Cover Image: Ander & Santi Were Here

Ander & Santi Were Here

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This was such a beautiful and important story. I found myself truly invested in the characters, their emotions, and their struggles. Words are not enough to convey it how impactful this was. I will forever recommend this novel!
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I don't know what I was expecting when I started reading Ander and Santi Were Here, but I got so much more than I bargained for. Not only was this a beautiful love story between 2 young adults (one non-binary and one bi-sexual), but it also focused on culture, art, family, gender and politics and it all pulled the story together seamlessly. 

Ander is at home in Texas taking a gap year before starting art school in Chicago in the fall. Their family who is very close knit and owns a taqueria decides to "fire" them from working at the restaurant in order for them to focus on their art and get experience under their belt before college begins. They have all the support of their family and I loved their connection and utmost devotion they showed throughout the story. But when Ander notices the new guy, Santi that takes their place at the restaurant, they have a new focus. Art around their city AND Santi!

Santi and Ander are the absolute cutest. I liked their instant connection and the way they brought each other into their lives. It's not until an incident at the restaurant that we see that Santi was hiding something huge from Ander. And that is the part of the story that ends up really bringing us all the emotions to the story. The politics and ICE and love and borders. 

This is a coming of age book that ended up giving me love, laughs, angst and even tears. I did get frustrated at a few things the main characters did, but then I had to realize their ages. They were still getting to know who they were. Ander had a strong sense of family and was just beginning to realize who they were as an artist as opposed to being put into a box. And Santi just wanted to be free in the US and also have a sense of love and family, but in a very different way. When things get turned upside down for him, Ander's family shows him what love, community and family is all about. 

Ander and Santi Were Here was a 4+ stars read. After the first little bit, I fell in love with all the characters, the city, the friends, the family and the entire unit as a whole. They made me think and made me fall in love with these characters that went to any length to have a little bit of freedom, no matter how it looked. I'm also a lover of seeing art depicted in books and loved the fact that the author brought the Mexican culture into Ander's art that he created. 

If you liked Jonny Garza Villa's first book, definitely give this one a chance. It is a story that is well represented and deals with topics that are important to our current times and weaves it with a bit of romance that will leave you with a smile on your face.
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A coming of age book about young love between an artist and an undocumented migrant working in his family restaurant. Not bad, but the writing is overlabored.
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Ander and Santi Were Here was a book I almost put down. The first part moved at a snail's pace and it was boring. I have no idea why I continued to read it. But read it I did. And as it turns out I wasn't disappointed. 

It's set in Ander Martinez's family taqueria where Santiago Navarro was employed. Ander was a muralist who worked in the taqueria as well, until his mother basically fired him so that he could concentrate on his art. He'd taken a gap year after high school to do an art internship. His plan was to attend the art institute in Chicago.

Anyway, things moved along very slowly until Santi's secret was revealed. Then the story picked up considerably. Ander and Santi's relationship blossomed beautifully. They spent as much time together as they could. Santi helped Ander with his murals and Ander was allowed to once again work with him at the taqueria. They fell in love. And Ander asked him to move to Chicago with him. 

The remainder of the book is about how they chose to deal with Santi's secret. It turns out the book was very poignant. As it were, I just had to be patient and let the story unfold. I'm really glad I decided to continue. And I really liked the ending. I gave it four stars. It would have been five had it not started out so slow.
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Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for allowing access to this title. All opinions expressed are my own

Please DO NOT see my 3-star rating and think " Well, I won't read that book." Ander and Santi Were Here was a beautiful YA novel. A very positive and loving relationship between two teen characters on the cusp of adulthood. I loved the non-binary representation. A loving family that supports that non-binary character. The descriptions of Mexican food and mural art that are presented in this novel. The beautiful Spanish dialogue is all throughout the novel. I can't speak Spanish but I was able to grasp most of it. The attention to the issue of ICE and border policy. The stunning cover.

For Ander Lopez, their love for Santiago Garcia was insta-attraction/insta-lust/ insta-love and the romance was a nice slow burn. The story is told completely from Ander, a Mexican-American's perspective. Jonny Garza Villa, who places the author's note at the beginning of the book explains that this perspective was the one they were most comfortable telling. As much as I was begging to have a chapter from Santi's perspective, I respect that Jonny Garza Villa did not want to assume the voice of a character in a situation, they had not experienced themselves.

Now that I have told you all that, I guess what didn't work for me has to be confessed. The plot was very slow. It took a while before we got to the heavier issue of the book. If it hadn't been an ARC, I might have not finished. I wasn't a fan of the choices that Ander makes in the end. Maybe the English teacher in me just feels that my students need to read books that really don't always have the endings they desire. But I am a 41-year-old and not the author's target audience.

