Friends and Frenemies in YA: Hispanic Heritage

Illustration of young girl standing alone

During those tough teenage years, no one is more important than your friends. Yet sometimes it's hard to tell who your real friends are. These stories portray the friendships of young Latinos who are trying to figure out whom they can count on — and whom they need to leave behind. Recommended for grades 7-12.

A Good Long Way

"At 2 a.m., Roelito wakes up to a furious quarrel between his older brother, Beto, 18, and Dad over a broken curfew. When Dad tells Beto to leave, he does, and his best friend, Jessy, helps him find shelter for the night. She knows about running away; she flees the house whenever her drunken father and her mother scream and fight. Can she wait out the two months to graduation and make it to college?

Alicia Afterimage

Alicia Afterimage
Age Level: Young Adult

Lulu Delacre explores grief by examining her late 16-year old daughter, Alicia, through the eyes of her friends and family after a tragic car accident. Even the young driver who survived is included in this moving and resonant book, which explores teen grief and encourages an open discussion of death and loss.

Buried Onions

By: Gary Soto
Age Level: Young Adult

Product Description: Eddie's father, two uncles, and best friend are all dead, and it's a struggle for him not to end up the same way. Violence makes Fresno wallow in tears, as if a huge onion were buried beneath the city. Making an effort to walk a straight line despite constant temptations and frustrations, Eddie searches for answers — and discovers that his closest friends may actually be his worst enemies.

Dreams of Significant Girls

Age Level: Young Adult

Product Description: Brought together each summer at a boarding school in Switzerland, three girls learn a lot more than just French and European culture. Shirin, an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom, are thrown into each other's lives when they become roommates. This is a story of 3 paths slowly beginning to cross and merge as they spend the summers together and form an unbreakable bond.


"'Until recently, my dad seemed to realize he was a hopeless geek,' says 16-year-old Pasquala 'Paski' Archuleta, who moves from Taos to Orange County, California, after her cartoonist dad sells the film option for one of his stories; Paski's drifter mom is long gone, and Paski feels like an outsider at her new school, where money seems to matter most. Her mountain bike grounds her, and her exceptional stunts attract gorgeous Chris, the boyfriend of a treacherous queen bee.

He Forgot to Say Goodbye

Product Description: On the surface, Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove couldn't live more different lives. Ram is Mexican-American, lives in the poor section of town, and is doing his best to keep his mother sane while his brother fights off a drug-induced coma. Jake is a WASP who drives a nice car, lives in a mansion, and has a mother who drinks a bit too much and a step-father who cheats on her. But there is one point, one issue, where their lives are exactly the same; their fathers walked out on them when they were just young boys.

Honey Blonde Chica

"At her privileged prep school, sophomore Evie Gomez hangs out with her fellow Mexican American 'Flojos' and steers clear of the 'Sangros,' a snobbish clique of girls from Mexico. When her former best friend, Dee Dee, returns from four years in Mexico and connects with the Sangros, Evie faces critical decisions. Should she restore her friendship with Dee Dee and become a Sangro, or remain loyal to the Flojos?

In the Shade of the Nispero Tree

"Set in Puerto Rico in 1961, this story features Teresa Giraux and her best friend, Ana, who are looking forward to their fourth-grade teacher's wedding and the Ponce junior queen competition — until Teresa's pride and temper fracture their friendship. A socially ambitious seamstress, Teresa's mother has never invited Ana on family outings because Ana is not only poorer, she's also darker. Aided by one of her wealthy clients, Teresa's mother enrolls Teresa in an exclusive academy. Then it is she and Teresa who feel the sting of discrimination." — Booklist

Merci Suárez Trilogy #1: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Merci Suárez rides a bicycle
Age Level: Middle Grade
Language: English

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family. Winner 2019 Newbery Medal.

Other books in the series include:

Merci Suárez Trilogy #2: Merci Suárez Can't Dance

Merci Suárez Can't Dance
Age Level: Middle Grade

Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball. One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance — not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else.

Merci Suárez Trilogy #3: Merci Suárez Plays It Cool

Merci Suarez near school
Age Level: Middle Grade

For Merci Suárez, eighth grade means a new haircut, nighttime football games, and an out-of-town overnight field trip. At home, it means more chores and keeping an eye on Lolo as his health worsens. It’s a year filled with more responsibility and independence, but also with opportunities to reinvent herself. Merci has always been fine with not being one of the popular kids like Avery Sanders, who will probably be the soccer captain and is always traveling to fun places and buying new clothes. But then Avery starts talking to Merci more, and not just as a teammate.

Next to Mexico

Age Level: Middle Grade

"Lylice has skipped a year and is new to Susan B. Anthony Middle School in her hometown of Tucson. Worried about making friends, the sixth grader becomes the English Buddy to Mexico, a student from Nogales who lives with her aunt and is a talented artist…When Mexico is hospitalized because her aunt is about to be unemployed and can't afford her niece's insulin, the girls finagle a job interview for her by forging a letter on stolen school stationery. Then, because of a boy on whom she has a crush, Lylice hurts her friend's feelings.

