Cover Image: Ander & Santi Were Here

Ander & Santi Were Here

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Member Reviews

This one is heartfelt story of two teenagers. Ander and Santi. One is a US citizen while the other isn’t. The story follows their insta love and it’s endearing. I absolutely adored Anders family!! Especially, abuelita. The author did a wonderful job making both Ander and Santi well rounded characters including the family members and Ander’s best friend. I loved how this book incorporates Mexican words and didn’t translate each word! It read well and I laughed so many times while reading this book. I wish I knew Ander and Santi in real life so I can hang out and laugh at all of their shenanigans. While the story did have some slow pacing in some parts, I still enjoyed the story very much. While it surrounds a very important topic of immigration policies and ICE, I hope it opens the door for immigration discussion. Everyone has their own unique stories and many times it’s a complex story. 
The narrator, Avi Roque did a phenomenal job portraying both Ander and Santi.  They also portrayed the secondary characters very well by using a variety of tones and inflections. I was lost with Avi’s narration till the very end.
I highly recommend this book, especially to any Latine/Latinx readers. I feel like many will connect to this story. 

A very special thanks to St. Martins press for the gifted book and Macmillan Audio and Netgalley for the ALC.
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I'm not usually for audio books. I my mind tends to wander and I miss plot points and dialogue. But I was pleasantly surprised by the narration for Ander & Santi. I think the narrator did a lovely job of bringing this emotional story to life.
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4.5 stars
This was such a beautiful and important story.
And now I will cry any time I look at the cover of this book.
Avi Roque is one of my favorite audiobook narrators so highly recommend the audiobook.
Thank you to netgalley for an arc of the audiobook.
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Ander and Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa has become one of my top and favorite YA’s ever written! It follows 18 almost 19 years Mexican American and non-binary Ander who is an extremely talented muralist who is taking some time working on their art before going off to college. When in walks Santiago or Santi. Immediately you can feel a spark between the two and because Ander’s family fires Ander from their family taqueria (in an effort to help them focus on their future) Santi is hired in their place. This leads Ander and Santi to forge a beautiful, meaningful, and deep connection. Ander and Santi Were Here is a wonderful story of being unapologetically yourself, of joy, of excellence, with deep and meaningful conversations on immigration, being who you are in a country and place that is actively telling you your existence, you being here, is wrong. It’s a love letter to both the Mexican and the LGBTQ communities. Through Ander and Santi, Jonny makes the reader listen and understand the injustices that human beings like Ander and Santi face while also weaving in a love story so pure and wonderful that you have no choice but to fall in love with them. Santi is Ander’s biggest cheerleader and with Santi’s help Ander is able to find their voice and their path in a world that is trying to take that from them. Ander and Santi Were Here made me cry, made me cheer, made me laugh, and most importantly reminded me the beauty of community and of allowing love to lead our lives rather than hate or anger. “We are here and no one can take that from us”.
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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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Genre: YA LGBT Romance
TW: Racism, Mention of deportation, ICE
Rating: ⭐️⭐️[2/5]
Spice: Closed Door
Review written by: M 
*Thank you NetGalley & Simon and Macmillan Audio & Physical Book for this ARC*
Ander gew up in San Antonio surrounded by Mexican culture, food and art. They translated that passion into murals by dressing his neighborhood in vibrate art pieces depicting the Mexican culture. Their family “fires” them from the family taqueria so they could focus on their art, but they find ways to spend time there after instantly falling for the new waiter, Santi. But not everything can be painted with the brightest hues, and those colors instantly drain of color when ICE agents come for Santi. 

This book has passion and heart seeped into every page. It’s dripping with culture, food, family and art while bringing to light serious topics, but I have to say that I do not think I was the correct audience for this book. 
As a Latina, it was a breath of fresh air to read a book in Spanglish, it feels like home and this book kept bringing back memories from my childhood, but the Spanish words had no translation. I understand that the author wanted to keep it that way to honor Mexican heritage, (and that certain slang/phrases have no exact translation) but I felt that he missed an opportunity for an audience who does not speak Spanish to enjoy the book. This could have easily been fixed with the translations in a few footnotes that would not break the flow of the book but would also allow those who do not speak Spanish, to understand what is being said. By doing this he could have educated people who can’t directly relate to the struggles expressed in this book.
This book had a lot of potential. There were important morals and lessons throughout, but the execution fell flat for me. I did not feel that there was much romance in the book, it felt skimmed over since the harder plot to drive home was about the struggled of undocumented people, and ICE’s way of handling the situation. Once it got to the point of the book to truly deal with that it felt rushed leaving no real development on either the deportation or the romance. 

