Cover Image: Ander & Santi Were Here

Ander & Santi Were Here

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Member Reviews

If you like finding meaning in life and taking risks with love, then this book is a must-read.  I love how they integrate LGBTQ+ characters but do not make that the focal point of the story.  Romance is in the air with the two main characters and finding one's true self.  There is a mix of Spanish and English within the whole story and it will not impede understanding if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker. I was not expecting the ending it did have. loved how they overcame some of the struggles.
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This took me a while to write on this book, it was heavy but fantastic.

There was so many themes in this book that are not as loudly marketed to the regular book reading crowd and I’m so glad its getting the recognition of how good it is.
Non binary gay MC
Queernormative San Antonio
Taqueria setting (food all the time yay!)
First love
ALSO AVI ROQUE NARRATED OMFG they are so good at this and I definitely recommend this over physical. BUT the B&N Edition has a stamp of their name on the naked cover and bright pink endpapers. I went to get it signed and personalised when it came out, I was so happy. There were sad tears and happy tears, and a satisfying HEA, I was stressed as well the last 20% of the book.
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I went into this book completely blind. I did not know what to expect when I first opened this book, but I found myself hooked from the very start. The characters in this book are so likeable, so passionate, and the story revolving around them is just beautifully heartbreaking. This book features Ander, a non-binary, gay individual, who is taking a gap year between high school and college to find themself in their art. They have this beautiful imagination and creativity, but their family is pushing them to go back to school as soon as possible, and not just any school, but a high-ranking art school in the nation. Ander lives in San Antonio with their family and the following August is planning to head to this art school in Chicago, or so they thought. That is until they meet Santi. Santi is a cis-male who is questioning but hinted at being bi-sexual. Santi was born in Mexico and is not in the United States the traditional way. He is a down-to-earth, full-of-heart boy. Ander's family helps Santi out of a tough situation and eventually are there for him in more ways than one could have imagined. Ander and Santi's relationship blossoms into something more and their love is put to the test of not only hardships for being a gay couple, but also by the immigration laws and systems in Texas and the United States. 

This book is such an emotional ride. The culture, art, love, and passion this book possesses is insane. The book is also hilariously funny at times. I laughed, I cried, I smiled and felt all of the emotions the characters went through during this read. The book is so powerful because it stands up for people of both the LGBTQIA+ community as well as against Immigration injustices. It has been such a long time since I have read a book this powerful that makes you want to fight back, take a stand, and be better for this world we are living in. I highly, HIGHLY, recommend giving this one a read or a listen because it is just phenomenal.
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Ander & Santi Were Here is absolutely for Ari & Dante fans! 
Harrowing and full of heart, this beautiful debut is not to be missed.
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This is an absolutely gorgeous story. It sucked me in from the very beginning, making me instantly love and care about the characters, and never let me go. It's about courage and bravery in the face of unfair authority, about finding who you are and what you want to do and who you want to be with, about embracing your roots and being unapologetically yourself no matter what anyone else says.

Ander is a dramatic nonbinary teen in San Antonio who is getting increasing recognition for their murals and preparing to go to Chicago for art school. Santi is a shy and quiet undocumented immigrant teen fleeing from the violence that killed half his family. They meet in Ander's family's restaurant and sparks fly. Their love story is raw and honest and changes each of them for the better, giving them hope and courage and determination. Santi wears his heart on his sleeve for Ander, who does the same, and they fit together so well.

I loved the many scenes of Ander painting and the way Santi loves all of their paintings. The way it's described, you can tell that the author is very familiar with artists and perhaps is one themself. There is so much love infused in each of those scenes and descriptions.

I also loved how loving and accepting Ander's family are in this book. They are loud and they argue but the love always shines through and they support Ander through everything. Ander's friends also come through for them and show their love. Ander comes from such a vibrant, loving family that I was jealous.

I also loved that the conflict does not touch Ander's nonbinary identity. It is an established fact at the beginning of the book and no one questions it. It never takes a central role except as an essential part of Ander. Ander is nonbinary and that's the end of it.

