I’m a massive fan of Asian YA books — stories by authors of Asian descent. When I first made this list years ago, I had to Google to confirm the entire scope of “Asia” and, as such will be including books by authors of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent in this list, even if the latter are viewed as separate in the US. I’ve already done a list of Black YA books in the past, so I was stoked to dive into Asian YA next.
Because I read mostly realistic fiction, that’s what you’ll find on this list. Without further ado, here are 80+ of the best Asian YA books — many of which I’ve read and loved over the years. This post has been updated for May 2023 and now includes a few forthcoming 2023 titles.
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80+ Best Asian YA Books to Read
Here are 80+ of the best Asian YA books:
Published: February 6, 2018
American Panda follows seventeen year old Taiwanese-American, Mei. Mei is a germaphobe, forced into a premed program by her very traditional parents. She is afraid to reveal that she instead would rather own a dance studio. Especially after her brother Xing is disowned for choosing a spouse his parents disapprove of.
I enjoyed this book immensely. A perfect blend of wit and substance, American Panda is delightful, inspiring and stimulating. Gloria Chao’s American Panda is thoughtprovoking in its consideration of the perpetuation of traditions among immigrants. People who have left their home countries seem to hold on even tighter to traditions, cherishing these as a link to their home. But, considering that not all traditions have merit, why continue unnecessary, sometimes stifling traditions? Why not instead begin new traditions?
Still, the book is far from all-heavy material. There are sweet moments between Mei and Darren, funny scenes with her dramatic family and great camaraderie between Mei and Xing. It also brings to life the ups and downs of college existence in a university like MIT.
Published: May 26, 2020
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the United States while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California.
Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.
Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. But Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course when her debate coach starts working with her privately.
As they steer their own distinct paths, Dani and Claire keep crashing into one another, setting a course that will change their lives forever.
Pubished: July 13, 2021
XOXO is about a Korean-American teen and cello prodigy, Jenny. One night she meets and likes a stranger, Jaewoo. They basically go on a date, take photos in a photo booth and exchange numbers, only for Jaewoo to stop responding to her texts. When her grandmother becomes sick, Jenny’s mother decides to travel to South Korea to look after her. She eventually agrees that Jenny can transfer schools and move with her. But soon after they arrive, Jenny realizes that Jaewoo is 1/4th of the popular new K-Pop boy band, XOXO — and is forbidden from dating.
This is a swoon-worthy, adorable YA romance set in South Korea. Following two musicians — one a cellist and the other the lead singer of a K-Pop band — this book will appeal to lovers of YA books about music, Asian YA novels, and stories about teens and their grandparents. If you love to travel on the page, don’t miss this YA novel set in Seoul.
The Downstairs Girl
Published: August 13, 2019
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.”
When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby.
But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know
Published: April 7, 2020
It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.
Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.
Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed
Published: April 11, 2023
This is one of my favorite Asian YA books! Sam and her mom can’t seem to get along, but their relationship is nowhere as strained as her mother and grandmother’s. When her grandmother falls into a coma, Sam and her mom, Priscilla get into a bad argument. Then a strange cab ride lands Sam in the 90s as her mother’s classmate! Sam has to fix her mom and Halmoni’s relationship in the past before it’s too late and she ends up learning a lot about her both women. This was a fun, poignant exploration of the mother-daughter relationship and how times have changed since the 90s.
Made in Korea
Published: May 18, 2021
Valerie Kwon is a business-savvy Korean-American teen who runs V&C K-Beauty with her cousin, Charlie, out of her high school locker. She’s saving up so that she can take her halmeoni to Paris on a memorable vacation. Valerie’s dreams face a huge obstacle when a new, good looking Korean-American student Wes Jung unwittingly starts his own competing K-beauty business in their school.
This is a sweet, charming, and entertaining young adult enemies-to-lovers romance. With a headstrong female protagonist and an endearing male protagonist, this story packs family, romance, and coming-of-age challenges into an engaging, compulsively readable package.
American Born Chinese
Published: October 30, 2007
Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way―if they want to fix the disasters their lives have become.
More Than Just a Pretty Face
Published: August 4, 2020
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
Luck of the Titanic
Published: May 4, 2021
Valora Luck has two things: a ticket for the biggest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world, and a dream of leaving England behind and making a life for herself as a circus performer in New York. Much to her surprise though, she’s turned away at the gangway; apparently, Chinese aren’t allowed into America.
But Val has to get on that ship. Her twin brother Jamie, who has spent two long years at sea, is there, as is an influential circus owner, whom Val hopes to audition for. Thankfully, there’s not much a trained acrobat like Val can’t overcome when she puts her mind to it.