No More Us for You

Age Level: Young Adult

Product Description: Isabel is a regular seventeen-year-old girl, still reeling from the pain of her boyfriend's tragic death exactly one year ago. Carlos is a regular seventeen-year-old guy, loves red licorice and his friends, and works at a fancy art museum for some extra cash. The two have no connection until they both meet Vanessa, an intriguing new transfer student with a mysterious past. While Vanessa is the link that brings these two very different lives together, will she be the one that can also tear them apart?

Poe Park

Age Level: Middle Grade

"The day after Enoch Morales graduates from elementary school, his mother throws him a surprise eleventh-birthday party, and his best friend, Spencer, gives him an iguana. The following day, the two boys are playing outside when Spencer is shot and killed. Over the summer, Enoch tries to cope with his shock and anger, his growing certainty that Spencer had become involved in a gang, and his mixed feelings about his older half brother, who has moved from Puerto Rico to New York City to live with Enoch and his mother.

Return to Sender

children overlooking field
Age Level: 9-12, Middle Grade
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

When Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, the family decides to hire a family of Mexican migrant workers. For Tyler, the workers' presence on the farm — as well as that of the three young daughters — is shrouded in mystery. As he develops a friendship with Mari, the eldest, he begins to wonder about the family's immigration status and what it means to be patriotic. In the meantime, Mari struggles with her own complicated feelings and worries about her mother, who is missing.

Secret Saturdays

Secret Saturdays

Friends Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects in Brooklyn, are Puerto Rican and African American, and have absentee fathers. Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He's been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Maldonado explores issues of manhood, friendship, and family in this heartfelt, humorous, and poignant urban tale.

Silver Meadows Summer

Illustration of girl sitting next to pond showing fish and the reflection of a house.
Age Level: Middle Grade

Eleven-year-old Carolina's summer--and life as she knows it--is upended when Papi loses his job, and she and her family must move from Puerto Rico to her Tía Cuca and Uncle Porter's house in upstate New York. Now Carolina must attend Silver Meadows camp, where her bossy older cousin Gabriela rules the social scene.

Swimming to America

Age Level: Middle Grade

Product Description: Linda Berati, an eighth grader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knows that her parents are Albanian and her little sister American. But what is she? And how did she get to New York? Her parents evade her questions, fueling Linda's uneasiness about her identity. Only Ramón, a Cuban immigrant her age, seems to understand. Together, they escape to their hideout. Then a strange, foreign man appears, and she soon discovers that immigrants come to the United States for many reasons. She determines to confront her mother, but will she find out the truth about herself at last?

Sylvia & Aki

Sylvia & Aki

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

Ten Mile River

Age Level: Middle Grade

Product Description: Best friends Ray and Jose are not your typical thirteen-year-olds. They've escaped foster care and juvenile detention centers to live on their own together in an abandoned building located near Manhattan Park called Ten Mile River. With no use for school or families, street-smart Jose and bookish, introspective Ray have everything they need in each other. They are closer than brothers until they meet Trini. She's smart, beautiful, and confident, and they both fall for her immediately.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

Product Description: When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony's Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he'll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister's killer. But then he's assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his "Death Warrior's Manifesto," which will help him to live out his last days fully — ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister's murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q.

The Whole Sky Full of Stars

Product Description: Barry can punch anyone hard enough to make them see a whole sky full of stars, though that's not really his style. Barry and Alby have been friends since the first grade. They've always protected one another. When Barry's pop dies, times are tough and the only thing Barry has of value is his dad's 1964 Ford Galaxie. Meanwhile Alby's got himself into big trouble with a cardshark. So he hatches a plan to make money for himself and Barry. The problem is, Barry could get hurt, and it just might cost Alby their friendship. How much can you ask of a friend?

Trino's Choice

Product Description: When Rosca, an older teen with a vicious streak, invites Trino to start hanging out with his crowd — and maybe make some quick money, too — the younger boy doesn't know what to think. Trino's angry that he and his younger stepbrother are barely getting by even though their mother works two jobs. And he'd do anything to make an impression on Lisana, a smart neighborhood girl who happens to be one of those "school types." With little help from any adults, it's up to Trino to decide which choices will impress his friends and which choices are the best for him.

Trino's Time

"In Bertrand's solid follow-up to the award-winning Trino's Choice (1999), 15-year-old Trino moves past the haunting memory of his friend's murder and takes on more responsibility in his family. To contribute to the small household income, Trino accepts a job in a grocery store, taking time from friends and schoolwork. When he's assigned a biographical report on Jose Antonio Navarro, Trino finds a hero who helps him aspire to more than just survival." — Booklist

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Blue locker with grafitti
Age Level: Young Adult
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

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 get her attention. 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 dealing head-on with bullying, Meg Medina draws upon her own experiences to portray a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is. Winner Pura Belpré award.