The conflict, instead, first centers around Ander's self-doubt about their future as an artist and the way the influences they want their art to be shaped by, and then later, as Ander begins to figure themself out, the conflict shifts to center around Santi's undocumented status and his future and their future together. It's masterfully done, and never feels forced or artificial.

ICE is a looming threat throughout the last quarter of the book, and things take a bit of a darker tone, but Ander and Santi grow to meet the challenges they are faced with and the ending felt right and inevitable and perfect. Did I cry? yes. Was it worth it? Definitely yes. 10/10 would read again.

The audiobook was brilliantly performed, with every character feeling distinct and real, with their own voice and tone. The way the different character voices carried emotion was excellent. The sprinkling of Spanish scattered throughout also was performed excellently and enhanced the setting for me, making it feel more real. Did I understand all the words? No. Did I understand the meaning behind them? Yes. And the emotions and tone they were delivered with helped with that.

This book needs to be in libraries and classrooms everywhere in this country. And it definitely needs to win some awards.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy of the audiobook for review.
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Beautiful story! I can't wait to recommend it to my students. I know that they will fall in love with Ander & Santi. Being from a school on a border town I know many of our students will relate to the characters, the story, and the scenery. Thank you for writing such a remarkable story. I hope there will be a sequel as I want to know what Ander & Santi are up to in the future.
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This book was everything I could have wanted and more. It made me laugh and cry, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the book. I didn't want it to end, yet at the same time, I just wanted Ander and Santi to get the happy ending they deserved. It felt as though each moment they were finally able to be happy together, something would come in the way of their happiness, and it was heartbreaking each and every time. I was invested from the beginning and adored every second I got to spend with these characters.
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Ander and Santi Were Here is the best book I’ve read so far this year. It is vivid, moving, and at times laugh out loud funny. 

The plot driving this book is captivating - Santi’s struggle to remain in America and Andre’s growth in being directly impacted by the injustice of being an undocumented person for the first time is truly moving without ever getting too saccharine. Villa’s writing is so beautiful and specifically constructed that I felt like I was walking side by side with Ander and Santi - I had physical, visceral reactions to several moments of fear. 

But, it’s the character development that made me absolutely love this story. I love books that not only let you get to know their characters intimately, but also why they are who they are and this book does that so well. In getting to know Ander’s entire support system you understand what allows them to both be this beautiful, self assured person, while also sheltering him to some of the harsher realities of their community. I absolutely fell in love with this family. 

This book should be required reading for all American teens. The audio narration was perfect. Thank you so, so much to NetGalley and MacMillian Audio for the opportunity to read this audio arc in exchange for an unbiased review.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

I have been living blissfully in my mind in San Antonio for the last few days while I’ve been in the world of Ander and Santi and their romance. The author wrote so beautifully about the community, the restaurant, and all the highlights of the city that I felt like I was there. It’s warm, loud and bright, and I can smell the taquería. Speaking of food, it’s practically it’s own character in this book. I actually had to hunt down tacos because of my cravings.

Ander and Santi Were Here is a unique YA story, although I’ll argue it’s more new adult than YA due to some mature themes (references to sex acts and drug use), but I’d still recommend to older teens in my library. Ander is a gay, non-binary teen living with their incredible, supportive family in San Antonio. They are taking a gap year, and working on their art before college. Santi is a quiet, new employee at Ander’s family restaurant, and happens to be undocumented and living illegally in Texas. The two quickly fall head over heels for each other. I say quickly, but it was believable and never forced. 

This was my first time reading a book from the perspective of a non-binary teen, and my first time reading about undocumented migrants in the U.S.. Being from Canada I know so little about their challenges, so this story was really eye opening for me. This book is filled with love, heartbreak, sadness, and hope - so many beautiful, human experiences wrapped up in one. It’s near the top of my favourite YA books of 2023, and I can’t wait to recommend it.
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Congratulations, Ander & Santi, for being the first book of the year to make me cry actual tears. This book is one of my favorite love stories I've read in recent times, but it's also about so much more than that. It's about family, community, Mexican-American identity, the intersection of art and identity, oh, and food. I could read Jonny Garza Villa's descriptions of food all day. This is a slow burn read, and the story focuses much more on relationships between characters, rather than driving the plot forward, and for this reason I might actually recommend the audiobook over the print version. I found it so enjoyable to turn on the audiobook and just relax into the narration. It felt like listening to a friend chat about their life, and I couldn't get enough of Ander's story. I would love to read a sequel to this book, and I would LOVE to see a movie or series adaptation. (The story so clearly translated into film scenes in my head, so I could absolutely imagine it working on screen.)

