The cover for Jonny Garza Villa's Ander & Santi Were Here

Korey B’s Review:

Ander & Santi Were Here

Categories: Arts | Books | Queer Arts | Reviews


Jonny Garza Villa’s Ander & Santi Were Here is a powerful love story that will leave you swooning and thinking about the meaning of home.

In Ander & Santi Were Here, Ander Lopez faces leaving the only neighborhood they have ever known to pursue their passion for art. Their job at the family’s taquería has inspired them as a muralist, but falling for new coworker Santiago Garcia complicates their decision to leave. Through Santi’s eyes, Ander gains a new understanding of their identity as an artist. However, their happiness is threatened when ICE agents come for Santi, forcing Ander to confront the fragility of their sense of home and the challenges of being in love in a hostile world.

Garza Villa’s portrayal of Ander’s unapologetically queer and Mexican art provides a fresh perspective on the impact of government surveillance on immigrant residents. The story moves slowly at first, but the close friendships between the characters help keep readers engaged. It’s a coming-of-age journey that requires patience but is ultimately worth it.

This daring romance tackles tough topics like racism, homophobia, and politics with subtlety and grace. It’s a tender love story between a nonbinary Mexican American teen and the new waiter at their family’s restaurant. The romance between the two is beautifully realized without a false note, showcasing Garza Villa’s artistic skills.

As you follow Ander and Santi’s courtship and journey of self-discovery, you’ll be transported into the precarious life of an undocumented teen. The novel encourages readers to consider what home truly means: is it a place, a person, or both? With its poignant and vulnerable storytelling, Ander & Santi Were Here is a must-read for anyone who loves a good love story with a deeper meaning.