Asian YA (and Asian literature) in general, was largely unknown to me until last year. Now, I’m a massive fan of stories by authors of Asian descent. I will admit that I had to Google to confirm the entire scope of “Asia” and as such will be including books by authors of Indian and Middle Eastern descent in this list. I’ve already done a list of Black YA books in the past, so I was stoked to dive into Asian YA next.
Without further ado, here are 51 of the best Asian YA books. This post has been updated for September 2020 and now includes a few forthcoming 2021 titles.
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51 Best Asian YA Books
Here are 51 best Asian YA books:
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.
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.
The Downstairs Girl
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
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
American Born Chinese
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
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.
The Beauty of the Moment
Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.
Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.
Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.
I loved this book!
The Perfect Escape
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…
Ayesha Dean – The Istanbul Intrigue
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!
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?
To All the Boys I Loved Before (Trilogy)
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
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!
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.
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Fake It Till You Break It
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…
Yes No Maybe So
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
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.
Something in Between
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!
There’s Something About Sweetie
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?
Somewhere Only We Know
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
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.
You Bring the Distant Near
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
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.
I Love You So Mochi
Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.
She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.
When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
Rent a Boyfriend
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?
When Dimple Met Rishi
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
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
The Lines We Cross
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.
Frankly in Love
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.
Love from A-Z
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
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 the 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.
Saints and Misfits
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.
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
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.
Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety
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.
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)
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….
Does My Head Look Big in This?
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.
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.
How to make your Korean parents happy:
1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*
Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.
But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?
*Boys will distract you from your studies.
Love, Hate, and Other Filters
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
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.
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
Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she’s not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father’s restaurant, she’s taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.
But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
A Pho Love Story
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?
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
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
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.
Of Curses and Kisses
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
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?
A Taste for Love
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.
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
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
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.
Looking to read more Asian lit? Check out this list of 51 of the best Asian YA books! (updated list!) Click To Tweet
There you have ’em! For someone who wasn’t a big fan of YA in general, I’ve been enjoying more books in the genre recently –especially from this list of best Asian YA.
How do you feel about YA novels, Asian YA (which is getting better and better!) and Asian literature in general? Read any Asian YA from this list yet? I’d love to know! If you’d like a list of Asian literature for tweens, check out my list of 63 middle-grade books by Asian authors.