As a stowaway, Val should keep her head down and stay out of sight. But the clock is ticking and she has just seven days as the ship makes its way across the Atlantic to find Jamie, perform for the circus owner, and convince him to help get them both into America.
Then one night the unthinkable happens, and suddenly Val’s dreams of a new life are crushed under the weight of the only thing that matters: survival.
The Beauty of the Moment
Published: February 26, 2019
This one surprisingly grew on me! I loved that the main characters form a genuine friendship and that this novel addresses so many themes. Susan is a talented artist whose immigrant parents want her to pursue a “professional” degree, and Malcolm’s issues with his dad are serious issues I haven’t seen tackled by many YA books.
I also enjoyed all the minor characters and their storylines, especially how Susan’s parents navigate their marital relationship. Refreshingly, also, the characters in this novel deal with problems more important than the romance in this book.
Overall, a remarkable YA novel! And I stayed up until 2am to finish this. For someone with a 10pm bedtime, that says a lot.
The Noh Family
Published: May 3, 2022
When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Chang doesn’t think much of trying it out. She doesn’t believe anything will come of it—she’s an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It’s been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected—she’s got a whole extended family from her father’s side half a world away in Korea.
Turns out her father’s family are amongst the richest families in Seoul and want to meet Chloe. So, despite her mother’s reservations, Chloe travels to Seoul and is whisked into the lap of luxury . . . but something feels wrong. Soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad’s family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?
The Perfect Escape
Published: April 7, 2020
Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?
Kate Anderson wants a fresh start, away from her controlling father. She fantasizes about escaping to New York, where she can pursue her dreams. But how can Kate get there when she can’t even buy dinner without his approval?
Worlds collide when Nate and Kate meet at the zombie-themed escape room where they both work. As sparks fly, fate steps in: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize that could solve all their problems. The real challenge? Making it through the weekend with their hearts intact…
From Little Tokyo with Love
Published: May 11, 2021
If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale–being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business–she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold.
All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness–searching for clues that Grace is her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with cute actor Hank Chen, and maybe…finally finding a sense of belonging.
But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?
Published: April 8, 2021
Ayesha and her friends Sara and Jess jump at the chance of accompanying Ayesha’s uncle on a trip from Australia to Istanbul. But when Ayesha discovers a mysterious note as a result of visiting an old bookshop, their relaxing holiday starts to get a whole lot more complicated! Ayesha finds herself trying to uncover a hundred-year-old Ibn Arabi mystery, while trying to avoid creepy villains, and still making sure that she gets to eat the best doner kebab Istanbul has to offer. It’s all in a day’s sleuthing when you’re Ayesha Dean. Lucky she can count on her best friends to always have her back!
**Fans of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys will love this new heroine!**
I just saved this one on Scribd and it’s only $2.99 on Kindle!
Published: January 7, 2020
When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.
Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.
Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?
Sway with Me
Published: November 2, 2021
Arsalan has learned everything he knows from Nana, his 100-year-old great-grandfather. This includes the fact that when Nana dies, Arsalan will be completely alone in the world, except for his estranged and abusive father. So he turns to Beenish, the step-daughter of a prominent matchmaker, to find him a future life partner. Beenish’s request in return? That Arsalan help her ruin her older sister’s wedding with a spectacular dance she’s been forbidden to perform.
Despite knowing as little about dancing as he does about girls, Arsalan wades into Beenish’s chaotic world to discover friends and family he never expected. And though Arsalan’s old-school manners and Beenish’s take-no-prisoners attitude clash every minute, they find themselves getting closer and closer—literally. All that’s left to realize is that the thing they both really want is each other, if only they can get in step.
At turns laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and sincerely heartfelt, Sway With Me is a coming-of-age story for anyone trying to find their place in the world.
Queen of the Tiles
Published: April 19, 2022
When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It seems that even though Najwa is trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.
But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.
I enjoyed this fast-paced chess novel for teens — it’s a great mystery-thriller!
To All the Boys I Loved Before (Trilogy)
Published: April 15, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
I watched the movie before I read this Asian YA novel, and while I recognize that that might not have been the best order, it makes for an interesting perspective. The book and the movie feel like two different things, in a good way. It was nice to get in the minds of LJ and Peter and I definitely feel like I understand the cast of characters better after this.
Sweet, compulsively readable book, this one!
The Way You Make Me Feel
Published: May 8, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful Asian YA novel by Maurene Goo. I didn’t love her debut novel, but this one read so much better to me. Clara Shin is a “cool kid” determined to be unbothered by caring too deeply about anything. But when a prank goes too far, she has to spend her summer working on her dad’s food truck with her nemesis, do-gooder overachieving, Rose.