The dialogue felt surprisingly childish to me. Although I understand that this is a YA, I felt that the juxtaposition of the childish banter and the serious topics being discusses, was jarring. Unfortunately, this is not a book that I would re-read and would be very picky with the people that I would recommend it to.
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Going into this book I thought a lot about Aristotle and Dante and the similarities between both pairs of boys. I think this book was beautifully written and I loved it so much. This book made me feel so happy yet so heartbroken at the same time. I both read the eARC and listened to an audiobook.
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the main issue for me was there was very little effort put into developing the relationship between ander and santi. they have no chemistry. they go from being strangers to being lovers with very little development and they’re super in love and it’s all very confusing because they’re basically strangers who know a few basic facts about each other. this book is a romance, so not really being down with the romance turned me off. props for actually being a healthy relationship though i guess. santi is pretty fleshed out as a character. it’s nice to see an undocumented character front and center whose story isn’t primarily about being undocumented. 

i suppose it’s because of the genre, but the narration was very juvenile. i think it sounds younger than the age of the character narrating (he is 19) and it’s rather off-putting. i kept forgetting that the characters were college aged and not high school freshmen. there are a lot of pop culture and social media references that read more like the author is trying to make the book more relatable to teenagers and most of them don’t feel organic. the dialogue often sounds unnatural and awkward. the pacing is fine and i got through the book pretty quickly but i kept wanting to dnf it. i would’ve if this wasn’t an arc. 

it feels very much like the author had two ideas for two separate books and tried to smush them together into one book. the romance isn’t fleshed out and since we’re experiencing the story from ander’s point of view, it’s most of what we get to hear about. some of the important aspects of being undocumented are glossed over or santi just gives us some exposition about how he’s struggling with something. maybe this book should’ve been from santi’s point of view but then it would’ve been a very different book. the lighthearted tone of the romance is not at all appropriate to discuss the serious topics this book is trying to discuss and it’s very jarring to go from an ice raid in one chapter to very juvenile banter in the next.

despite all its flaws i’m glad this book exists and i’m glad that queer kids are gonna be reading 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 probably many times. The audio is done by Avi Roque, who I love, and will be played on repeat when my audio preorder comes in.
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I loved this book so much. The audio was terrific and the narrator was the perfect voice for Ander. I especially liked 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.
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Thank you netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. 

I really appreciated a good bit about this book. We were seeped into a Latin community that makes you feel right at home. I’m thankful it was in audio form to be able to enjoy the Spanglish without slowing down my reading pace. I enjoyed the character development and that the ending was surprising that it wasn’t just a “pie in the sky everything turns out perfectly” ending. 

The negatives for me is the generalize racisms of the white community, that he even labeled ICE as racists (and even the browned skinned workers as two faced, implying they side with the whites) which not all immigrants are browned skinned. I found this outlook to be harsher than it needed to be with no redeeming quality of other us citizens and there was a lot of under their breath racisms. I also found the wording “procreate” to be a use of wording for shelf pleasure and between queer relations. 

Otherwise, I truly enjoyed the premise of this book. Thanks again, netgalley!
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Thank you NetGalley, macmillian audio, Wednesday books and the author for the #gifted ALC in exchange for my honest review. I had started this before the #transrightsreadathon started and immediately wanted to pause and start March 20th. This was such a perfect book and my heart was in shattered pieces for shanti and ander and the countless undocumented immigrants as well as their family. This was about so much more then i thought it would be and done so so well. 

I thank the author for this story and will absolutely buy a copy and recommend it to everyone looking for book recs.
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This is the story of a young artist who starts a relationship with an illegal immigrant and falls in love. This story did drag and seemed repetitive at times, but overall was a sweet story. The character development was a bit weak and was almost exclusively reactionary. I did like the openness of the two boys families and acceptance of them, as well as the realism of the prospects of a non-citizen in the US.

The audio narration was well done.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing early access to the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

<b>Overall thoughts</b>: this book wasn't bad and will absolutely blow some little queer kid's mind, so I'll happily recommend it to teen readers. However, <i>I</i> was disappointed. The pacing, prose, and the ending (yikes on bikes) left a lot to be desired for me, so I can only rate it a 3.0. I'll try to explain my reasoning as well as I can!

<b>The audiobook experience</b>: Although I didn't LOVE the book, I did love Avi Roque as the narrator. Not only were they the obvious best choice because of who they are, but they also killed it with a variety of distinct voices and and overall soothing, pleasant voice. They never disappoint.

