Cover Image: Ander & Santi Were Here

Ander & Santi Were Here

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Member Reviews

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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Rich explorations of family. A beautiful depiction of what a supportive family can look like that will be sure to give readers hope that they can find support in their lives.

I absolutely loved how art was integrated into the entire story. Each time I gave this book a listen, I was inspired to create more.

The story is a heart wrenchingly beautiful story of hope, something we could all use more of.

Is it too soon to beg for a sequel?

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Thank you to the publishers, author and NetGalley for the free copy of this audio book.

This was a pretty impactful story, and deals with a lot of intense topics. Very beautifully written, with characters that make you fall in love. The narrator was perfect for this.

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Definite Aristotle & Dante vibes in this queer Latinx story!

The entire book is a love letter to Mexican community, culture, and food. Whether it fills in the background setting or takes center stage as the focus of Ander's art, genuine joy and pride in a Latinx heritage spills onto every page.

Speaking of love, this book is also an unexpectedly cute love story between Ander and Santi. Lines that could be extremely corny work just right with Avi Roque's audio narration. The characters' ages are a little hard to determine until specified - the nineteen year olds sometimes read very young, and other times much older than their years.

And they face difficult situations far more intense than they should have to deal with at their ages. Heavy issues of undocumented persons alongside sprinkles of gentrification and racism help to develop a terribly realistic story. Villa skillfully creates a palpable sense of anxiety in readers as tension and danger grow while the story progresses.

The book feels a bit too long and moves slowly, but leaves a strong impact. In particular the vivid depictions of colorful murals gave me a new appreciation for the art and a wish to see the images described.

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Ander & Santi Were Here is a moving book about the human impact of ICE and immigration policy. I absolutely loved the characters and listened on audiobook to my favorite narrator reading which was extra special. I loved the ways we got to know the characters. I appreciated Ander's journey with their art and trying to figure out what their path is from the micro (sometimes macro) aggressions of their art school advisor. I loved the discussion of what home is (person, place, feeling, etc.) and what it means to be who you are. I loved Ander's family and felt like I was a part of it. The personality and voice of Ander made this book extra special and I can't imagine anyone not falling in love with these main characters, especially Ander. The way the author gave immigration policy a "face" and "name" -- personalized it for the audience and made us feel it so much in my mind is what makes this book; it was one of the many things I loved about it. I would definitely recommend this because I think the discussions of immigration policy are so impactful -- however for the YA audience there are some spicy parts and mature language; I think a mature YA reader would really enjoy and appreciate this read and I think while it is technically a YA novel that every adult could benefit from reading this.

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Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

releases 5/2/23; thanks to @netgalley & @wednesdaybooks for the ARC

SYNOPSIS: Finding home. Falling in love. Fighting to belong.

The Santos Vista neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, is all Ander Martínez has ever known. The smell of pan dulce. The mixture of Spanish and English filling the streets. And, especially their job at their family's taquería. It's the place that has inspired Ander as a muralist, and, as they get ready to leave for art school, it's all of these things that give them hesitancy. That give them the thought, are they ready to leave it all behind?

To keep Ander from becoming complacent during their gap year, their family "fires" them so they can transition from restaurant life to focusing on their murals and prepare for college. That is, until they meet Santiago López Alvarado, 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.

THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO: diverse characters, first love, sass, discussions of racism, immigration-issues, & xenophobia, queer af, own-voices writing (nonbinary latine mc & author)

CWs: racism, ICE & deportation

>>this was a great read. it gave me the highest highs & the lowest lows. my heart was a yo-yo of emotions. this book handles very real, very scary circumstances - and it does so with love, hope, and a critical lens. i highly recommend this book - and the audiobook especially! the narrator was A++++!

#AnderAndSantiWereHere #JonnyGarzaVilla #Nonbinary #Queer #BookRecommendations #Latine

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Thank you to netgalley for a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book. It had strong connections to Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I also loved. This one focused on Ander's art and Santi dealing with the stress and worry of ICE. I liked the queer representation and Ander as a nonbinary character. I thought this story was beautiful and the ending really wrapped everything together nicely. I would read more by this author and would love to read more of Ander & Santi's story! I would definitely recommend this story.

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(Spoiler-free review)
Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

Wow. What an amazing story of love and hardship. While written as a YA romance, it doesn't shy from the harsh realities of the world we live in, and I appreciate that the author isn't afraid to put uncomfortable moments in front of us to reflect on.