I loved the character development in this one. The whole story and all the characters felt so authentic and enjoyable without being unbearably saccharine. I’m so excited to read Goo’s upcoming YA novel!
Tokyo Ever After
Published: May 18, 2021
Izumi Tanaka finds out that her father (the one her single mother never wants to talk about) is the crowned Prince of Japan. Immediately, she’s whisked away to Japan to meet her father and the family she didn’t know she had. Of course, this means she had to leave close to the end of her senior year in high school, hoping to return in time for graduation. When she gets to Japan, however, she’s met with a new (handsome) bodyguard, Akio; cunning cousins, and a whole lot of royal etiquette to learn.
This is a royal coming-of-age story perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries. Set in Tokyo and Kyoto, this young adult romance provides an immersive armchair travel experience. With a sweet, smart, relatable protagonist, and an endearing love interest this is a guaranteed favorite for fans of young adult romances.
Published: September 3, 2019
In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country.
Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her.
Hằng is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Việt Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hằng has come so far that she will do anything to bridge the gap.
Fake It Till You Break It
Published: May 28, 2019
In this Asian YA novel, Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.
After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time―and then they’ll be free.
It’s the perfect plan – except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…
Published: September 20, 2022
Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.
But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.
But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.
Published: December 1, 2020
Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent.
Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing.
Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.
Yes No Maybe So
Published: February 4, 2020
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybeit’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
Lucy and Linh
Published: September 6, 2016
In this Asian YA novel, Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.
Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.
As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.
Not Here to Be Liked
Published: September 14, 2021
Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.
When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.
Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.
Something in Between
Published: October 4, 2016
Jasmine’s parents migrated to the US from the Philippines in her early childhood. She becomes captain of her high school cheer team, is one of the best in her class and even wins a National scholarship. The latter event, however reveals a secret her parents have hidden for the last few years: Jasmine and her entire family are undocumented in the US.
As expected, type A, overachiever Jasmine is devastated by the realization that she doesn’t have a green card as she had been told before and doesn’t even qualify for the National scholar award she won. The book follows her budding romance with Royce, the son of a conservative congressman in the midst of all her immigration trials.
I LOVED this Asian YA novel. I expected a wildly unbelievable story, romance, and ending but that was not the case. The book is actually based on the author’s experiences as an immigrant from the Philippines and is very moving and thought provoking. I enjoyed peeking behind the curtain at the way politics works and what undocumented immigrants in the US contend with on a regular basis. I also loved the romance between Royce and Jas. It was very realistic and mature, while retaining the sweetness of teenage love.
I can’t believe I’d never heard of this book before I began reading it! Overall, a superb read, for YA audiences and beyond. Highly recommend!
While You Were Dreaming
Published: March 21, 2023
It’s a classic story: girl meets boy, girl falls for boy, boy finally notices girl when he sees her in a homemade costume. At least, that’s what Sonia Patil is hoping for when she plans to meet her crush at the local comic-con in cosplay.
But instead of winning her crush over, Sonia rescues him after he faints into a canal and, suddenly, everything changes. Since she was in disguise, no one knows who the masked do-gooder was . . .but everyone is trying to find out. Sonia can’t let that happen—her sister is undocumented, and the girls have been flying under the radar since their mother was deported back to Mumbai.
Sonia finds herself hiding from social media detectives and trying to connect with her crush and his family. But juggling crushes and a secret identity might just take superpowers. Can Sonia hide in plain sight forever?
There’s Something About Sweetie
Published: May 14, 2019
Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
You’ve Reached Sam
Published: November 2, 2021
How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?
Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out―move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.
What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?
Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.
Somewhere Only We Know
Published: May 7, 2019
Sparks fly between a K-pop starlet and a tabloid reporter in Somewhere Only We Know, a heartwarming rom-com from Maurene Goo.
10:00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11:00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
A Match Made in Mehendi
Published: September 10, 2019
Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole –– matchmakers — with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”
But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app.
But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.
Super Fake Love Song
Published: November 17, 2020
When Sunny meets Cirrus, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakenly thinks Sunny plays guitar, he accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band.
Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He gets his best friends to form a fake band with him and starts dressing like a rock star. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right?
Just when Sunny is about to come clean, Cirrus asks to see them play sometime. Gulp.
Now there’s only one thing to do: Fake it till you make it.
Queens of New York
Published: June 6, 2023
Best friends Jia Lee, Ariel Kim, and Everett Hoang are inseparable. But this summer, they won’t be together.
Everett, aspiring Broadway star, hopes to nab the lead role in an Ohio theater production, but soon realizes that talent and drive can only get her so far. Brainy Ariel is flying to San Francisco for a prestigious STEM scholarship, even though her heart is in South Korea, where her sister died last year. And stable, solid Jia will be home in Flushing, juggling her parents’ Chinatown restaurant, a cute new neighbor, and dreams for an uncertain future.
