Picture Us in the Light meets Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet in ANDER AND SANTI WERE HERE, the sophomore young adult novel from Jonny Garza Villa.
The Santos Vista neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas is all Ander Lopez has ever known. The smell of pan dulce, the laughter of kids hitting at a piñata at the park, the mixture of Spanish and English filling the streets. And, most of all, their family’s restaurant, Taquería Guadalupe. With the days remaining of Ander’s gap year before heading to Chicago for art school quickly decreasing, their head continues to be filled with the same question: am I really ready to leave it all behind?
Santiago Garcia is the new waiter at Lupe's, hired by Ander’s grandmother when they're let go (not fired) in order to focus on their art, including a commission for murals to revitalize the décor of the taquería. And Ander is immediately crushing. So much so that they even wiggle their way into a few shifts to help train Santi. Because that’s what good grandchildren do.
A couple nights closing down the restaurant and they’re the last two there. Late night drives to drop Santi off. Dates at the park with easels, paints, and paletas. It all quickly becomes something undeniably romantic for the both of them. And when Ander learns Santi is undocumented, the happiness that they both feel in their blossoming relationship becomes something worth holding onto. Santi becomes the best tie to home Ander has ever known, and Ander becomes Santi’s first tie toward making Santos Vista and the United States feel like home.
But it's hard not to realize how fragile that sense of home is when it starts to seem like the whole world is against them. And when, eventually, the world starts to win.