Book Recommendation: 9 recommended YA reads for those who dream of traveling to Mexico
Embark on a literary odyssey through the enchanting landscapes of Mexico, a country whose vibrant tapestry of culture and history has inspired writers for generations. Imagine strolling along the powdery beaches of Cancun, feeling the gentle Caribbean breeze, or exploring the mystical beauty of Isla Mujeres, where the azure waters beckon. Dive into the mesmerizing cenotes, hidden gems of crystalline pools that reveal the secrets of ancient civilizations.
Picture yourself luxuriating in the comforts of a resort, where the fusion of modern luxury and traditional charm creates an unforgettable experience. Having recently immersed myself in the allure of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and the magical cenotes, I found inspiration around every corner, reflecting the essence of Mexico in its purest form. During my travels, the grandeur of Chichen Itza’s pyramids left an indelible mark, echoing tales of Mexico’s ancient history.
Drawing from this vibrant backdrop, Mexican authors like Laura Esquivel and Carlos Fuentes have expertly infused their narratives with the soul of the country. It’s in these evocative tales that readers can truly grasp the spirit of Mexico. Now, let me be your literary guide as we explore 9 remarkable YA books that bring Mexico to life. Each recommendation serves as a literary passport, inviting you to traverse the diverse landscapes and cultures of this captivating country.
Now, let me be your literary guide as we explore 9 remarkable YA books that bring Mexico to life. Each recommendation serves as a literary passport, inviting you to traverse the diverse landscapes and cultures of this captivating country.
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel: Immerse yourself in a tale where magical realism and culinary delights intertwine, offering a sensory journey through Mexico’s traditions and passions. Set on the De la Garza ranch, this timeless tale unfolds amidst the aromatic embrace of the kitchen, where the formidable Mama Elena, in the throes of pregnancy, wields a tyrannical presence.
In a dramatic twist, her unborn daughter’s intense emotions trigger an early labor, and Tita makes her entrance into the world amidst the fragrant spices and ingredients for noodle soup. This initial connection with food becomes a defining element of Tita’s existence, evolving into a lifelong culinary journey.
As she matures into a culinary virtuoso, Tita uses the art of cooking as a means of self-expression, generously sharing her delectable recipes with readers along the way. Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” weaves a rich narrative where love, emotion, and the culinary arts converge to create an enchanting and flavorful tapestry.
“The Lightning Dreamer” by Margarita Engle: Through the poetic verses of Engle, discover the inspiring story of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, a Cuban writer who defied societal norms in 19th-century Mexico. “The Lightning Dreamer” unfolds the story of thirteen-year-old Tula, an ardent lover of poetry in a society where such expression is forbidden. Despite facing opposition from her mother and grandfather, Tula finds solace and support in unexpected allies—nuns, Sab, a freed slave and friend, and Caridad, a former slave.
Tula’s younger brother, Manuel, aids her clandestinely by attending secret poetry gatherings and supplying her with pens and paper. Amid familial pressure to conform, Tula is sent to live with her grandfather, but her world unravels further when he passes away, leaving everything to her uncle. Encountering Sab in her new life, Tula grapples with unrequited love. Refusing an arranged marriage, she embarks on a journey across the country with Manuel, only to discover her parents are on the same ship.
Determined, she retreats to her cabin, overlooking the water, and begins to weave her thoughts into words with pen and paper, affirming her indomitable spirit.
“Signal to Noise” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Blending music and magic, this novel transports you to 1980s Mexico City, where a group of friends discovers the power of spells set to music. In her delightful debut, Moreno-Garcia transports readers to the bygone era of mixtapes and vinyl records. Set in 1988 Mexico City, the story revolves around 15-year-old Meche and her inseparable companions, the bookish Sebastian and the dreamy Daniela.
Uncovering literal magic within Meche’s collection of records, the trio harnesses newfound powers to elevate their social standing. However, the intersection of magic and the tumultuous journey through adolescence strains their bonds. Fast-forward to 2009, Meche returns to Mexico City for her father’s funeral, a radio deejay who fueled her love for music.
Reuniting with estranged friends, old wounds resurface. Moreno-Garcia effortlessly navigates between the two eras, portraying the cycles of outcast teenage life. The authenticity of Meche, Sebastian, and Daniela as characters, coupled with a plethora of ’80s musical references, renders this unique narrative a nostalgic and heartwarming journey into the past
“We Set the Dark on Fire” by Tehlor Kay Mejia: In Tehlor Kay Mejia’s inaugural venture into dystopian fiction, the narrative unfolds on an island marked by a divisive border wall, shaping the lives of its inhabitants. Steeped in ancient folklore, the government’s elite rulers adhere to a tradition that dictates two distinct roles for their wives: the pragmatic Primera responsible for household affairs, and the alluring Segunda tasked with the duty of bearing children.