As the girls navigate heartbreaking surprises and shocking self-discoveries, they find that even though they’re physically apart, they are still mighty together.
You Bring the Distant Near
Published: September 12, 2017
Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Published: October 16, 2018
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.
How We Fall Apart
Published: August 3, 2021
Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top-ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “the Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.
They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow the Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.
Katie Zhao’s YA debut is an edge-of-your-seat drama set in the pressure-cooker world of academics and image at Sinclair Prep, where the past threatens the future these teens have carefully crafted for themselves. How We Fall Apart is the irresistible, addicting, Asian-American recast of Gossip Girl that we’ve all been waiting for.
I Love You So Mochi
Published: May 28, 2019
Japanese-American, Kimi Nakamura is fashion-loving teen who spends her time designing and sewing bold, creative outfits. The only problem is that her mother — a graphic designer who always wanted to be an artist — expects Kimi to become a “real artist.” To her, Kimi’s designs should remain a “hobby.”
Although Kimi has already been accepted to a reputable fine art college, she hasn’t told her mother that she’s dropped out of Advanced Fine Art and hasn’t painted anything all semester. When her mother finds out and is sorely disappointed, Kimi takes advantage of her estranged grandparents’ offer to visit Kyoto.
This is a delightful, delicious young adult novel, perfect for anyone desperate for a trip to Japan on a page. Yet, it isn’t all fluff. It features a determined, artistic heroine and sheds light on all the ways parental pressures can change a person’s path in life. I would highly recommend this novel to fans of American Panda, fashion aficionados, and anyone whose dreams have run contrary to parental wishes.
Rent a Boyfriend
Published: November 10, 2020
Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.
Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.
When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.
But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?
This Time It’s Real
Published: February 7, 2023
When seventeen-year-old Eliza Lin’s essay about meeting the love of her life unexpectedly goes viral, her entire life changes overnight. Now she has the approval of her classmates at her new international school in Beijing, a career-launching internship opportunity at her favorite magazine…and a massive secret to keep.
Eliza made her essay up. She’s never been in a relationship before, let alone in love. All good writing is lying, right?
Desperate to hide the truth, Eliza strikes a deal with the famous actor in her class, the charming but aloof Caz Song. She’ll help him write his college applications if he poses as her boyfriend. Caz is a dream boyfriend — he passes handwritten notes to her in class, makes her little sister laugh, and takes her out on motorcycle rides to the best snack stalls around the city.
But when her relationship with Caz starts feeling a little too convincing, all of Eliza’s carefully laid plans are threatened. Can she still follow her dreams if it means breaking her own heart?
Published: March 9, 2021
Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in–his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art–make him her mother’s worst nightmare.
They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver’s troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself–and what’s really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.
Winner of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices award, Anuradha D. Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.
When Dimple Met Rishi
Published: May 30, 2017
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
Very cute, light hearted YA about girls in tech, finding the balance between culture and identity and following your dreams. Rishi is definitely up there on my list of favorite male leads!
Overall, great chemistry in a sweet, feel-good Asian YA novel.
Symptoms of a Heartbreak
Published: July 2, 2019
The youngest doctor in America, an Indian-American teen makes her rounds—and falls head over heels—in the contemporary romantic comedy Symptoms of a Heartbreak.
Fresh from med school, sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira arrives for her first day at her new job: treating children with cancer. She’s always had to balance family and friendships with her celebrity as the Girl Genius—but she’s never had to prove herself to skeptical adult co-workers while adjusting to real life-and-death stakes. And working in the same hospital as her mother certainly isn’t making things any easier.
But life gets complicated when Saira finds herself falling in love with a patient: a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer. And when she risks her brand new career to try to improve his chances, it could cost her everything.
It turns out “heartbreak” is the one thing she still doesn’t know how to treat
Misfit in Love
Published: May 25, 2021
Janna Yusuf is so excited for the weekend: her brother Muhammad’s getting married, and she’s reuniting with her mom, whom she’s missed the whole summer.
And Nuah’s arriving for the weekend too.
Sweet, constant Nuah.
The last time she saw him, Janna wasn’t ready to reciprocate his feelings for her. But things are different now. She’s finished high school, ready for college…and ready for Nuah.
It’s time for Janna’s (carefully planned) summer of love to begin—starting right at the wedding.
But it wouldn’t be a wedding if everything went according to plan. Muhammad’s party choices aren’t in line with his fiancée’s taste at all, Janna’s dad is acting strange, and her mom is spending more time with an old friend (and maybe love interest?) than Janna.
