Our Favorite Books by Arizona Authors


With temperatures at their peak here in Tucson, most of us at Pine Reads Review are spending our time indoors these days, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all Arizona has to offer! Luckily, we have plenty of books written by our favorite regional children’s and young adult authors to help us cool off. Spanning across multiple genres, the authors on this list will take you everywhere from romance to history – promising a little something for everybody. Wherever you may be, pull up a comfy seat, pour your favorite summery beverage, and join us as we dive into some of the desert’s best.

Young Adult Fiction:
The Agathas Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson

Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, murder, death, underage drinking, drugs, sexual content, eating disorders, trauma

Tucson’s very own Kathleen Glasgow teams up with Liz Lawson to pen this moody mystery. The legacy of Agatha Christie is heavily influential in this novel full of unlikely friends, class struggles, big money, and small-town gossip. Two girls from very different walks of life must come together when someone from their high school mysteriously disappears on Halloween night. What once seemed set in stone will become anything but. If you’re like me, summertime is the perfect time to dig into something a little spooky, and this whodunnit set in a small beach town is the perfect blend of humor and suspense. This unapologetically feminist work proves the power that resides in teenage girlhood and the importance of following your gut.

The Code for Love and Heartbreak Jillian Cantor

Content Warnings: Sexual reference, abandonment, underage drinking

Calling all ooey-gooey romantics! Jillian Cantor’s The Code for Love and Heartbreak is the perfect afternoon read. In this Jane Austen remake of Emma, our main character must guide her high school coding team toward the state championship with her matchmaking app. But when love stories begin to run awry, will she be able to keep everything on track? Fans of love triangles, geeking out, and a little high school drama will be highly satisfied with this read. Yet, aside from the truly charming romance, I think I most appreciate Cantor’s commentary on individuality. This novel presents Emma’s co-dependent tethering of identity to another, and over the course of the novel, explores the confusing, painful, and joyous journey of cultivating her own sense of self. 

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School Sonora Reyes

Content Warnings: Racism, homophobia, deportation, underage drinking, violence, blood, suicide, depression, religious trauma

In a vibrant example of all things a young adult novel should be, Sonora Reyes tells the story of Yamilet Flores, a closeted lesbian, starting a new year at Catholic school after being outed by her former best friend. This time around, she’s going to make sure to avoid all things gay in order to keep herself safe. Only, hiding who she really is won’t be all that easy – especially when she meets Bo. This is a book that will simultaneously make your heart sing, and crush it into a million pieces. There’s not one single thing that makes this book into the masterpiece that it is. The deliberate way Reyes weaves the intersections of this story together creates such an authentic tapestry of the characters’ lived experiences – one that wants every queer Black and Brown kid to finally feel seen.

Middle Grade:
All in a Drop: How Antony Van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World Written by: Lori Alexander and Illustrated by: Vivien Mildenberger

History buffs and mad scientists will not want to skip out on this one! In an ode to curiosity and wonder, Lori Alexander details the life and discoveries of draper-turned-father-of-microbiology: Antony van Leeuwenhoek. This book is a big “A-ha!” moment for those who’ve ever wondered how we went from bubonic plague to practicing proper hygiene. Charming illustrations bring van Leeuwenhoek to life, while pictures of real-life specimens translate the importance of his discoveries. This work is so effective in contextualizing this little-known (at least to me!) piece in the scientific timeline. Yet, most importantly I felt drawn to its inspirational tone, and what it means for its readers. The power of curiosity, dedication, and believing in your talents feels crucial in a world growing harsher day by day.

Picture Book:
Bright Star Written and Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales

Bright Star, a book somehow more brilliant than its title suggests, sheds light on the humanitarian crisis in the borderlands. A white-tailed fawn contends with the environmental impact of border wall construction, but when she loses track of her mother, she must let the bugs, plants, and animals of the Sonoran desert guide her toward a better future. Yuyi Morales, though not so easily defined as an author of Arizona, was deeply inspired by the environment of the Southern Arizona borderlands as inspiration for this book about the harms of U.S. immigration policy. I feel her contribution to the conversation couldn’t be more fitting for the spirit and current state of the southwest. If you must choose to read only one book on the list, this is it.

On Account of the Gum Written and Illustrated by: Adam Rex

This ridiculous, truly unfortunate sequence of events will have you second-guessing your next stick of gum – and I mean that in the best way possible! The main character in On Account of the Gum endures endless suggestions regarding how to get bubblegum out of their hair from well-intentioned, but albeit foolish, family members. Readers will be wondering just how far they’ll have to go to rid themself of the sticky nuisance. Bright, buttery illustration meets comical, stream-of-consciousness text in a way that makes this book a visceral experience. Yet even through the silliness, this book feels rooted in the discovery of agency, which is not always the easiest of discoveries, but Adam Rex is admirably not afraid to put it in conversation with playful absurdity.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People Written by: Monica Brown and Illustrated by: Eliza Chavarri

The art of language finds a hero in Monica Brown’s Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People; a biography becomes so much more in the hands of this author and illustrator. Something that sets this book apart is its dedication to featuring bilingual vocabulary. Intricate watercolor camouflages English and Spanish words among the illustrations while poignant text details Neruda’s history and activism. This exposure to applicable language is exactly the kind of content I most appreciate in children’s literature. Yet, Brown’s work illustrates an even more important message: no matter your passion (poetry, science, athletics, etc.!), there is always something you can do to shed light on injustice. The power that resides in uplifting the folks in our communities is, above all else, what will continue to stay with readers long after the pages turn.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of all the talent Arizona has to offer – this hot, hot desert is home to many folks with many stories! By cooling off indoors, not only are we able to get our hands on really good books, but further, we get the opportunity to uplift and support local voices. So, I’m dying to know – who are your favorite Arizona authors you want to see on this list? Let’s have a book club meeting in the comments!

PRR Writer & Editor, Megan Milton