Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Melanie Figueroa of Root Literary

Melanie Figueroa is a literary agent with Root Literary.

I’m actively seeking high-concept commercial, upmarket, and general fiction; young adult novels with a strong voice and propulsive pacing; and heartfelt, humorous, and fantastical middle grade novels across genres. I often fall for books that sit at the intersection of a variety of genres (genre eclectic, if you will).

I love mysteries, found families, sibling stories, haunted houses, buried secrets, disability and mental health rep, coming-of-age narratives, non-western cultures and mythologies, animal/spirit companions, strong and potentially unlikable women, friendship growing pains, high-stakes adventures, family sagas, smart and foreboding horror, and anything that makes me laugh or cry (maybe even both at the same time).

I was born and raised in Southern California in a multicultural, blended family, so I have a soft spot for books that shine a spotlight on the nuances of relationships and identity. And I’m especially looking for books that are inclusive and accurately reflect our world—I like characters who aren’t your typical lead and to be surprised by the unexpected.


  • Books imbued with love—familial, romantic, platonic.
  • Speculative premises. Accessible worldbuilding. Hidden worlds and secret knowledge. Atmospheric settings, unique magical systems, morally grey characters, animals and creatures (mythological or otherwise), racing against a ticking clock, bargains, competitions, trials, or games—anything with big life or death stakes.
  • Stories that explore non-Western cultures, history, traditions, rituals, and mythology. (Again, especially if there’s a speculative twist.)
  • Romantic fantasy. Books about fated or star-crossed lovers, enemies to lovers, etc. Something that feels epic and sweeping.
  • Horror (or elements of horror) of all shapes and sizes—folk or supernatural, for instance, or a space or gothic setting.
  • A strong structural hook, like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life or Courtney Summers’ Sadie.
  • Stories with feminist sensibilities.
  • Coming of age narratives.
  • Explorations of motherhood, disabilities, housing inequality, nature, conservation, and different types of families.


  • Genre fiction, historical fiction, and contemporary realistic fiction. She loves a good heist, mysteries, magical realism, ensemble casts, dark worlds, comedic undertones, and gothic/spooky vibes. Give her spirits and monsters, gods and goddesses, untold or lesser-known history, and twists readers don’t see coming.
  • A four-quadrant family film in book form—a book that can be enjoyed by both men and women under and over the age of twenty-five.
  • If you can comp a Studio Ghibli film, Melanie wants to see it. She loves whimsy, humor, and heart.
  • Voice-driven narratives with nuanced characters.

Some examples of her favorite middle grade books:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller, The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, Pax by Sara Pennypacker, Refuge by Alan Gratz, Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly, Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown


  • High-concept genre fiction. Stealing a phrase jointly coined by her colleagues Holly Root and Molly O’Neill—stories that can be summed up as “feelings while running.”
  • Anything a bit dark with moments of levity (fantasy, science fiction, horror, thrillers, murder, magic, mystery, etc.).
  • Hooky and voice-driven contemporary stories.

Some examples of her favorite young adult books:

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis, The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long, The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez, Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson


  • Beautifully written, well-researched, and expansive commercial fiction.
  • Upmarket and literary thrillers, mysteries, suspense, horror, fantasy, speculative, and historical fiction.
  • Women’s fiction.

Some examples of her favorite adult books:

Circe by Madeline Miller, Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, Luster by Raven Leilani, Marlena by Julie Buntin, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia, Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, The Unsinkable Great James by Jennifer E. Smith, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

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