And Nuah’s treating her differently.
Just when things couldn’t get more complicated, two newcomers—the dreamy Haytham and brooding Layth—have Janna more confused than ever about what her misfit heart really wants.
Janna’s summer of love is turning out to be super crowded and painfully unpredictable.
The Lines We Cross
Published: May 9, 2017
First off, this book is set in AUSTRALIA! The Aussie accent was a bit disorienting at the beginning of the narration but I got used to it.
Mina and Michael begin this book on opposite sides of the line. Michael’s family runs an organization that is staunchly against “boat people” i.e asylum seeking immigrants. They rally against things they read as Islamization of their country – formation of Islamic schools, women in hijabs etc. Michael goes along with his family’s beliefs until he meets Mina an Afghani refugee, now living in Australia.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this YA novel because it’s one of those that completely flew under my radar after release. The author deftly maneuvers the conversation about Islamophobia and tolerance without sounding preachy. She also shows how difficult it can be to move in the opposite direction of our deeply ingrained beliefs. I especially love the idea that people who are “nice and kind sometimes” can also be racists.
Overall, very mature teenagers in this novel with a good amount of social media featuring — something which novelists can seem to ignore exists in their stories. I especially loved Michael’s character and the amount of growth he undergoes throughout the story. Incisive, enlightening and engaging novel! Highly recommended for high schoolers.
The Love Match
Published: January 3, 2023
Zahra Khan is basically Bangladeshi royalty, but being a princess doesn’t pay the bills in Paterson, New Jersey. While Zahra’s plans for financial security this summer involve working long hours at Chai Ho and saving up for college writing courses, Amma is convinced that all Zahra needs is a “good match,” Jane Austen style.
Enter Harun Emon, who’s wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and…aloof. As soon as Zahra meets him, she knows it’s a bad match. It’s nothing like the connection she has with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the tea shop, who just gets Zahra in a way no one has before. So, when Zahra finds out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as she is, they decide to slowly sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping Amma happy while catching real feelings for Nayim.
But life—and boys—can be more complicated than Zahra realizes. With her feelings all mixed up, Zahra discovers that sometimes being a good Bengali kid can be a royal pain.
Frankly in Love
Published: September 10, 2019
Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.
Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.
As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.
If You, Then Me
Published: July 6, 2021
What would you ask your future self? First question: What does it feel like to kiss someone?
Xia is stuck in a lonely, boring loop. Her only escapes are Wiser, an artificial intelligence app she designed to answer questions as her future self, and a mysterious online crush she knows only as ObjectPermanence.
Until one day Xia enrolls at the Foundry, an app incubator for tech prodigies in Silicon Valley, and suddenly anything is possible. Flirting with Mast, a classmate also working on AI, leads to a date. Speaking up generates a vindictive nemesis intent on publicly humiliating her. And running into Mitzy Erst, Foundry alumna and Xia’s idol, could give Xia all the answers.
And then Xia receives a shocking message from ObjectPermanence. He is at the Foundry, too. Xia is torn between Mast and ObjectPermanence—just as Mitzy pushes her towards a shiny new future. Xia doesn’t have to ask Wiser to know: The right choice could transform her into the future self of her dreams, but the wrong one could destroy her.
Love from A-Z
Published: April 30, 2019
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like
potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries
Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Our Wayward Fate
Published: October 15, 2019
Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, Ah-lee, after the mountain in Taiwan.
Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to they belong together whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.
But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.
Sleepless in Dubai
Published: October 24, 2023
In this hate-to-love teen rom-com from the author of My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding, Nikki, an aspiring photographer, accompanies her family on a trip to Dubai to celebrate the five days of Diwali in style. It should be the trip of a lifetime, if Yash, the boy next door—with whom Nikki has a rocky history—weren’t on board. In the festive spirit, Nikki’s family encourages her to get reacquainted with Yash. Turns out a lot can change on a 12-hour flight beyond just continents. But can betrayals and conflicting ambitions be set aside long enough for the two teens to discover the true meaning of the Festival of Lights?
Saints and Misfits
Published: June 12, 2018
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.
“There are three kinds of people in my world:
1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.
2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me–the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.
Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.
But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?
3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.
Like the monster at my mosque.
People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.
Published: September 19, 2013
Nea Chhim, the spirited heroine of Dragon Chica, struggles with college. Nightmares of war flood the waking memories of this 19-year-old survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Nea decides she must confront the past to overcome her fear and begin her own life in America. Without telling Ma, she hops on a cross-country bus in Nebraska to see her biological father in Southern California. There Nea comes face to face with a man wounded by survivor’s guilt who refuses to acknowledge the family’s secrets. Nea determines to revive his struggling donut shop and help him recover. Her tireless efforts attract a mysterious young man’s attention—is he casing the place for a gang? It is up to Nea to find out the truth: about her family, the war that nearly destroyed them, and herself.