This compelling tale explores the complexities of a society structured by tradition and control, unraveling the intricate dynamics of power and intimacy within the confines of a divided world.
“Silver Meadows Summer” by Emma Otheguy: Travel back in time to 1980s Mexico with 11-year-old Carolina as she spends a transformative summer discovering family secrets and cultural heritage.Following her family’s relocation from Puerto Rico to upstate New York due to her father’s job loss, 11-year-old Carolina grapples with the challenges of adjusting to a new environment. Yearning for the open landscapes of her Puerto Rican home, Carolina finds it difficult to connect with her half-Puerto Rican, half-white cousin, Gabriela.
As she navigates cultural differences and fears of losing her Puerto Rican customs, Carolina, along with her younger brother Dani, joins Gabriela at a farm day camp named Silver Meadows. Amid the looming threat of the camp’s closure, Carolina forges an unexpected friendship with Jennifer, an artist, and together, they transform a small abandoned cottage into their secret artists’ haven.
As Carolina endeavors to carve out her place in Larksville, she becomes entwined in a quest to preserve the cherished summer camp. Woven with the poetic themes of Robert Frost, Luis de Léon, and Antonio Machado, Emma Otheguy’s empathetic narrative captures the essence of Carolina’s journey in a new landscape, blending cultural exploration with the universal quest for belonging and creativity.
“The Last 8” by Laura Pohl: In a post-apocalyptic Mexico, join a diverse group of teens fighting to save humanity against an alien threat, showcasing resilience and unity. In “The Last 8,” embark on a gripping tale of survival as Clover Martinez navigates the aftermath of an alien invasion that leaves Earth devastated and devoid of life. Hailed as an “extravaganza of nonstop action,” this high-stakes thriller follows Clover, a seasoned survivor, as she discovers she’s not the sole survivor when a mysterious voice beckons her to the remnants of Area 51.
Expecting a group of heroic misfits, Clover instead encounters The Last Teenagers on Earth, a peculiar band seemingly more interested in denial than resistance. As she grapples with the unexpected dynamics of this diverse group, Clover’s skepticism deepens. However, the discovery of a concealed spaceship within the compound unveils new uncertainties, leaving her torn between beliefs and the struggle for trust in this suspenseful tale of post-apocalyptic survival.
“Mexican WhiteBoy” by Matt de la Peña: This emotionally charged novel follows the journey of a biracial teenager exploring his identity and passion for baseball against the vibrant backdrop of San Diego and Tijuana. A deeply reflective teenager, grapples with the complex emotions stemming from his father’s abandonment and his mixed heritage. Navigating a lifelong identity crisis as a half-Mexican and half-white individual, Danny’s internal struggles prompt his mother to send him to spend the summer with his father’s side of the family.
Immersed in his cousin Sofia’s world, Danny discovers an unexpected solace. Bonding over their shared love for baseball, his favorite sport, Danny forges genuine connections with Sofia’s friends. Through the camaraderie of the game, he not only forms lasting friendships but also begins to unravel the layers of his identity, allowing him to confront his tumultuous emotions and envision a more hopeful future.
“Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Infused with Mexican folklore, embark on a fantastical adventure with Casiopea Tun, who teams up with the Mayan god of death on a quest through the mystical underworld. Amidst the vibrant Jazz Age, Casiopea Tun’s dreams of a life beyond her small southern Mexican town seem distant. Occupied with menial tasks in her grandfather’s mansion, her world transforms when she stumbles upon a mysterious box.
Inadvertently releasing the spirit of the Mayan god of death, Casiopea finds herself entangled in a perilous quest to help him reclaim his throne from a treacherous brother. With her life hanging in the balance, she embarks on a captivating cross-country odyssey, guided by the enigmatic god, from the jungles of Yucatán to the dazzling lights of Mexico City and into the shadows of the Mayan underworld. Silvia Moreno-Garcia weaves a mesmerizing fairy tale, seamlessly blending Mexican folklore with a Jazz Age backdrop, promising readers an extraordinary and life-altering journey.
“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez: Delve into the complexities of family, grief, and cultural expectations as Julia Reyes navigates her way through adolescence, challenging societal norms with wit and resilience. It is is a compelling depiction of a modern Mexican American teenager grappling with the clash between her traditional family’s cultural expectations and her quest for independence.
Following the death of her seemingly flawless older sister, Julia must navigate the aftermath and unveil hidden facets of her sister’s life. Erika L. Sánchez weaves a contemporary narrative, infused with a mysterious element that keeps readers captivated, ensuring they remain immersed in this poignant exploration of identity and familial expectations.
These books not only invite you to traverse the landscapes of Mexico but also to explore the profound narratives woven into its very fabric. Let the pages be your guide as you embark on a literary journey, discovering the heart and soul of this captivating country. Through these compelling stories, may your wanderlust be ignited, beckoning you to experience the magic of Mexico firsthand. Happy reading, and perhaps, a real-life adventure awaits!