Twelve Days of…Latinx Book Recommendations: Day 11

This “Christmassy” series is brought to you by my love of books by Latinx authors and my need for all of you to read them. Every day for twelve days leading up to Christmas, I will be gifting you all with a recommendation of a book by a Latinx author, along with twelve reasons why you should pick it up. Hoping to have lots of fun with with series which I am not so subtly calling Twelve Days of… Latinx Book Recommendations. Covers are linked to Goodreads. Feel free to sing this first part to yourself aloud.

♬On the eleventh day of Christmas, my favorite Latinx blogger gave to me, a recommendation for…♬

Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

      “Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.
    Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.
      So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.
      But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?”

Reasons You Need to Pick This One Up:

1. Fake dating trope
2. Self-love
3. Predictable yet unpredictable tropey storyline
4. Positive step-relationships
5. Introvert learning to get out of her comfort zone
6. Present family in a contemporary
7. MC dealing with the loss of a parent
8. Believable teen narrator
9. MC dealing with social anxiety
10. Cuban-American girl learning to love her body
11. MC’s personal arc > romantic arc
12. Realizing that some crushes are better off as friendships

Have you read this one? Are you planning to read it? What’s your favorite book with the fake dating trope?

Snapshot Review: Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes

Title: Analee in Real Life
Author: Janelle Milanes
Series: N/A
Pages: 416
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 18th 2018

TW: scene of sexual assault (forced/unwanted kissing)

      “Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.
      Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.
      So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.
      But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?”

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      “Slowly, unexpectedly, Seb links his hand with mine.
      There’s no turning back now. I don’t have to look at anyone to realize the enormity of Seb’s move. There are literally gasps that echo through the hall. I hear his name repeated in whispers, so frequently that they blend together into one long hiss.”

  • Analee – There was so much about Analee that I found relatable. She’s an introvert who finds it easier to share her feelings in a journal than out loud. She’s still dealing with the loss of her mother and how that loss reshaped so many of her other relationships. She has social anxiety and is not comfortable being the center of attention. Analee never refers to herself as fat (which might leave something to be desired when it comes to fat rep), but she calls herself chubby and has self-esteem issues, but I loved her entire journey throughout the novel which focuses on self-love.
  • Analee and Seb – These two are very different from one another, but I loved their dynamic all throughout the novel. I loved that Milanes shows them becoming friends first before exploring anything romantic between the two.
  • Familial relationships – I always love when contemporaries have such a family-focused story and Analee in Real Life is so good at navigating the MC’s relationship with her father, his fiancée, and her soon-to-be stepsister Avery. I loved that none of these relationships remain stagnant, but grow as a result of the MC’s growth.
  • Positive stepmother-stepdaughter relationship – Analee’s evolving relationship with her soon-to-be stepmother, Harlow, was my favorite to read about. Harlow is the complete opposite of Analee’s mother and has changed her dad as a result. And Analee can’t help but resent her for it. For example, Analee can’t help compare Harlow’s vegan meals to her mother’s Cuban cuisines. In the end, the two come to understand each other more.
  • Realistic romantic arcs – The fake dating trope is one of my favorites and although it can be predictable, I just love the tension that seems to underscore these relationships. I don’t want to give too much away, but I love that Milanes writes both Analee and Seb in such a way that they feel flawed and real. They make mistakes and hold themselves back. The ending of the novel felt truly empowering from Analee’s POV because it prioritized where she was in her journey and not necessarily where they were in their relationship.

  • Seb in the beginning – While I ended up really enjoying Seb as a character, the beginning made me pause. I was immediately put off by his dynamic with his ex-girlfriend where he didn’t seem to get the message that she wanted space.
  • Analee and Lily – One of the reasons Analee agrees to fake date Seb is her desire to win back her ex-best friend, Lily. I was disappointed that there were not more scenes between the two of them.


Janelle Milanes’s Analee in Real Life will delight fans of the fake dating trope, but shines brightest with the MC’s personal arc that’s rooted in self-love, bravery, and personal growth.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

ARC Review: The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes

Title: The Victoria in My Head
Author: Janelle Milanes
Series: N/A
Pages: 400
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 19th 2017
*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review*

      “Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.
      But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.”

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Janelle Milanes’s debut The Victoria in My Head is a feel-good contemporary with an easy-to-relate-to protagonist. Victoria Cruz doesn’t exactly live her life on the edge. As a scholarship student and the daughter of parents with Harvard aspirations, Victoria’s life is pretty much laid out for her. She’s good at going through the motions, of never taking a chance on anything, even if it’s something she really wants. When she gets the opportunity to audition for a rock band, Victoria isn’t sure she can overcome her stage fright in order to do so. Taking those first steps toward embracing her dreams won’t be the hardest decision she’ll have to make. Victoria will discover that finding her place in the world isn’t easy, and despite all the dissenting voices around her, only she can decide her own future.

The Victoria in My Head is an incredibly readable novel. I nearly finished it in one sitting, not because it went by particularly fast, but because I had to find out what happened next for the protagonist. Victoria is a really insecure character. She doesn’t readily share how she feels with other people and is more prone to imagining what her life could be like than actually taking steps to make these things happen. Her parents are Cuban immigrants who have sacrificed a lot in order to open doors for their daughter. They have grand ambitions that are constantly being reinforced by Victoria’s school and best friend. This added pressure is enough to get anyone to crumble, especially for someone who isn’t sure if her dreams are the same as those around her. Despite how it sometimes felt to Victoria, it’s clear that her parents only want what’s best and it’s their earnestness in wanting to be involved in her life that endeared them to me.

I loved the friendships in this novel. Victoria’s best friend Annie is incredibly driven and iat first it does feel like she isn’t quite hearing Victoria when she talks about what she wants in life, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Annie is an incredibly supportive friend. The budding friendship between Victoria and her new bandmates is also one of the highlights of this novel. They build a kind of family that looks out for one another and it was really nice to see the loyalty they show later on in the novel. I was a little iffy about the romance in this novel, but despite my first impression, I ended up really liking the person Victoria ends up with. It’s a relationship that grows overtime and felt earned because of all the hiccups along the way.

The Victoria in My Head is an important in that it’s a book written for teens still trying to find their own voice, who feel insecure in their own skin, or who grappling with the added pressure of parental expectations.

3/5

★★★