Local actor challenges herself, writes a young adult book

Teen creative

Jo Hernandez, a junior at Edinburg’s Robert Vela High School recently published her first book, “A Journey Back Home.” (Courtesy photo)

Jo Hernandez, a La Joya native who has been acting since she was 8 years old, tried her hand at a new artform this past year: novel writing.

The junior at Edinburg’s Robert Vela High School has been mentored by Adrian R’Mante, who played Esteban in Disney Channel’s Suite Life of Zack and Cody since she was in elementary school, and the first film she’s acted is in the midst of production, “Paranormal Trackers: House of Ages.”

Her heart has been set on acting and filmmaking since she began watching Disney Channel as a young girl, but last year, she felt the need to challenge herself.

This led here to the idea of writing “A Journey Back Home” a dystopian novel of a world in which all of generation Z is sent to another planet to live on their own — a society in which no one was older than 24. They are tasked with repopulating and rebuilding their own government.

The narrative of the 12-chapter, young adult book follows the journey of a brother and sister duo who are on a secret journey back home to Earth and reunite with their parents. The book was published in January, and will be available on Amazon on April 21.

Jo hopes the arduous expedition and brave spirits of the novel’s main characters inspires readers to be resilient.

“The message is to keep fighting no matter what obstacles are thrown your way,” the 17-year-old said. “Because there are a lot of hard things that happen in life, some really hard obstacles we have to overcome.”

Jo faced one of the most heartbreaking hardships in her life while writing the book: both of her grandparents died within months of each other in 2019.

“My grandparents, they were my life,” she said.

Both of her grandparents moved into her house when she was a baby and helped raise her. Jo called them her “biggest cheerleaders.” “Every single time I wanted to do something, they never took me down or say ‘that’s too hard,’” she said. “They would tell me to go do it, ‘I want to see you do it.’”

Though they were not able to see the final copy of Jo’s book, she said she knows she made them proud because she followed her heart.

When the pandemic hit the region in 2020, Jo took a hiatus from writing. After a few months, she recalled the encouragement of her grandparents and pushed herself to finish the book.

“It was really hard because they both were my life, and they passed away only 52 days apart from each other,” Jo said. “But I said I have to keep going, I have to keep writing this. So I pushed myself to finish writing this and I got it done.”

Jo’s passion for theater took shape in high school when she got to play roles in several theater productions. During her freshman year at La Joya’s Palmview High School, she was one of the actors for the production of “Tracks y Huellas,” a play on a true story about immigrants who died while attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

Jo hopes to continue acting and someday direct her own film, and more recently, decided she also wants to continue writing books. “I think I really found another love in something beyond acting, and I want to continue with that and then start writing scripts and become an actor,” she said.

Jo has also been mentoring several young actors in the region and encourages them to never let go of their dreams.

“I tell them, ‘Do you know how many no’s I’ve heard before I heard a yes?’” Jo said. “You just need to not give up, because if you give up you are never going to hear the yes.”