Powerful Latinx Novels for Hispanic Heritage Month

 Disclosure: I was sent copies of these books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions are my own.

Hispanic Heritage Month ends Friday and I wanted to share two new Latinx books with you to help celebrate. One is a graphic memoir. The author was in middle school living in New York City when 9/11 occurred. The other is a young adult novel that deals with ethnicity as well as rape and more. We will start with Big Apple Diaries by Alyssa Bermudez. It is recommended for ages 8 to 12. 

From the Publisher:

In Big Apple Diaries, a heartfelt diary-style graphic memoir by Alyssa Bermudez, a young New Yorker doodles her way through middle school―until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack leaves her wondering if she can ever be a kid again.

It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad's apartment in Manhattan and her white mom's new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.

Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope.

From Me:

It is not quite a graphic novel but has the pictures and illustrations throughout it. Alyssa used her own diaries from the time for inspiration. The book begins like a normal middle school life. It is written as her diary. Alyssa shares her friends, not being popular, her crush, life going between her parents' houses, being half Puerto Rican and struggling with her own identity. She shares about her first boyfriend. Her worries and concerns as a middle school girl. Then September 11th happens. Her father worked in the World Trade Center and her mother worked across the street from it. 

Now when I read a book, I often have read the description of the book to decide whether I want a copy to review, but I do not read it again before reading the book. I had forgotten that this book takes place during 2001. I loved how the book was so like like then. Alyssa's life is normal and then it happens. She is overwhelmed by the events and cannot even write about them for a few days. It took me right back to when it occurred and I love that there are books to help this next generation learn about living through this act of terrorism and what it felt like. 

The book is full of middle school life as well as surviving the tragedy that rocked our world in 2001. As a graphic memoir it will entertain middle grade readers even the hesitant readers. It is a fun book without the 9/11 and truly becomes a piece of history with it. 

Our second book is a young adult novel. It is The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore.  It is recommended for ages 13 to 18, but covers mature topics.

From the Publisher:

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature

"An unforgettable story of trauma and healing, told in achingly beautiful prose with great tenderness and care." ―#1 New York Times-bestselling author Karen M. McManus

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelerĂ­a, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore's The Mirror Season...

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

From Me:

This book is very intense. It is emotional. It is powerful. There is so much in this book. Besides the Latinx side of things there is classism as well as the LGBTQ side. Ciela is what many would call bisexual but there are parts of the book where she shares that she loves any gender including pansexual. Ciela is a scholarship student at a private mostly white school. The story goes into her life as a Latinx teenager. She works at her tia's bakery. There are Spanish words interspersed throughout the book but with explanations for the most part.

The main focus of this book is the assault and trying to move on. Ciela and Lock become friends, but Ciela remembers the night and Lock does not. The emotions both of them are feeling are huge. They help one another but also hurt one another. The people who assaulted them also continue to harass them  throughout the book. This book will have you tearing up at moments. It is based on real life experiences which Anna-Marie shares in the Author's Note at the end. I believe this may have helped truly developing the characters. Although there is magic in the book it is a real story. At times the magic can be seen a bit as how Ciela is seeing the world after the assault. Her world loses some of its color and turns to mirrored glass. 

This book covers mature topics and is not an easy read. It is emotional and powerful. The reader can feel Ciela's and Lock's frustrations and pain. It is wonderfully written and is a book everyone should check out. 

So whether you are looking for a historical memoir or a powerful young adult book these two books are powerful and both have the Latinx main character.