiction and fantasy that breaks borders and realms, and proves that stories are truly universal.
Authors include Vita Ayala, David Bowles, Daniel José Older, J.C. Cervantes, Sara Faring, Romina Garber, Isabel Ibañez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Circe Moskowitz, Mayand am a Motayne, Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Lilliam Rivera and Zoraida Córdova.
I’m a huge fan of anthologies, so I’m keenly looking forward to Reclaim the Stars, which features short stories by diaspora Latine authors! There are some exciting names in the line-up, but I’m particularly excited to read the stories by Circe Moskowitz and Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, whose short stories will be debuting in this anthology! (Also, keep a close eye on the Pond later this week – Circe and Linda will be visiting us as our finale for Latine Heritage Month!)
Releases February 15. Add Reclaim the Stars on Goodreads.
The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta
Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.
Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.
With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one.
Ever since I came across this book by chance, I’ve kept this close on my radar. I mean, a YA fantasy inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, about a lineage of seers fighting the patriarchy? Count me in! But seriously, The Lost Dreamer sounds absolutely magnificent, topical, and powerful, and I cannot wait to read this come next year.
Releases March 1. Add The Lost Dreamer on Goodreads.
This Is Why They Hate Us by Aaron H. Aceves
Enrique “Quique” Luna has one goal this summer—get over his crush on Saleem Kanazi by pursuing his other romantic prospects. Never mind that he’s only out to his best friend, Fabiola. Never mind that he has absolutely zero game. And definitely forget the fact that good and kind and, not to mention, beautiful Saleem is leaving L.A. for the summer to meet a girl his parents are trying to set him up with.
Luckily, Quique’s prospects are each intriguing in their own ways. There’s stoner-jock Tyler Montana, who might be just as interested in Fabiola as he is in Quique; straight-laced senior class president, Ziggy Jackson; and Manny Zuniga, who keeps looking at Quique like he’s carne asada fresh off the grill. With all these choices, Quique is sure to forget about Saleem in no time.
But as the summer heats up and his deep-seated fears and anxieties boil over, Quique soon realizes that getting over one guy by getting under a bunch of others may not have been the best laid plan and living his truth can come at a high cost.
This is Why They Hate Us absolutely sounds like something I’d love, which was why we had Aaron visit us this year for Latine Heritage Month! But honestly friends, this book sounds phenomenal, messy, vulnerable, and teen angst – all things that I love in a story about love and self-discovery.