Undercover Latina

by Aya de León (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Series: Factory

A Latina teen spy goes undercover as a white girl to stop a white supremacist terrorist plot in a fast-paced middle-grade debut from a seasoned author of contemporary crime fiction. In her debut for younger readers, Aya de León pits a teen spy against the ominous workings of a white nationalist.

Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín hails from a family of spies working for the Factory, an international organization dedicated to protecting people of color. For her first solo mission, Andréa straightens her hair and goes undercover as Andrea Burke, a white girl, to befriend the estranged son of a dangerous white supremacist. In addition to her Factory training, the assignment calls for a deep dive into the son's interests--comic books and gaming--all while taking care not to speak Spanish and blow her family's cover. But it's hard to hide who you really are, especially when you develop a crush on your target's Latino best friend. Can Andréa keep her head, her geek cred, and her code-switching on track to trap a terrorist? Smart, entertaining, and politically astute, this is fast-paced upper-middle-grade fare from an established author of heist and espionage novels for adults.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Social criticism is woven into a fun read centered on kids of color; the narrative is accessible and engaging, never shying away from difficult conversations about race and privilege or the many forms White supremacy can take. . . . An engaging, insightful adventure with a heartfelt conclusion.

Publishers Weekly

Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín, 14, is on her first lead mission as a full agent of the Factory, a government-unaffiliated "international intelligence organization that serves people of color," for which she, her Mexican father, Puerto Rican mother, and brother are all spies. Undercover in Carson, Ariz., Andréa, passing as white "ANN-drea" with only her mother as backup, must befriend Kyle Summer, the estranged son of a white supremacist threatening a "localized Armageddon." Getting close to Kyle means not only withstanding inclusion in a clique of classmates who call themselves "First Class," but also learning the ins and outs of Kyle's favorite fantasy card game and spending time with his cute Latino best friend, Ramón Santiago. As reinforcements arrive in the form of a second teenage agent, Andréa struggles to juggle the case, her budding feelings for Ramón, and maintaining her cover as white. Portraying Andréa as a spy skilled in espionage, quick problem-solving, and making visual connections, De León (A Spy in the Struggle, for adults) adeptly interrogates themes of ageism, colorism, institutional racism, and sexism, layering them with a thrilling tale of a teenage girl. Ages 10-14. Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Union Literary. (Oct.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up--Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín comes from a family of spies; they work for The Factory, an international organization that serves people of color. Andréa goes undercover posing as a white teenager in Arizona, trying to infiltrate the high school and befriend Kyle, whose estranged father might be a dangerous white supremacist. With her mother, they become Andrea and Barbara Burke as they assimilate into the community. Andréa finds out that her target, Kyle, is an avid player of an online fantasy card game called Triángulo, and she learns how to play to befriend him. Things get tangled up when she develops feelings for Kyle's Latinx friend, Ramón, but she can't divulge her own Latinx heritage. As a white girl, Andréa observes racism toward the Latinx community from a new perspective and grapples with her hidden identity. Trying not to blow her cover when a potential deadly threat is unearthed, Andréa travels with Kyle to the San Diego ComicCon as characters from Triángulo. An author of spy novels for adults, de Leon tries her hand at her first foray into fiction for younger readers, and she has created a fast-paced, resonant story that touches on inter- and intra-community discrimination. VERDICT A strong selection for gamers and middle graders who enjoy action-packed narratives. With broad appeal to fans of spy novels, this title will engage tweens while offering a thoughtful conversation-starter. Highly recommended.--Michele Shaw

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This is officially one of my favorite books. She had me at 'it's an international intelligence organization that serves people of color, ' and I only got more and more hooked after that. I love this character. I love this concept. I love this book. Please tell me it is going to be a series. Please. Please? I want to follow Andréa all over the world and do spying.
—Kekla Magoon, National Book Award Finalist

Ms. de León takes a learning opportunity for kids and couches it in enough chase sequences and fistfights to almost make you forget how much information is crammed into this little package. Prepare for exciting nuance!!. . . Aya de León has fashioned just the right combination of excitement and ethics, of complicated concepts and the occasional detonator. A blueprint for getting these elements sorted out perfectly, a whole range of kids will be enjoying this one. Long before they figure out that it's taught them something as well.
—A Fuse #8 Production
Aya de León
Aya de León is the Afro-Latina author of several suspense novels for adults, as well as The Mystery Woman in Room Three, an open-source online novel about two undocumented Dominican teens who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley, and is active in movements for racial, gender, and climate justice. She lives in Northern California.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
October 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV028000 - Juvenile Fiction | Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV011030 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Hispanic & Latino
Library of Congress categories
Family life
Spy fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
Spy stories

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