In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are seven own-voices YA novels featuring Latina heroines. All are written by Latina women and many were listed for prestigious awards when they came out.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Ever since she got curves, Xiomara Batista has had to use her fists to make herself heard, because her body is all anyone sees. She feels suffocated by the expectations of her extremely religious Dominican American mother, and frustrated by the difference in expectations for her twin brother. Xiomara finds release in the poems she writes in her notebook - and in the cute boy in her science class, Aman - but she knows her mother can never find out about either thing. Xiomara is invited to join the slam poetry club at school. What will happen if her mami finds out she's been skipping her religious classes to attend? The Poet X is a gorgeous novel written in verse and is on the long list for the 2018 National Book Award.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez
Julia's sister Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter: hardworking, dutiful and content to live at home. When Olga is killed crossing a street, Julia is devastated but also resentful. Her mother seems to focus on all the ways Julia isn't perfect like Olga was. Julia wants so much for herself - to go away to college, to write, to have adventures - but struggles with depression and anger over her parents' expectations. With the help of her best friend and her first boyfriend, she is determined to find out the secrets Olga was keeping. Maybe Olga wasn't perfect either. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Alexandra Mortiz is a powerful bruja, but she has hated magic since the day it made her father disappear. During her Deathday celebration, Alex does a spell to try to get rid of her magic - but it backfires and accidentally transports her entire family to Los Lagos, a dangerous in-between place full of dark magic. Alex must go through a portal and work with Nova - a brujo boy she doesn't trust - to try to rescue her family. This "brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante's Inferno" (Daniel Jose Older) was named a best book of 2016 by NPR and is the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Gabi Hernandez creates a diary about her senior year in high school. Gabi's dealing with a lot: her father's addicted to meth, her best friend Cindy's pregnant, and her other best friend Sebastian is coming out to his parents. Gabi doesn't feel white enough for Berkeley or Mexican enough for her family, and she wrestles with what it means to be a 'good' girl. Through her diary, Gabi also explores fat-shaming and slut-shaming and her mother's advice to keep her eyes open and her legs closed. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces is told through Gabi's illustrated diary and won the 2015 Morris Award for Best YA Debut novel.
Burn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina
During the infamous summer of 1977, New York is suffering under a heat wave, a massive blackout, and a serial killer called the Son of Sam who's shooting young women on the street. Cuban American Nora Lopez is worried about her brother's increasing violence, but her mother is preoccupied with making rent and doesn't stand up to him, and her father has a new family across town. Nora just wants to go out dancing at the disco with her best friend, or the cute new boy at the deli where she works, but her family troubles are mounting. Burn, Baby, Burn was on the long list for the 2016 National Book Award.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Best friends Miel and Sam are strange but inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel's wrists. Sam paints moons and hangs them in the trees. Now, the four beautiful Bonner sisters - who are supposedly witches - believe that Miel's roses will make any boy fall in love with them. And they're willing to use all of Miel's secrets to be sure she gives them her roses. When the Moon Was Ours is a gorgeous work of magical realism that was on the long list for the 2016 National Book Award.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
After coming out to her family, Puerto Rican college student Juliet leaves the Bronx to spend the summer in Portland, Oregon. She's going to intern for her favorite feminist author, Harlowe Brisbane. Juliet starts off thinking that Harlowe has all the answers she's searching for about feminism and lesbianism and enlightenment, but she actually finds a lot to question about Harlowe's particular hippie brand of white feminism. Over the course of the summer, Juliet discovers intersectionality, women of color writing science fiction, falling in love, and her own voice. Rivera has a hilarious, stream-of-consciousness writing style and Juliet Takes a Breath is a great read-alike for teens who loved Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.