I love that they don't skirt around the struggles of being queer and a person of color, or the conflicting feelings within the two groups sometimes. It's an honest and much needed look on the mindset of minority groups in America that I appreciated seeing as a white female. There were words and references I didn't always get, but it wasn't picked apart and explained to me because that would've ruined the immersion into this culture. It's on me to look up what I didn't immediately get through context clues and it was legwork I was more than happy to do.

I really enjoyed the way they tackle the main character being nonbinary. It's never brought up as a big deal, but rather introduced by friends using gender neutral pronouns and any masculine/feminine descriptors in Spanish being adjusted to end in -e instead of o/a. It was a cultural dynamic of being nonbinary I hadn't previously considered!

Honestly, I was hooked from Ander's first interactions with Zeke, and their queer friend group dynamic is so relatable to some of my own. The conversations between characters are as wild and colorful as the setting, with scenes full of art and food and music and culture. I laughed, I teared up, I was elated and furious in a perfect balance to tell a moving, driving narrative that never once lost my attention.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was perfect. There was so much emotion behind the words, the intonations perfect for every mood and the delivery of Ander's many quips was flawless.

This is on the top of my recommendation list for the year and I’m so grateful for the early opportunity to experience this story. Check it out on its pub date of 5/2/23!

(This honest review is provided in exchange for an ARC copy of the audiobook thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Audio)

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This was the easiest 5 stars I’ve given in a while!! This will 100% be in my top 5 of the year! I have so much to say and I don’t even know where to start. Ander and Santi are so special and words aren’t enough to explain why. These two just wanted to be together, be happy, and be safe and even though everything was against them, they fought for each other and while it didn’t always work how they wanted it to, in the end what mattered the most was that they were together and happy and safe.

I can’t even begin to comprehend the things they were going through. Especially Santi just trying to survive in this country. The way America treats immigrants is deplorable and disgusting. It’s ridiculous that people are treated like they don’t deserve basic human rights. It’s heartbreaking and I hope our country will care about human beings enough to change in my lifetime 💔

I also just love queer stories that aren’t about coming out or struggling with their identity and don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy those stories as well but it’s such a breath of fresh air when that’s not the conflict! And both Ander & Santi were so secure in their identities (even if Santi didn’t know exactly where he fell) and the people around them were so accepting! It just made a story about struggling to be able to stay together so joyful!

I just love love love Ander & Santi and I will read any and everything that Jonny releases! 2 out of 2 books released so far that I absolutely fell in love with! Highly highly recommend this one!!

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This book was heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautiful all at once. Hands down one of my favorite contemporary YA novels that I have ever read! I listened to the audiobook and this made for a super engaging listen, highly recommend that format.

Told from the perspective of Ander, a Mexican, nonbinary teen who falls fast and hard for Santi, the shy, new, undocumented waiter at the family taqueria. Ander's POV was so refreshing and heartfelt. The character growth here was wonderful, loved to see how much they learned and changed throughout the heavy events of the last half of the book. The author tackled the issues facing undocumented individuals and their loved ones with tact and nuance. Both main characters felt so lovable and real, I was feeling all the emotions they were feeling. My one qualm was that pacing felt a little slow for the first half of the book but overall, I loved this so much.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martins for the audio ARC!

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This book tore my heart out. Ander is nineteen, taking a gap year between high school and college. They works at their family restaurant. Ander is proudly nonbinary and gay. The story begins with their perspective which is joyful, funny, and also unsure of themself and the future.

Ander gets fired from the family business so he will focus on his art. When Santi is hired to replace him, Ander's interest is immediately piqued. There's definitely some insta-love happening in this one, but the author does it so well that is completely believable and endearing.

This is a story of queer love between people of color, and it is also a story of what it feels like to live in fear every day. It is about what it feels like to be an immigrant in this country, what it means to be undocumented, and about the very real terrors and injustice enacted on so many communities by ICE. Please believe me when I say this book is both beautiful and incredibly heavy.

There is no way I could capture the beauty and hope and resilience of this love story in my own words. This book is truly special. If you're ready to get out your tissues and also to feel angry (and hopefully contact your government representatives), please don't miss this book.

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Thank-you to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and Jonny Garza Villa for the eARC.

First and foremost, I have never in my life felt more ATTACKED than I did while listening to the Valentina hot sauce comment. Mx Garza Villa really came for my neck with that one.

In all honestly, it took me about a third of the way to fully get into this book. I liked the concept, the characters, and all the Mexican-ness that reminded me of home, but this was the first book I've read that made me feel like maybe I WAS too old to still be reading YA. Just some of the terminology (such as the unironic use of the word "unalive") and the super specific pop culture references that made me feel like I was ready for senior discounts and early-bird dinner specials. 😜😜😜

However, once I got the the heart of the novel, I was all in. What a beautiful story. What a beautiful, terrible, realistic story. A quote in particular that really took my breath away was "it's weird how, because we're brown, we start doubting everything," and ain't that the truth.