Expected Publication Date 02/05/23
Goodreads Review Published 26/03/23
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This swoon-worthy romance made me simultaneously bawl my eyes out or smile because of how much I loved it. All the way through I was crying of some sort, this made me feel so many emotions that I could not possibly put into words but I will have to say trust me it is a book you will want to pick up.
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This book. Wow. I don’t think I was emotionally prepared for the beauty and heart in this book. The characters, the story, the setting, the food. All of it. So perfectly crafted. I felt so much like I was part of their world. I love Ander’s family, their dynamic, the love they have for each other. They were all so supportive and accepting of Ander and Santi and I want to pull up a seat in Lupe’s restaurant and be part of the family.  I rooted so hard for Ander and for Santi and the entire time I dreaded turning the page because I knew it was going to hurt. Like the Monster at the End of this book but the monster isn’t lovable furry old Grover.  And it absolutely hurt. In that rip your heart out, you’ll never be the same, this book and these character will live rent-free in my mind for a very long time way. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books I won’t shut up about and will recommend to anyone who will listen.
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I loved this for so many reasons.   For showing a look at what being an undocumented immigrant is like.  For showing a safe and loving family for an nonbinary person.  For the absolute love that this book filled me with.  Hands down, the best book I've read this year. 

Ander and Santi are just meant to be.  Ander is an artist planning on going to art school in Chicago.  Currently, they are working on murals across their hometown,  San Antonio.   When they meet Santi, everything seems to still be for the both of them into a tranquil happiness.   And it's just so romantic!!! 

This author speaks on very important issues  and does it well. I honestly want more Ander and Santi! 

This book is gorgeous.   The characters are gorgeous.   Chef's kiss, this was an amazing read! 

Out May 2, 2023!
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✨ Review ✨ Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa; Narrated by Avi Roque

Omg this book is Puro San Antonio and I'm obsessed.

This book brings together Ander, a non-binary muralist who has grown up in the Westside of San Antonio, and Santi, an undocumented migrant working in Ander's family's restaurant. The two find quick attraction as they build a friendship filled with adorable flirting. As they build a relationship, the book gets you to think about the meaning of home -- place, structures, family, and friends, and the combination of all of these.

The book made me laugh and cry and feel all the feelings as we moved through joy and excitement and sadness and fear that Ander and Santi faced together. Ander and his family work to protect Santi from ICE, but this produces something that's both heartwarming and heartbreaking as you consider contemporary border / migration issues. RAICES (a real org based in SA comes out as the hero that it is in real life in this book too).

The voice of Ander was PERFECTION, and the book provided such a natural blend of Spanish dialogue and English. This is the second book  narrated by Roque I've listened to this week and I'm a fan for life.  

Murals, Westside orgs, tacquerias, debates of salsa, mango and paletas, and so much gave me all the SA vibes; and it will make you starving. I'll read anything that Jonny Garza Villa writes!!!!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (or just one billion stars)
Genre: YA NB/M romance; coming-of-age
Location: San Antonio
Reminds me of: They Both Die at the End, Cemetery Boys
Pub Date: 02 May 2023

Read this for:
⭕️ its descriptions of murals and food
⭕️ queer joy
⭕️ an open discussion of the impact of ICE/border policy
⭕️ bravery and resistance in the face of those policies

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books, Macmillan Audio, and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of this book!
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I loved this book so much, especially the open and hopeful ending. It was optimistic without being unrealistic, which isn't always easy to pull off. I probably won't add this to my middle school collection because it's a bit too mature on the relationships part, but I have recommended it to my high school colleagues. It's an honest look at the human cost of immigration policies.
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Ander thinks they have their whole life figured out. They’re taking some time off after graduating high school before starting Art School in Chicago. Then they meet Santi and their whole idea of the future is changed. 

While this book is classified as YA I would actually group it as New Adult because it is a little more spicy than your average YA book. Definitely for ages 16+. 

I had trouble keeping up with all the Spanish in the book but it definitely made it feel more authentic. 

I did put off finishing this book for about a week because I did not want it to end. I’m happy to report that it does have a happy ending. 

Thank you to NetGalley & Wednesday books for an ARC of this book.
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4.5 stars 

“Everything is going to be okay, right?”
“No. But that’s okay too.” 

Ander & Santi Were Here is a beautiful story featuring a young couple facing seemingly insurmountable odds. 

When Ander meets Santi, they are immediately smitten. Santi, too is equally smitten with Ander. But Santi’s undocumented status casts a dark cloud over their growing relationship, as the constant threat of ICE looms large. Can Ander and Santi find a way to be together? Or will they be torn apart by circumstances beyond their control? 

“…maybe this is the first time my heart’s been louder than my brain, I want to listen to it.” 

