The young adult genre is one of the most expansive genres in publishing, in my opinion. From the diversity of topics and sub-genres to the range of ages that this genre covers, it is quite an amazing place to dive into and discover new stories.
For many of us, this period in our lives is one of constant change, discovery, and realization. It’s also one of the scariest periods in one’s life because of those changes and realizations. It’s why I love reading YA and why I still continue to read it even as I head into my mid-twenties.
Again, I want to state that these are my personal recommendations for books that I’ve read and loved or books that are on my TBR list. This is in no way a comprehensive and exhaustive list of the number of English-language young adult novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry. This list is literally a tiny window into the brilliant and wonderful world of YA novels written by AAPI authors.
Some sites that I recommend checking out if you’re looking for more books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- Our Stories (Pacific Islander specific recs)
- Anjulie Te Pohe resource list
So let’s get to the recommendations!
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. Resigned to a life without superpowers despite her heroic lineage, Jessica Tran is ecstatic when she gets a paid internship to help beef-up her college applications. Her internship turns out a lot more complicated than she thought, not only is her boss the town’s very own supervillain, her long-time crush, Abby, also happens to be a fellow intern. Totally cool, right? Except things take a sudden and dangerous turn when Jess discovers that the cause of the missing/inactive villains may be part of a larger and more sinister plot than anyone could’ve thought. The second book in the series in Not Your Villain is also out on bookstands if you fall in love with the first one.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. Nix is an explorer. She’s spent her entire life on her father’s ship, sailing across the world, time, and myth and imagination, as long as her father possesses a map to the place. She’s met friends, found crewmates, and even a charming thief in her journey’s, but that all comes to a screeching halt when her father’s obsession with finding a map of 1868 of Honolulu comes to ahead. The map will take her father to his lost love, Nix’s mother, but after getting the map and going to 1868 Honolulu could erase Nix’s entire existence. The second book in the series, The Ship Beyond Time was published in 2017, so you can also pick it up after reading this one.
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. Published in 2017, the timely novel looks at the life of a Muslim teen in today’s world. For Janna, there are three types of people: saints, misfits, and monsters. Saints are the people moving the world forward, sometimes you miss them or sometimes they’re in your face so much you can’t see them. Misfits are people who don’t belong, like Janna who doesn’t fit into her father’s new family or the leftover one of her mother and older brother. Then there are monsters, saints wearing masks. This debut YA novel is about a Muslim teen discovering herself, her voice, and her place in the world.
Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison. Set in the explosive cultural shifts of the 1960s to the 1980s in Australia, this novel centres on Kirrali Lewis. Kirrali didn’t grow up having much connection to her native roots having grown up in an adopted white family. Her decision to look for her biological parents sets off a political awakening and series of life-changing events that she never expected after discovering her mother is a white woman and her father is a radical black activist. The story flashes back to 1960s where, where we see Cherie, Kirrali’s biological mother struggling in a conservative Australian society a pregnant, unwed woman. The generational threads of human experience link Kirrali’s story to her biological mothers and will help complete her if only she can let go and experience them.
Want by Cindy Pon. This sci-fi thriller is set in a futuristic Tapei, where society is divided between the haves and haves-not. The elite uses their wealth to buy specially designed suits to protect them from harmful pollution that sickens and kill those who cannot afford them. Jason Zhou is still reeling from his mother’s death by the dangerous pollution and vows to bring down Jin Corporation, the company that makes the protective suits and maybe the ones creating the hazardous pollution, down. With the help of his friends, Jason embeds himself in the lives of the wealthy to bring them down from within. Things become muddy as Jason delves deeper into the world of the elite, and against his better judgment falls for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Jason must figure out how to stay true to himself to save the city without compromising who he is or his own heart in the process. The second novel in this series, Ruse, is due out early next year.
Other books to check out that also include a few middle-grade novels:
- A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
- Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
- American Panda by Gloria Chao
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Emergency Contact by H.K. Choi
- For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu
- Front Desk by Kelly Yang
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
- My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
- Warcross by Marie Lu
- Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
- Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
- The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
- The Talion Witch by L. Filloon
- The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glasser
- The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Those are my recommendations for young adult novels written by AAPI authors. Feel free to leave your own recommendations below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram. Be on the lookout for more recommendations posts for books written by AAPI authors this month.
Thanks for reading!