Tiger Girl weaves together Cambodian folklore and its painful past with contemporary American life to create an unforgettable novel about love, war, and acceptance.
My So-Called Bollywood Life
Published: May 15, 2018
Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.
Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.
Published: May 18, 2021
Parvin Mohammadi has just been dumped–only days after receiving official girlfriend status. Not only is she heartbroken, she’s humiliated. Enter high school heartthrob Matty Fumero, who just might be the smoking-hot cure to all her boy problems. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to Homecoming, she’s positive it will prove to herself and her ex that she’s girlfriend material after all. There’s just one problem: Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself hasn’t worked for her in the past (see aforementioned dumping), she decides to start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those women aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk.
But Parvin discovers that being a rom-com dream girl is much harder than it looks. Also hard? The parent-mandated Farsi lessons. A confusing friendship with a boy who’s definitely not supposed to like her. And hardest of all, the ramifications of the Muslim ban on her family in Iran. Suddenly, being herself has never been more important.
Olivia Abtahi’s debut is as hilarious as it is heartfelt–a delightful tale where, amid the turmoil of high school friendships and crushes, being yourself is always the perfect way to be.
Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety
Published: May 3, 2016
A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s.
This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.
A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.
Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance
Published: July 13, 2021
Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance is Nisha Sharma’s sophomore YA novel. It follows Radha, a skilled Kathak dancer who decides to stop dancing after anxiety and a family betrayal cause her to bow out of a contest. Jai is a student at the Princeton Academy of the Arts where Radha transfers. Although she is insistent on not dancing, her dance skills may be Jai’s ticket to medical school (which he’s convinced he can’t attend). Add Radha’s grandfather’s cookbook, Jai’s family dilemmas, and plenty of dancing — and this story comes to life.
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)
Published: April 5, 2006
Half Asian and half white, Patty Ho has never felt completely home in her skin. Things get worse when a Chinese fortune-teller channels Patty’s future via her belly button…and divines a white guy on her romance horizon. Faster than Patty can add two plus two, her ultra-strict Taiwanese mom freaks out and ships her off to math camp at Stanford. Just as Patty writes off her summer of woe, life starts glimmering will all kinds of possibilities….
Published: May 31, 2022
Serene dreams of making couture dresses even more stunning than her mom’s, but for now she’s an intern at her mom’s fashion label. When her mom receives a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, all that changes. Serene has to take over her mother’s business overnight while trying to figure out what happened with her dad in Beijing. He left before she was born, and Serene wants to find him, even if it means going against her mom’s one request—never look back.
Lian Chen moved from China to Serene’s mostly white Southern California beach town a year ago. He doesn’t fit in at school, where kids mispronounce his name. His parents don’t care about what he wants to do—comedy—and push him toward going to MIT engineering early. Lian thinks there’s nothing to stick around for until one day he starts a Chinese Club after school . . . and Serene walks in.
Worlds apart in the high school hierarchy, Serene and Lian soon find refuge in each other, falling in love as they navigate life-changing storms.
Does My Head Look Big in This?
Published: May 1, 2007
When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…
Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.
Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.
Published: September 26, 2017
A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
It All Comes Back to You
Published: September 14, 2021
After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.
Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.
When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?
Published: March 3, 2009
In Paula Yoo’s Good Enough, high school senior Patti Yoon is preparing to retake the SATs after failing to make her Korean proud with her 2010 score. It doesn’t help that she’s also lost her concertmaster position at the All-State Orchestra. Both “failures” are conversation fodder at her Korean church where she also plays music.
But, on a high note, she meets a cute trumpet player, Ben, at the audition and is excited to find out he goes to her school. Her toughest decision, however, is whether or not to apply to Julliard. See, although Patti has the violin chops to apply, her Korean parents see only “HAVARDYALEPRINCETON.”
To complicate matters, she can’t seem to figure out whether or not Ben likes her, likes her. Even though he invites her to make music together, he’s dating another girl at school.
Love, Hate, and Other Filters
Published: January 16, 2018
Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school.
But in the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Published: May 4, 2021
Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.
STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The Metropolis―Earth’s last unpolluted place―is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.
Published: January 26, 2021
If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.
Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride-she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history-if she has the courage to go for it.”
Published: September 29, 2020
What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?
For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?
Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.
Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
Published: September 21, 2021
I fell for The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling for its name alone. Thankfully, the premise is equally as captivating. Anna Chiu is a high schooler who has her hands full caring for her little brother and sort of watching over her younger teen sister. Their father runs a restaurant in a nearby town (about two hours away by car) and their mother is so depressed, she hasn’t gotten out of bed in weeks. When Anna convinces her dad to let her work at their restaurant on weekends, she starts a relationship with Rory, the new delivery boy.
As Anna gets to know Rory (and his own mental illness struggles), things at home go from bad to worse. Anna’s mother gets out of bed, but begins acting erratic and her relationship with her sister, as well as their father becomes strained as Anna has to step in to provide her mother the support she needs.
A Pho Love Story
Published: February 9, 2021
If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.
Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
This Is Not a Personal Statement
Published: January 17, 2023
In This Is Not a Personal Statement, we meet Perla Perez, a 16-year-old high school senior who has been rejected from the college of her (and her parents’) dreams. Much to her dismay, she put all her eggs in this one basket and didn’t give her other college applications half as much care as she did this one — so all the other colleges rejected her too. With her back against the wall and under the immense pressure from her immigrant parents to succeed, she forges an acceptance letter and thus begins months of lying and elaborate schemes to get into the dorms, going through all the motions of a real student. She hopes to re-apply in the next session and get in so her parents never know she was rejected. But will her plans go up in flames?
The Great Destroyers
Published: August 3, 2021
Jo Linden was born into a world where wars are won with giant mechanical soldiers and the nuclear bomb was never invented. Yet the Cold War still rages, and international rivalries between democracy and communism are now fought at the Pax Games, an Olympic-style competition that pits young pilots of mechas against each other. The USSR has beaten the US in nearly every game since its inception, and in the 1963 Games, the US is desperate for a win. Because it’s more than just the Games at stake. Premier Khrushchev will be attending, and after, he and President Kennedy are slated to sign a peace accord stabilizing the war in Vietnam-and their volatile relationship.
Raised in her father’s mecha repair shop, Jo knows more than anyone about piloting. She’s also the most unlikely pick for Team USA since she’s a virtually unknown fighter. So when she’s invited at the last minute to compete, she jumps at it. This could be the only chance to save her family’s home from debt collectors. All eyes are on Jo from the moment she arrives. But as fighters start dying in the arena, it’s suddenly clear that it’s more than the usual Pax Games, and Jo finds herself drawn into a deadly political plot. And if she can’t figure out the truth, it might mean the annihilation of everything.
In a global arms race between superpowers, playing out in violent games that only humanity could create, comes a chilling story of clashing titans, ruthless competition, freedom, and the girl caught in the middle of it all.
Published: September 15, 2020
Candace Park knows a lot about playing a role. For most of her life, she’s been playing the role of the quiet Korean girl who takes all AP classes and plays a classical instrument, keeping her dreams of stardom-and her obsession with SLK, K-pop’s top boyband-to herself. She doesn’t see how a regular girl like her could possibly become one of those K-pop goddesses she sees on YouTube. Even though she can sing. Like, really sing.
So when Candace secretly enters a global audition held by SLK’s music label, the last thing she expects is to actually get a coveted spot in their trainee program. And convincing her strict parents to let her to go is all but impossible … although it’s nothing compared to what comes next.
Under the strict supervision of her instructors at the label’s headquarters in Seoul, Candace must perfect her performance skills to within an inch of her life, learn to speak Korean fluently, and navigate the complex hierarchies of her fellow trainees, all while following the strict rules of the industry. Rule number one? NO DATING, which becomes impossible to follow when she meets a dreamy boy trainee. And in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.
If she doesn’t have what it takes to become a perfect, hair-flipping K-pop idol, what will that mean for her family, who have sacrificed everything to give her the chance? And is a spot in the most hyped K-pop girl group of all time really worth risking her friendships, her future, and everything she believes in?
Dating Makes Perfect
Published: August 18, 2020
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.
In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.
In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.
The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.
If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.
10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Published: July 21, 2020
Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.
Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.
Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.
When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.
Tahira in Bloom
Published: November 1, 2021
When seventeen-year-old aspiring designer Tahira Janmohammad’s coveted fashion internship falls through, her parents have a Plan B. Tahira will work in her aunt’s boutique in the small town of Bakewell, the flower capital of Ontario. It’s only for the summer, and she’ll get the experience she needs for her college application. Plus her best friend is coming along. It won’t be that bad.
But she just can’t deal with Rowan Johnston, the rude, totally obsessive garden-nerd next door with frayed cutoffs and terrible shoes. Not to mention his sharp jawline, smoldering eyes, and soft lips. So irritating. Rowan is also just the plant-boy Tahira needs to help win the Bakewell flower-arranging contest―an event that carries clout in New York City, of all places. And with designers, of all people. Connections that she needs!