This novel is important in many ways. It’s a timely exploration of the arbitrariness of borders; on the oppressiveness of the laws that affect marginalized communities. It is also a gorgeously crafted queer love story that gives much needed representation to characters who are well-sketched and leap off the page. It’s a love story between Ander and Santi, and between them and their families—both found and birth.  

“There’s only us, here together in a moment that is both beautiful and frightening, for however the world wants to give us. And we’re going to make the most of it.” 

Ander & Santi Were Here is lovely, poignant, timely, and a must-read.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for generously providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Raimskie Read: Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa (@jonnyinstas)
Digital Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC),
To be released on May 2, 2023
Let me be honest with all of you because I almost put this book on my DNF list. 
The contemporary novel is about how the relationship between Ander Lopez (a gay nonbinary muralist) and Santiago Garcia (the newly-hired waiter/taquero in their family’s taqueria) blossomed and thrived beautifully despite the trials and tribulations the world throws their way.
Now, the reason I almost did not finish this book is because of the anxiety I felt while reading it. Chapter after chapter, I would always wonder when the happy moments between these two lovers would shatter and if the inevitable doom of their relationship would happen in that new chapter that I was reading. Plus, the recurring presence of the ICE agents always puts me on edge.
Luckily, that was the only thing that I did not like while I was reading this book. The story is just full of sweet, sappy, and happy moments that you will always wish the best for both of them and that those tender moments between these lovers will not end.
Despite the romance being at its core, this book also tackled social issues such as microaggression, cultural appropriation, racism, and gentrification while showing its readers the colourful and vibrant culture of the Mexican community.
This book is simply the sweetest, most raw, most beautiful, most poignant, most romantic, and one of the most moving novels I have read so far, if not for this year.
•mentions of ICE/ICE Raids
•underage alcohol drinking
•non-graphic sexual scenes
•marijuana use [although I have seen people do this in my daily life (because it’s legal here in Canada), some people might still feel uncomfortable reading scenes with this]
Started: March 7, 2023
Finished: March 22, 2023
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Legit crying rn - how HOW was this book that beautiful AND heartbreaking? I JUST CAN'T- OMG 😭

Why you should read this book:
- such soft, cozy moments
- fools in love who call you love and touch-deprived in every single chapter
- SO much love ❤️
- latinx rep
- trans, gay MC
- art references and conversations
- SO MANY food references, if I wasn't already in love with Mexican food, I sure would be now

Please just go read this, it is amazing and mindblowing and I'll perhaps write a full length review after I've calmed down. HIGHLY recommend!!
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Thank you so much to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book early! This was a charming, fast-paced romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. But this book is more than just a romance, it also discusses the complexity of allyship and identity. I appreciated the author’s note at the beginning of this novel as it does set the scene and prepare us—the readers—to not put the characters on a pedestal. Through reading, we realize that these characters, just like anyone, are human beings: perfectly imperfect. It is not a new realization that some people approach queer and/or BIPOC books with this idea of perfection, and if it or its characters fall short of that very high bar at any point, then the book suffers and its message is lost. So, the author addressing this fallacy is important, but this book really does speak for itself. It is a wonderful story that follows characters—in whom we might see loved ones in our own lives—navigate the complexities of young adulthood, as they stand at the precipice of change. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that I wish I had this book when I was 18, or even 22. My struggles were not the same as Ander and Santi’s, but that is the beauty of this book. The real emotions as these characters struggle with and question their decisions are universal. 
This is very special addition to the growing list of queer coming of age novels that I wish I had as a young queer person, and I’m so excited for more people to read it.
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Trigger Warnings: Underage drinking, immigration/ICE, transphobia, negative self talk, marijuana, sex off page, cursing, racism, vomit, racial profiling, interaction with police

Representation: They/them pronouns, queer, Mexican, Transgender, Gay, Non-binary, Grey-Ace, Bisexual

Ander and Santi Were Here is a queer contemporary romance about Ander Lopez. Ander is on their gap year before heading to Chicago in the fall for art school. While working for their family’s taqueria, Ander has been also completing murals for a local residency. One day, they meet Santiago Garcia, the hot new waiter. Falling for each other becomes as natural as breathing. Through Santi's eyes, Ander starts to understand who they are and want to be as an artist, and Ander becomes Santi's first steps toward making Santos Vista and the United States feel like home.

Until ICE agents come for Santi, and Ander realizes how fragile that sense of home is. How love can only hold on so long when the whole world is against them. And when, eventually, the world starts to win.

Wow, I love this book! It’s absolutely fantastic! It has easily become my number one for the year and it will be hard to surpass it! This book is so full of love and compassion. The story is absolutely beautiful and Ander and Santi’s relationship is one to cheer for from the beginning. The plot is a bit atypical, with less things “happening,” but still keeps the reader interested from start to finish. The author does an amazing job incorporating their culture and own experiences into this story. 

