Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Latine literature for young people has long focused heavily on realistic refugee and immigrant stories. These are vital narratives, undoubtedly worthy of attention. But teens seeking works by Latine authors in other genres are in for a treat, with ever more works of speculative fiction offering broader representations.
Last Sunrise in Eterna by Amparo Ortiz (Page Street, March 28): Who could resist this premise? A secret, elf-inhabited island off the coast of Puerto Rico. A 17-year-old goth girl who has a very personal grudge against the elves that everyone else—entranced by their ensueño, or glamour—seems to love. A bargain: an annual retreat on the elves’ island where teens trade a week of their dreams for a taste of elven magic. It’s the last place Sevim Burgos wants to be, but when the elves catch her stealing elf corpses for a scientist’s research and then kidnap her mother, she has no choice. This fantasy weaves Puerto Rican history and culture into its clever setup.
Infested by Angel Luis Colón (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster, July 25): In this truly creepy horror story that’s not for the faint of heart, rising senior Manny is unhappy that his family is moving from San Antonio to the Bronx. The white-passing Puerto Rican 17-year-old moves from a school where he didn’t think much about identity to a place that’s “very Puerto Rican” and where he’s self-conscious about his limited Spanish. Helping his stepdad get a controversial, mostly empty luxury condo building ready for new tenants proves surprisingly eventful. Manny befriends an elderly German exterminator and an Afro-Latina girl who’s protesting neighborhood gentrification—then the nightmares begin, and the swarming roaches appear…
A Tall Dark Trouble by Vanessa Montalban (Zando Young Readers, Aug. 29): In this gripping paranormal tale told in dual timelines, 18-year-old Cuban American twins Lela and Delfi Sánchez live in 2016 Miami and deal with a curse affecting the women in their family: Anyone who falls in love with one of them is “doomed to slowly turn into a shadow version of themselves.” In 1980 Cuba, Anita de Armas, also 18, is reluctant to join la Orden de las Palomas, the shadowy cult led by her mother that helps keep dictator Castro in power. This story explores the intergenerational impact of political oppression, a fictional brujería legacy, and real diasporic religious practices that reflect Cuba’s ethnic diversity.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Here by Autumn Krause (Peachtree Teen, Oct. 3): Wisconsin Territory, 1836: A 17-year-old poet is left on her own. After the death of Mamá, who came from Mexico, it was just Catalina, her younger brother, Jose Luis, and their Pa, who’s white. They barely survived the harsh winter. Now, three exquisitely tempting red apples appear on their doorstep, but Pa crushes them, destroying these offerings from the Man of Sap: “Sowing seeds of sin, he grows apples of ash.” Catalina is unsure what to believe until Pa dies, and the Man of Sap kidnaps Jose Luis. This deliciously surreal story infused with echoes of folktales centers a grief-stricken and determined young hero who finds solace in poetry.
Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.