Identity: Who Am I?

The protagonists in these stories are all facing the same central question of adolescence: who am I? From a girl whose mother has abandoned her to a young child who loses his language and connection to family when he gets sick, these stories capture the challenge and opportunity of exploring identity during the teenage years. Recommended for grades 7-12.

Angel’s Grace

Young woman near beach

Grace has always had wild red hair like no one else in her family and a birthmark on her shoulder that her mother told her was the mark of an angel. While visiting her grandmother in Trinidad, thirteen-year-old Grace sees a photograph of a stranger with a birthmark identical to hers, and begins to wonder if the reason she feels different from the rest of her family is that he is her real father.

Apple in the Middle

Painting of young adolescent girl

Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur. After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother.

Becoming Naomi León

Naomi and her younger brother Owen have lived with their grandmother in a small trailer for many years, ever since they were abandoned by their mother. When Mom Terri Lynn suddenly returns, does she really have the kids' best interests at heart?

Each Tiny Spark

Illustration of girl holding welding torch surrounded by tires and toolkits.

Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It's hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

Echoes of Grace

Two sisters surrounded by flowers

In Eagle Pass, Texas, Grace struggles to understand the echoes she inherited from her mother — visions which often distort her reality. One morning, as her sister, Mercy, rushes off to work, a disturbing echo takes hold of Grace, and within moments, tragedy strikes. Attending community college for the first time, talking to the boy next door, and working toward her goals all help Grace recover, but her estrangement from Mercy takes a deep toll.

Estrella's Quinceañera

For as long as Estrella Alvarez can remember, her mother has been planning to throw her an elaborate quinceañera for her fifteenth birthday — complete with a mariachi band, cheesy decorations, and a hideous dress. Estrella has other things on her mind, like dating Speedy. Does it matter that her new friends — and her parents — would never approve of a guy from el barrio? Estrella is almost fifteen and wants to start making her own decisions. But is she ready to find out who she is — and who she really wants to be?

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun

Two young men talking

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life. Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown ― literally ― out the closet. Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable.

Genesis Begins Again

Profile of a black woman with slashes of different skin color shades on her cheek.
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)
Language: English

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

Habibi

Habibi
Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family's Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can't understand. It isn't until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land.

Help Wanted: Stories

"Working-class Latino teenagers cope with their families, hang out with offbeat friends and obnoxious acquaintances, yearn for dates, and deal with stray kisses in these 10 stories. The teens struggle to prove themselves, establish their own identities, and maintain self-respect in the midst of dilapidated schools, grimy neighborhoods, and hard-pressed single-parent households. The stories are sometimes funny, often poignant, and occasionally provocative." — Booklist

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Picture of a young woman's braid

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. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought.

I Can Make This Promise

I Can Make This Promise

All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers. Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic — a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her. Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about?

Just Like Us

Product Description: Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. We meet the girls on the eve of their senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, and all four want to live the American dream, but only two have documents. Just Like Us is a coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and identity — what it means to steal an identity, what it means to have a public identity, what it means to inherit an identity from parents.

Lost in the System

A foster child from the age of two, Charlotte Lopez bounced around foster homes until she went to live in a home that she expected to be permanent. But her foster parents wouldn't adopt her, and after eleven years of waiting, Charlotte moved to an emergency shelter for children in crisis. Charlotte kept up her grades, participated in sports and school activities, and even entered the Miss Vermont Teen USA pageant. In August 1992, she was crowned Miss Teen USA. It wasn't until she was legally adopted at age 17, however, that she finally found a place to call home.

Marcelo In The Real World

Marcelo Sandoval, a 17-year-old with an Asperger's-like condition, has arranged a job caring for ponies at his special school's therapeutic-riding stables. But he is forced to exit his comfort zone when his high-powered father steers Marcelo to work in his law firm's mailroom…Readers enter his private world as he navigates the unfamiliar realm of menial tasks and office politics with the ingenuity of a child, his voice never straying from authenticity even as the summer strips away some of his differences. — Publishers Weekly

Parrot in the Oven: Mi vida

"It's not easy for Manuel Hernandez to discover his place in the world, especially when he is constantly bombarded with the hardships of his poor and woefully dysfunctional family. Their tiny sheetrock house in the projects is the scene of angry arguments — even of threats at rifle point…But as the months pass and some of his wounds heal, Manny slowly begins to understand the sense of self that he can derive from his role within this difficult household." — Publishers Weekly

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.

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.

Ten Mile River

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 Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

"Ghetto nerd," outcast, and anime-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing "you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in."

The Firekeeper’s Daughter

Large butterfly

Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? When she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind.

The House of the Scorpion

Product Description: Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium — a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster — except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself. As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive.

The Other Half of Happy

Illustrated mosaic of images of flowers, water drops, sea life.
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

Quijana must figure out which parts of herself are most important, and which pieces come together to make her whole.

This is a heartfelt poetic portrayal of a girl growing up, fitting in, and learning what it means to belong.

One-half Guatemalan, one-half American: When Quijana's Guatemalan cousins move to town, her dad seems ashamed that she doesn't know more about her family's heritage.

One-half crush, one-half buddy: When Quijana meets Zuri and Jayden, she knows she's found true friends. But she can't help the growing feelings she has for Jayden.

The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir

Product Description: Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. Gaby had ambitions that didn't include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she "lived down" to others' expectations? These questions sparked Gaby's school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.

Thoughts without Cigarettes: A Memoir

Product Description: Born in Manhattan's Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants in 1951, Hijuelos introduces readers to the colorful circumstances of his upbringing. During a sojourn in pre-Castro Cuba with his mother, he catches a disease that sends him into a Dickensian home for terminally ill children. The yearlong stay estranges him from the very language and people he had so loved.

We Weren't Looking to Be Found

We Weren't Looking to Be Found

Dani comes from the richest, most famous Black family in Texas and has everything a girl could want. So why does she keep using drugs and engaging in other self-destructive behavior? Camila’s Colombian American family doesn’t have much, but she knows exactly what she wants out of life and works hard to get it. So why does she keep failing, and why does she self-harm every time she does? When Dani and Camila find themselves rooming together at Peach Tree Hills, a treatment facility in beautiful rural Georgia, they initially think they’ll never get along ― and they’ll never get better.

Where I Belong

Where I Belong

In the spring of 2018, Guatemalan American high school senior Milagros "Millie" Vargas knows her life is about to change. She has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, ever since her parents sought asylum there when she was a baby. Now a citizen, Millie devotes herself to school and caring for her younger siblings while her mom works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Wheeler family. With college on the horizon, Millie is torn between attending her dream school and staying close to home, where she knows she's needed.

With the Fire on High

Illustration of a young woman surrounded by oranges, mangoes, and flowers.
Age Level: Young adult (14-18)
Language: English

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions — doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

blue locker
Age Level: Young adult (14-18)
Language: English, 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.