I absolutely adored all of the characters. Tita sounds so fun and I’d want to hang with her all of the time if I was in their family. Ander is so colorful and full of life, and Santi is so realistic. The story’s description of food is absolutely amazing, I constantly wanted to eat while reading this. And the way the author describes Ander’s art is absolutely stunning. I wish they were real! Also I loved the TBDATE Easter egg! This book needs to be read by all and I truly hope it reaches all that need it!
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What a joy of a book! I’m not sure I can coherently write about it, but I’ll certainly do my best. But the TL;DR version is that this book is hands down one of the best books I’ve read and you should absolutely read it.

Ander & Santi Were Here is a YA contemporary romance filled with so many emotions. From the start I loved Ander’s voice and humor. They had me grinning and laughing out loud, but it was twinged with the knowledge of future grief because as you watch Ander and Santi fall in love, you know that there’s a time limit because Ander is moving to Chicago and Santi is undocumented. It was a a similar feeling to reading Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End (which is actually referenced in this book) where you know what’s going to happen but you can’t help wishing it might change. And yes, I cried.

This whole book is about finding joy where you can and following your passions. A big plot point is Ander’s decision to defer going to art school for a year and their struggles with how their identity and their art inform each other. Watching their growth throughout the story was everything I want out of this type of coming of age story. I also loved the community dynamics. Ander’s family was amazing and I loved that they gave each other so much shit and always used the appropriate gender neutral Spanish for Ander. I loved Zeke and Ronnie and Juni and everyone. And Santi! I loved him, and how he was still so optimistic and kind despite everything he has been through. 

This book was beautiful and I will absolutely be rereading via audio (narrated by Avi Roque, who I love) and when my physical book comes in.
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This book is a hauntingly charming and realistic story that managed to launch me out of my reading slump, something a book hasn't been able to do in about 6 months. I absolutely adored everything about this book: the plot, the character construction, the vibes, and the setting.
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It's so difficult to aptly summarize just how powerful this book is, or the impact it had on me. Jonny Garza Villa has such a way with words, weaving an atmospheric, colorful story that leaves you crying and laughing and clutching your heart in equal measure. The way that they describe the settings, from the restaurant patio to the park to Ander's murals - you can see it all so vividly.

Reading Ander & Santi Were Here gives you that same feeling as that last summer before college; warm and slow and nostalgic for those last few moments of childhood, but with that lingering undercurrent of anxiety wrong wrong wrong creeping up on you. You can feel the bond that Ander has with their family, their friends, and their community in every page, and the love that Ander feels for all of them and the places around them in return. From the very moment Santi is introduced, you are rooting for him and Ander, falling in love as quickly and deeply and dramatically as only teenagers can. You want the two of them to succeed, and you believe that they will, no matter how dramatic the stakes get or suddenly that undercurrent of anxiety changes to a present and immediate threat. This is a couple - and a family - that you cheer for, and you feel safe to do so because the author themself has reassured you that you can, and that's a beautiful thing when balancing such a delicate, difficult, current topic.

And, to wrap the story up so beautifully with a cover and a title that are both so relevant to the overall plot - AMAZING. Literal chills. Flawless.

I just genuinely cannot say enough good things about this book, or these characters, or Jonny Garza Villa. I can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy next month, and I definitely can't wait to stick a copy on my classroom shelves.
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Thank you St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review 

Ander & Santi Were Here is a beautiful book that depicts the story of the protagonist Ander and their partner Santi, as they navigate the challenges that come with being undocumented, or rather just brown, in the US. The author writes with so much compassion and their characters are so easy to fall in love with and be invested in. Although the book is about our titular couple, they bring up the issues that come with systemic racism, tokenism, gentrification, and of course immigration. Seeing Ander’s growth as they become more confident in their art and their priorities was extremely heartwarming and touching, and I loved how the author showed the progression of their art and murals as a vehicle to show Ander’s own growth. 
This book absolutely destroyed me, it had me ugly crying for two days in public transportation¬– the romance is written with so much tenderness and passion that it’s difficult not to feel what the characters feel throughout the book. I enjoyed the writing style overall as I felt the voice of Ander suited their personality really well, however, there were definitely some clumsy sentences and awkward phrasing (seriously does anyone outside of TikTok use ‘unalive'?) that were distracting while reading. The book brings awareness to many issues that immigrants, specifically Mexican immigrants face and I appreciated the lens through which the author calls attention to these issues. Not all queer books need to have queerness as a source of trauma, however, I think that there could have been some more discussions about the intersections of queerness and immigrant status. I feel that a book about a queer couple navigating the complex migration landscape in this country was missing a critical intersectional lens about how queer couples often face unique challenges due to their migrant status and their identity. This book is not only phenomenal and touching but also highlights the challenges that come with being undocumented, I urge everyone to read this book.
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