<b>Representation</b>: These are the most obvious selling points of the book! The protagonist, Ander, is latine/latinx, just like it says in the blurb. What the blurb doesn't mention is that the story doesn't depict homophobia: the protagonist's friends, family, and community members all get their pronouns right and generally support their very gay romantic pursuits. The only comments they have about Ander's sexuality are along the lines of, "Mije, the walls are thin!"

However, this world definitely has racism. Ander learns partway through the book that the love interest, Santi, is undocumented, and it's a repeated source of angst and drama throughout the book. Ander isn't immune from racism either, even though they're a U.S. citizen, and they have to put up with microaggressions from their academic advisor all the time. We also get to see a protest on the page!

A last note on representation: Ander is also a mural painter and an entrepreneur. The cover isn't just pretty (gorgeous, actually), it's a depiction of one of Ander's murals! As a recovering working artist myself, I don't think the depiction of Ander's early art career is very realistic, so the story lost points for me here. But I do think it's nice that the book portrays a career in the arts as attainable and valuable. Various artists are also mentioned throughout, which might pique readers to research them on their own!

<b>The characters</b>: Ander and Santi are 18/19, working and on the cusp of college. Their language is also more "grown-up." The author even describes the book as new-adult mixed with YA.

For the most part, Ander and Santi are both blank slates for the reader. Sure, Ander waxes poetic about their hot sauce ranking and has a lot of sassy remarks, but both they and Santi are ultimately a bit too perfect to feel like real people. When bad things happen (and they do!) they're both able to calmly tell each other what they need and cuddle each other into feeling better, which ,,, yeah, that sounds nice, but in my experience it's not really how people respond to stress, especially two very young people without much dating experience. I appreciated that the story models good behaviors, but I wanted to see them lash out and screw up then have to deal with the consequences. Worse, Ander sometimes came off as dense, which frustrated me.

The romance is very insta-love (and insta-lust, as the author gleefully points out on their Instagram). There is some build-up will they/won't they, but most of the tension in the story stems from Santi's immigration status and Ander's school decisions rather than from questions around the relationship. There's lots of banter, which I know some people like but always rings hollow to me. There were also moments when the dialogue worked too hard to lead me to a point rather than sounding natural or when Ander/Santi seemed to know things they couldn't--author oversight types of things.

<b>The use of Spanish</b>: This was a big plus for me! This is not the kind of book that feels compelled to translate each burst of espanol word for word. You either understand, figure it out as you go, or deal with it--this story was not written for the white gaze. I also liked how the author used bilingual dialogue to show some of what it means for Santi to be a Mexican citizen. At times, I could feel how painfully he understood everything that was happening in English but couldn't always muster a response in English, reverting to Spanish much more often than Ander and their family. This was some of the best character work the book pulled off!

<b>Sex and sexuality</b>: There is no graphic depiction of sex on the page ... but a few passages come close! Ander speaks freely about their turn-ons and about body parts to a degree that triggered my TMI because oh my god they feel like SUCH kids and I'm <i>not</i> a kid. As a teen I'd probably be delighted by it though. These moments also added some much-needed humor and shock value to the story though, including a poorly chosen location for a makeout session that make me drop my jaw and laugh.

<b>The writing</b>: You do you, Jonny Garza Villa, but you won't win any prizes from me here. It wasn't the worst I've seen, especially since the narrative is couched in Ander's believably teen voice, but some lines were super clunky. There were some especially bad interrupting clauses that ruined the flow of a passage. It felt obvious to me that Avi Roque was the first person to try reading those sentences out loud to see how they sounded. I also felt ready to scream with the amount of passive, personified body parts: my hands reached, my eyes wanted, etc. The figurative language was also pretty bland and cliched. Like, <i>a wave of emotion swept through me,</i> levels of blah and nonspecific. 

<b>Plot and pacing</b>: The last third of the book really dragged for me, which is shocking because that's when things become most dire. I think the problem was that a lot of the romantic content later in the book felt like filler, leaving the story stagnating rather than moving anywhere.

But to talk about the plot and why I didn't love it, I have to talk about the ending. There will be SPOILERS from here on out!

In the end, Santi is deported and Ander decides on a whim to ditch the school they'd planned to attend and go live with him in Mexico. It's very romantic, but it also feels borderline irresponsible of the author to paint a choice like that in such a rosy light! Like, I'm all for Ander skipping out on that already toxic school environment, because it was obviously a bad fit. But making a big move even within the same country is hard to land successfully, especially when you don't have a job yet or know many people. And I know because I've done it! I can't imagine how much harder it must be to do that in another country! (Especially because earlier it's implied that Mexico was a dangerous place for Santi and his family to be!!) If anything, I wish the book would've started there to really dig into the messiness and difficulty of living with that choice (and to challenge the idea that knowing zero people there besides Santi is totally fine).