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the advanced audio copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Ander is a non-binary queer Mexican-American living in San Antonio, taking a gap year before college to paint murals around town. 

Santi is the new hire at his parents taqueria, where Ander also occasionally works, and when he and Ander see each other both are attracted to the other. But Santi has a secret. He’s an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Ander’s family is no stranger to people like Santi and have hired them before to work in their restaurant, and do what they can to protect those people.

This story captivated me from the first page to the last. Well, first audiobook chapter to the last – its the type of audiobook that I missed exits for while driving because I was so engaged with the story.

Ander is a real down to earth person who just wants to make art. They’ve been accepted to The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and will attend there in the fall – they took a gap year after high school to stay home and make murals all over San Antonio with a program that specializes in that. 

They are openly queer and even used to date their best friend Zeke before they realized they’re better off friends. Zeke is an excellent wingman for Ander and Santi and once the two become friends, there’s no stopping them. I loved how natural their relationship felt, progressing from friends, to friends with lingering touches, to more than friends.

Ander has a supportive family who accepts Santi into their family as well and do all they can to help and protect him. Ander’s sister is another great supporting character with a personality!

Ander and Santi are both nineteen years old and this felt more like upper YA – they eventually do get together and it’s said what happens, but there are no details other then kissing and hand holding.

With a good portion of this book taking place at the taqueria, its no surprise this book is full of food! Food is spoken about so often, it make me hungry! I’m not very familiar with Mexican food or culture, but this book taught me a lot. A good amount of the dialogue is also in Spanish – and while I don’t speak Spanish, the context was enough for me to understand what was going on. I appreciated the authenticity of this book – especially the food! I love food!

As an art person myself, I enjoyed hearing Ander talk about the process they use to create murals – and hearing the murals described. I wish I could see some of these in real life, but they were described so well I could picture them vividly.

I will warn you that there are scary and unhappy moments throughout this book – it has a sort of happy ending, but not the one you would expect. The ending took me by surprise but it felt right.

I can’t say I’ve ever read about undocumented immigrants in young adult literature before so that was a new one for me – and I found it heartbreaking but I also learned a lot. Living in the northeast, I can’t say this is something I can relate to, but that is why I read – to learn about experiences outside of my own, and this definitely gave me that.
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The narration of this book kept me close even though the topics and subjects talked about within this book kept me glued as well. Racism, nonbinary rep, lgbtqia+ rep… and a dense and well written storyline. Yes please.
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Thank you to the author Jonny Garza Villa, publisher Macmillan Audio, and as always NetGalley, for an advance audio copy of ANDER AND SANTI WERE HERE.

I absolutely love the title of this one! This is a  sweet romance about Ander, the artist with the identity crisis, and Santi, the drifter looking for his reason to be brave and commit to his future. In the course of their blooming love, Ander discovers how disillusioned he is with the artistic establishment,  how inspired he is by his community's artistic roots, and how connected he feels to other artistic othered's whose works move his soul and brush. Santi realizes keeping his head down might be safer, but it also means life passes him by. And he doesn't want to let Ander pass him by.

The writing in this book is quite good, in the sense that the story offers the reader so many opportunities to invest in it and the characters. Villa regularly introduces or progresses conflict, or increases stakes, or drops suspense, making for a story that both grabs the reader and pulls them along. This is an exciting read!

Watching these two grow together and challenge their worlds to grow with them makes for a great read. Such a good romance, with a healthy dose of realism and a spicy dash of justice in the narrative.

(The denouement goes on a little bit too long; it could have wrapped up the same way in less space.)