A downside of listening to an audiobook is I can't just skip ahead a few pages (or chapters) to make sure everything would end up okay, and that sense of not knowing truly had my heart THUMPING. While we're on the subject, I really enjoyed the narrator as well. They did a really good job of portraying all the various emotions throughout the book, and their characterizations were phenomenal. I always knew exactly which character was talking and when, simply by small changes in their tone and cadence.

Also I clocked a reference each to Adam Silvera and Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and that made my heart sing. Faves supporting faves.

I didn't expect this book would make me cry, and certainly not as much as I did. Will absolutely be recommending this. Through happiness and destruction. 🫶🏽🫶🏽🫶🏽

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This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and everything in between. Ander is fired from his work by his family and is told to focus on art as they're on their way to art school. Then they meet Santi and fall in love. The only problem is, Santi is undocumented and ICE agents are looking for him. This book made me cry (a rarity) and was also so beautifully written. It features a non-binary main character and a character figuring out his sexuality. It also is a unique and very important look at immigration to the US and the difficulties people face. One of my face books so far this year.

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What an absolutely GORGEOUS & HEARTBREAKING read. Santi & Ander were brilliant. Their banter has me giggling. I absolutely loved the art, culture and diversity. I’m pretty sure I sobbed through the last 25% - and at the end my heart is so incredibly full, wow! The audio was perfection! I loved being able to HEAR their names, phrases and conversations.

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Oh my heart, attempting to reconstitute myself from the soppy pile of emotions this book has dissolved me into. An immediate fave, absolutely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Funny, sassy, sweet, heartbreaking, thought provoking, poignant…I was alternately laughing and sobbing through the whole thing and I loved it so much! Ander and their family was one of my favorite parts, the way they cared for and loved each other, and how that radiated through every interaction was so heartwarming. On the other side of the spectrum, the ICE scenes were utterly heart breaking, especially knowing that it is not just something made up for a story but a realistic depiction of something that happens all the time in real life. This book truly takes you through a spectrum of emotions and it is so beautiful.

And the narration was perfection, one of my favorite audiobook performances ever. The narrator did a brilliant job of bringing Ander to life and really brought the story to another level!

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5 ⭐ are not enough for @jonnyinstas Ander & Santi Were Here!

Prepare yourself to feel all the feels... Laughter, joy, sexy, enraged and more. Jonny makes you feel scene and loved. This isn’t just a “queer” love story. This is a story of love, tragedy, politics and triumph. From the jump Ander had me laughing at their love of purple fantabuloso & the way in which they call out white people any chance he gets. “Catching STIs like Pokémon cards” during there gap year vs us (especially 🖤&🤎) having to bust our ass working to afford college.

Jonny discusses the many issues in the LGBTQ+ community as well as the added layer of being 🖤🤎 in the community. They don’t make their non-binary-ness a plot point or a focus of tragedy, it’s just a layer to whom they are. They discuss the BS that is ICE. The call to action that is needed.

This book educated me. It enraged me. It reminded me that I need to do more. It also reminded me that everything isn’t going to be ok ands that’s ok.

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This book was joy and heartbreak and love and power and inspiration and hope and PERFECTION.

What might seem like just a YA queer love story, Ander + Santi was SO MUCH MORE. I mean, their love story was SO GOOD and the driving force of the whole story, but their conflict was outside forces that really left you feeling impacted. It wasn’t their queer identities (no, I’m that we get acceptance and joy), but rather, as Ander poignantly stated, made-up lines drawn by colonizers on stollen land.

Ander is in their gap year, working to build their mural portfolio before heading off to Chicago for art school. Their family has embraced and supported Ander’s career path, so no wonder they are confused when Ander decides to take the gap year. This causes the family to fire them from the family restaurant so Ander can focus more on their art.

Santi is who is hired as Ander’s replacement, and almost immediately we have attraction and a fun journey of falling in love for these two. But Santi has a secret and is worried about the impact it can have on his and Ander’s futures.

This book was so hard to put down and I feel so honored to have listened to the advanced audiobook recording. Ander and Santi’s love story will be one that sticks with me for a very long time, and has caused me to do more learning into what I can do in my own area to help my fellow humans that are experiencing the struggles Santi has experienced.

Ander + Santi Were Here is pitched as Aristotle and Dante mixed with The Sun is Also a Star and I find that to be incredibly accurate. This book will absolutely become a beloved YA contemporary classic. Essential reading that I HIGHLY recommend.

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