Ander's new life in Mexico is going to be funded by gallery sales and their Etsy store magically going viral and making them tons of money. Which, like ,,, ojala, but getting a following going takes years of work! Those achievements are hard-earned at any age but feel especially unlikely to me for a young person, who buyers are even more inclined to lowball or outright dismiss. Once again, I don't feel like Ander's instant success is a fair or realistic expectation to set for young artists. That's also definitely not the only thing success can look like!

Too many YA books treat their romances like the end all be all ... which is so rarely the case in real life! People grow, change, break up, and make mistakes. Not every relationship could or should last forever. I wish more books gave young people tools and models for dealing with disappointment. Teens need stories that teach them how to be happy under their own power rather than depending on a romantic interest to generate their happiness. This is super not that book. I'll give the author partial points for depicting one of Ander's exes as someone who was truly meant to be a friend all along, not a lover. But I'm still cringing and side-eyeing Ander's super spicy final choice.
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This book is proof that you can know the endgame that a book will bring, but still be surprised, delighted, and emotional along the way.

It took me a bit to get into this story as I did not care for the narrator, but once I was hooked, there was no putting it down. There were so many layers: family, immigration, gender & sexuality, family separation, and more. Each chapter brought new discoveries and they were all woven into a beautiful love story.

Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC!
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This was a beautiful book. Ander & Santi Were Here was a tender and endearing read that brought me to tears.

The characters in this book were some of my favorites ever. This beautiful family of Ander’s warmed my heart. They were so full of love and full of life. Ander themselves, was a feisty and charismatic little artist with so much wit. Santiago was the perfect counterpart, too. Stoic and kind, I loved the way he reacted to Ander whenever they were around. 

When young love strikes the hearts of these two in the city of San Antonio, Texas, the world seems to open up… until Santi’s secret comes to light. He is undocumented and ICE is closing in. Through the pain and struggle of the devastating notion that Santi could be taken in an instant, he and Ander may end before they really got a chance to begin.

This book was heartbreaking and uplifting simultaneously. The love between Ander and Santi was so strong and persistent. Ander was this fantastic ball of creative energy and sass and I adore them! Avi Roque was the absolute perfect voice to capture the feel of both of these characters. The audiobook is the way to go, for sure.
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5 stars 

Yes. You *can* judge this book by its stunning cover. If you, like me, were drawn to this book because of this cover, author, and synopsis, I anticipate you'll also be thrilled by what you get from this meaningful read. 

Ander, the m.c., works at their family's taqueria, loves hanging with family and friends, and finds some of their best moments in creating art. In this pivotal moment, Ander has some interesting decisions to make about who they are and who they'll become as they move toward a long-term goal of attending art school and further developing their passion away from their Texas hometown. All of this takes a backseat - or at least a sidecar - when Ander sets eyes on Santi, a new server at the taqueria. The two hit it off so fast, and readers can swoon and feel their hearts nearly burst from cuteness overload when these two share a scene. Their banter is good, and their relationship is so well drawn. 

As is the case in life and in YA, no romance is all flowers and rainbows all the time, and while these two are everything together, there are some serious barriers that they must face.

This is a super charming romance, and while the struggles are real, it's the healthy and charming relationship, not the tortured souls, that shine from the heart of this book. I'm already recommending it to students: especially the fantastic audio version.
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Ander (they/them) has a pretty good deal going on. They're working at their family's restaurant, and they'll be going to art school in Chicago in the fall. But Ander's world is upended when they meet Santi, the new guy at the restaurant. The two are soon swept up into a whirlwind romance. However, Santi has been keeping the truth from Ander that he was not born in the United States and lives in constant fear of being picked up by ICE agents. 

Oh Jonny Garza Villa, I loved this book so much! Ander is an amazingly beautiful and very real character. I can't remember the last time I laughed and I cried and I rooted for a couple as much as I did Ander and Santi. Don't even get me started on this GORGEOUS cover art, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ALC. Avi Roque really brought Ander to life. LOVE LOVE LOVE Ander & Santi Were Here!
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A really moving queer YA romance between a nonbinary muralist in Texas and the undocumented Mexican immigrant they fall for the summer before they're supposed to go off to college. A tender romance between two queer teens of color who just want the freedom to love who they want and have to fight against ICE. Highly recommended for fans of Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe or Somewhere between bitter and sweet. Great on audio too. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for early digital copies in exchange for my honest review!
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