No one is more surprised than Tahira to learn that floral design is almost as great as fashion design. And Rowan? Turns out he’s more than ironic shirts and soil under the fingernails. Tahira’s about to find out what she’s really made of―and made for. Because here in the middle of nowhere, Tahira is just beginning to bloom.
Of Curses and Kisses
Published: February 18, 2020
Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
Counting Down with You
Published: May 4, 2021
Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.
Karina is my girlfriend.
Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.
T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding
Published: April 19, 2022
Zurika Damani is a naturally gifted violinist with a particular love for hip hop beats. But when you’re part of a big Indian family, everyone has expectations, and those certainly don’t include hip hop violin. After being rejected by Juilliard, Zuri’s last hope is a contest judged by a panel of top tier college scouts. The only problem? This coveted competition happens to take place during Zuri’s sister’s extravagant wedding week. And Zuri has already been warned, repeatedly, that she is not to miss a single moment.
In the midst of the chaos, Zuri’s mom is in matchmaking mode with the groom’s South African cousin Naveen—who just happens to be a cocky vocalist set on stealing Zuri’s spotlight at the scouting competition. Luckily Zuri has a crew of loud and loyal female cousins cheering her on. Now, all she has to do is to wow the judges for a top spot, evade getting caught by her parents, resist Naveen’s charms, and, oh yeah . . . not mess up her sister’s big fat Indian wedding. What could possibly go wrong?
A Taste for Love
Published: February 2, 2021
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
House of Glass Hearts
Published: August 29th 2021
Maera and her ammi never talk about the Past, a place where they’ve banished their family’s heartache and grief forever. They especially never mention the night Maera’s older brother Asad disappeared from her naana’s house in Karachi ten years ago. But when her grandfather dies and his derelict greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of her grandfather’s past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family’s secrets-the monsters that live inside her grandfather’s mysterious house of glass.
Seamlessly blending history with myth, HOUSE OF GLASS HEARTS follows a Pakistani-American teen’s ruthless quest to find her missing sibling, even if the truth would reveal her grandfather’s devastating secret and tear her family apart. In a narrative that switches between colonial India and present-day America, this ambitious debut explores how the horrors of the past continue to shape the lives of South Asians around the world.
Published: March 2, 2021
Jayne and June Baek are nothing alike. June’s three years older, a classic first-born, know-it-all narc with a problematic finance job and an equally soulless apartment (according to Jayne). Jayne is an emotionally stunted, self-obsessed basket case who lives in squalor, has egregious taste in men, and needs to get to class and stop wasting Mom and Dad’s money (if you ask June). Once thick as thieves, these sisters who moved from Seoul to San Antonio to New York together now don’t want anything to do with each other.
That is, until June gets cancer. And Jayne becomes the only one who can help her.
Flung together by circumstance, housing woes, and family secrets, will the sisters learn more about each other than they’re willing to confront? And what if while helping June, Jayne has to confront the fact that maybe she’s sick, too?
Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous
Published: June 1, 2021
Sunny Song’s Big Summer Goals:
1) Make Rafael Kim my boyfriend (finally!)
2) Hit 100K followers (almost there…)
3) Have the best last summer of high school ever
Not on Sunny’s list: accidentally filming a PG-13 cooking video that goes viral (#browniegate). Extremely not on her list: being shipped off to a digital detox farm camp in Iowa (IOWA??) for a whole month. She’s traded in her WiFi connection for a butter churn, and if she wants any shot at growing her social media platform this summer, she’ll need to find a way back online.
But between some unexpected friendships and an alarmingly cute farm boy, Sunny might be surprised by the connections she makes when she’s forced to disconnect.
The Infinity Courts
Published: April 6, 2021
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.
The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
Sister of the Bollywood Bride
Published: June 1, 2021
Mini’s big sister, Vinnie, is getting married. Their mom passed away seven years ago and between Dad’s new start-up and Vinnie’s medical residency, there’s no one but Mini to plan the wedding. Dad raised her to know more about computers, calculus, and cars than desi weddings but from the moment Mini held the jewelry Mom left them, she wanted her sister to have the wedding Mom would’ve planned.
Now Mini has only two months to get it done and she’s not going to let anything distract her, not even the persistent, mysterious, and smoking-hot Vir Mirchandani. Flower garlands, decorations, music, even a white wedding horse—everything is in place.
That is, until a monster hurricane heads for Boston that could ruin everything. Will Mini come through as sister of the bride and save the day?
There they are: 80+ of the best Asian YA books! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss? If you’d like a list of Asian literature for tweens, check out my list of 83 middle-grade books by Asian authors.