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Rachel’s Reads – September 2023

One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to experience different cultures and different lives. I know I’ve mentioned this George RR Martin quote before, but for me it really is true that “a reader lives a thousand lives.” It’s so fascinating to see the world through another lens, especially when that lens is one that you wouldn’t be able to understand on your own. Picking up a new book has a feeling of opening a window or a door; it allows you to see another person’s perspective and hopefully to step into their shoes. Some of the best novels that allow that experience are those labeled young adult. The coming of age narrative is one that is broad enough to relate to the story, yet also specific enough to learn from a fresh point of view. Below are several wonderful young adult novels to engage with as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth has become one of my favorite authors. This novel-in-verse deals with themes of grief, forgiveness, and love. When Camino and Yahaira learn that their father has passed away in a plane crash, they also learn how their shared father has kept his dual lives a secret from his two daughters. Each girl has her own distinctive voice, and both sides of the story are masterfully told. 

The Shadowshaper Cypher Series by Daniel José Older
This trilogy is a wonderful urban fantasy series with a culturally rich setting that is also steeped in spiritual tradition. Sierra is looking forward to a summer of hanging with friends and making art when weird things begin to happen. She discovers the Shadowshapers who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Sierra must master her own abilities to save her family’s past, present, and future. 

Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp
Aarón and Mia have both lost a parent and are using music to help them process their sadness. When they both run away from a music school audition, they find each other and realize they can help each other heal. Part navigating first love and part emotional punch addressing several heavy issues, this book doesn’t disappoint. 

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera
A retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Eury comes to the Bronx after losing everything in Hurricane Maria. Pheus is a charming bachata singer ready to serenade friends on the beach. Everything changes when they meet each other, but the demons chasing Eury are powerful in the magical realism tale that is lyrical and thought provoking. 

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves
This novel unflinchingly tackles ideas of steroid abuse and male body dysmorphia. After a video of him getting knocked down by a bully, David vows to bulk up over the summer and come back to school stronger than ever. As he spends all of his time at the gym, he falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world and pursues his ideal body at all costs. Incredibly heavy and yet engaging, this book focuses on male mental and physical health. 

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
This compelling book is the first in a duology. It follows a girl named Daniela Vargas in a dystopian society where women are trained solely for household duties. It has forbidden love, spying to fight for equality, resistance, and using your voice to make the world better. 

White Fox by Sara Faring
In this creepy and atmospheric novel, two distant sisters return to their home on a strange island wanting to find their mother who disappeared 10 years before. They use her last work to try and figure out what happened to her. Each sister is on her own journey but also on one together. 

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins
When Felipe learns that Caio will be staying with his family for 15 days, he is distraught. Partly because he has a crush on Caio and partly because of his body image insecurities and inability to entertain him. Felipe will have to dive headfirst into all his issues, but hopefully he will win over Caio, too. 

Happy Reading!



Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family in 2019. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography



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