Rating:  🌻🌻🌻🌻.5 / 5 Sunflowers
Recommend? Definitely!
Finished: April 12 2023
Read this if you like:
👩‍🎨 Painting and art
🌈 LGBTQ+ rep
💜 Bisexual rep
🗺 Immigrant stories
👧🏾 Diverse voices and stories
👨🏽‍🎓 Coming of age stories
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I laughed, cried, and cussed out loud sitting in the middle of an intersection at a red light.

Jonny Garza Villa wrote this book with so much love and nuance that every chapter reveals more and more of the human experience. The discussions around the complicated relations between Latine folks both documented and undocumented, the ways in which immigration, the punitive justice system and even other Latine people can harm them is nothing short of artful.

It’s also unbelievably gay and who doesn’t love gays?
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Great book about a queer relationship. I highly recommend for anyone that is a part of or an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community.
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What a wonderfully, heartbreaking read! An excellent read for folks who enjoyed the "Aristotle and Dante" series. A beautiful story of love and the many shapes home can take.
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This was a really well performed audiobook. Sensitive, meaningful topic with a cute story and one that is incredibly relevant and relatable for many people!!
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Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for providing a free audiobook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Congratulations to you Jonny, for creating a beautiful piece of art that many of us from our community can relate to! A big thank you to the narrator Avi Roque, for creating another wonderful listening experience.

Ander & Santi Were Here is an absolute gift! As a Latina, from a huge loving funny Mexican family, it was a comforting feeling to read a book that reminds me so much of my family. This book is proudly Chicané & it made me feel so proud reading it. This book captures Latiné culture so well, down to our humor, food, and support that we provide to our community.

Ander & Santi Were Here carries so much representation! Not only is this an LGBTQ+ romance, our main character, Ander, is proudly non-binary! & the best part is that their family & friends are so supportive. I love books where a character is trans/non-binary & it is not even an issue! It’s so damn refreshing & it made me enjoy this book so much more. Majority of our cast are BIPOC individuals as well!

In regard to the actual story, we see our two MC’s have an instant attraction to one another but their relationship grows into a friendship with a “will they won’t they” vibe. A relationship finally grows but is constantly afraid of being ripped away since one of our MC’s, Santiago aka Santi, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Reading about this blossoming love story was very hard at times. I would get super cheesy and happy for the two but the dawning thought of them being forcibly separated by ICE would leave a pit in my stomach.

The end of this story is the only “negative” part for me, if I can even say that. It ends in a HEA way but it was a bit too predictable for me. I wish there would have been some time or pause between the characters to build the need for one another but then again I would be pissed if the story didn’t end in HEA either. 😅 I also think if the book were a dual POV, we would get to know the character Santi at a deeper level, he has the most risk throughout the book so it would have been nice to see things through his lens.

Overall, this book was amazing & I will definitely be picking up a physics copy for myself!
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I ABSOLUTELY loved this book. The story was entertaining and well written. I love Ander and Santi's relationship & they journey it took had me hooked & unable to put down the book! Will definitely be on the look out for more titles by this author
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Thank you so much to MacMillan audio for the gifted copy of this book! 

First off, how gorgeous is this cover?! Just by looking at it you can tell how connected Ander & Santi are and their emotional connection. I definitely fell in love with the cover before I started listening to this book. 

Ander is an artist who has taken a gap year and has plans to move to Chicago to pursue art but that all changes when he meets his replacement, Santiago, at his family's restaurant and as his time gets close where he needs to leave. He has to decide if it's worth risking it all for love. 

I thought Garza Villa's description of the fears that undocumented Mexicans and the emotions were describe felt so raw for both Ander and Santi. 

But overall this fell short for me. I really loved the beginning but then the story started to drag and it became really slow for me. So much would happen and then I'd look at my phone and I would still have hours left to go. 

I did love the representation that was in the book and think it is important to continuously have queer love stories especially those in the Latin & Hispanic community. 

The book was narrated by actor Avi Roque who I thought did a wonderful drop bringing the characters alive. 

The writing itself was beautiful & I would read another one of Jonny's book and I am looking forward to a future author q&a with them that I have coming up. 

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