11 Young Adult Novels About The Immigrant Experience

In today's political and social climate, immigrant stories — particularly in young adult literature — are beyond necessary. These books can expose young readers to cultures and experiences beyond their own and help them open their hearts and minds to the immigrants who make our nation a beautiful place to live. Take a look at these 11 YA novels that brilliantly explore the immigrant experience: 

MORE: 10 Bilingual Books For Children

1. YA Immigrant Books: Esperanza Rising

Esperanza lives the good life in Mexico: she has a big house, countless staff who wait on her and her family's every move and a closet filled with beautiful clothes. When a sudden tragedy forces her to move to a migrant farm worker camp in the United States, she suddenly finds herself questioning everything she knew. As her entire world changes, she learns how to rise above her circumstances and she becomes the person she was meant to be.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, $4.40, amazon.com


2. YA Immigrant Books: The Red Umbrella

Lucía Álvarez dreams like any other 14-year-old. She dreams of her quincañera. She dreams of the boy she has a crush on. But, it's the early 1960s in Cuba, and her entire world is about to change. When her grandparents send her to Nebraska as part of Operation Pedro Pan, she must forge a new identity and find new dreams a new country.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez, $6.99, amazon.com

3. YA Immigrant Books: Illegal

When Nora's father leaves Mexico to search for work in Texas, he promises to be home in time for her fifteen birthday, her quinceañera. But when he suddenly stops sending letters and money, Nora and her mother make the courageous to decision to travel to the United States to find him. When they arrive in Texas, they must forge a new life together — as undocumented immigrants in a new country.

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo, $15.52, amazon.com

4. YA Immigrant Books: Dream Things True

Evan and Alma may live in the same Georgia town, but they come from entirely different worlds. When they fall in love, everything seems be perfect — until, Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows up to carry out a series of raids implemented by Evan's uncle, a conservative politicians in the satte. What will happen when Alma shares the secret about her Mexican family to her blue-blooded boyfriend? Can their love survive?

Dream Things True by Maria Marquardt, $14.90, amazon.com


5. YA Immigrant Books: The Book Of Unknown Americans

When their beautiful daughter Maribel suffers a terrible accident, the Riveras leave their comfortable life in Mexico for a chance to get her better medical treatment in America. There, they discover the American Dream might not be everything they hoped. As the family struggles to adjust to their life in a rundown Delaware apartment, Maribel falls in love for the first time with a fellow immigrant who sees beyond her injury and beyond her beauty.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, $24.95, amazon.com

6. YA Immigrant Books: Into The Beautiful North

Nayeli lives in Tres Camarones, a village in Sinaloa, that has become suspiciously empty of men. They've all left to seek their fortunes up north, leaving the entire village unprotected from bandidos. Inspired by The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli and her three friends, Vampi, Yolo and Tacho, embark on a adventure toward America, where they plan to recruit seven men to bring back home. 

Into The Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, $10.82, amazon.com

7. YA Immigrant Books: Return To Sender

Tyler and his family live on a farm in Vermont. When his father gets injured, the family hires a migrant Mexican family to help save the farm. Tyler forges an unlikely friendship with the oldest daughter, Mari, a girl who struggles to find an identity that pays tribute to both her Mexican roots and her new American life. 

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, $6.99, amazon.com

8. YA Immigrant Books: Joyride

When shy Carly Vega meets the reckless Arden Moss, sparks fly. But there's a reason why Carly doesn't go out and doesn't get involved with people like Arden: her parents were deported back to Mexico years ago. Now, she stays home with her brother, studies and works part-time to save money for her parents. Now, she must find a way to balance what she wants and what's best for her family. 

Joyride by Anna Banks, $13.33, amazon.com

9. YA Immigrant Books: Journey Of Dreams

It's 1984, and Guatemala is in the throes of a horrifying civil war and genocide. Journey of Dreams follow Tomasa and her family as they flee their village home and embark on harrowing journey toward a better life in the United States.

Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino, $8.95, amazon.com

10. YA Immigrant Books: Sofi Mendozas Guide To Getting Lost In Mexico

Sofi was born in Mexico, but now she's a California girl through-and-through. She sneaks off for a weekend of fun in Tijuana, but gets stuck in Mexico when she discovers her green card is counterfeit. She unwillingly travels to rural Baja to stay with some long-lost relatives. There, she falls in love for the first time and learns that her Mexican roots will always be a part of her identity.

Sofi Mendoza's Guide To Getting Lost In Mexico by Malin Alegria, $8.99, amazon.com

11. secret side

M.T. hides a secret behind her straight-A grades, her perfect boyfriend, and her blonde hair and porcelain skin. In truth, her name is Monserrat Thalia, and she's an undocumented immigrant from Argentina. She wants to apply for college, but knows she can't because of her citizenship status. Instead, she begins to unravel as she watches her friends pursue their dreams. Her heartbreaking narrative makes this a must-read for all young reader who hope to understand the struggle of undocumented immigrants on a more personal level.

The Secret Side Of Empty by Maria E. Andreu, $10.95, amazon.com