The world of young adult novels is a world in which I used to solely inhabit, but, as with time and age, I slowly started venturing away from YA and exploring different genres and fell out of devotion with the genre. I will usually pick up and read a YA novel here and there, and most of the YA novels that I do pick up have an additional element to them that attracts me to the story being told.
Here’s the link to my original 2018 YA recommendations post [link].
Again, these are my recommendations for books that I’ve read and/or books that I want to read and are in no way a comprehensive list of the number of English-language novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry.
Some websites and posts that I recommend checking out if you are looking for even more recommendations for books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- The Quiet Pond
- PEN America
- Ruru Read [currently under construction]
- “21 Must-Read Books for AAPIHM” from Book Riot
- “19 Books to Read for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month” from Bustle
- “12 Summer Reads by Asian Authors to Put on Your TBR” from DailyWaffle
- “31 YA Books to Celebrate Each Day of APAHM” from Epic Reads
So let’s get to my recommendations.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
The Weight of Our Sky brings to life a part of history that few Westerners know about the South East Asian country of Malaysia. In the late 1960s, race relations between the Chinese and Malays in the country became increasingly strained and eventually culminated in the 1969 race riots in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. The story focuses on Melati Ahmad, a 16-year-old girl who becomes caught up in the race riots on the evening of May 13, 1969, when the city erupts into chaos.
This book was one of the best books I have read in the past few years. Alkaf beautifully crafts this heartbreaking and illuminating story about a girl trying to overcome her fears and find the one person who matters most to her in the world. The infusion of history into the story grounds the novel in a way that few YA novels have that I’ve previously read. The Weight of Our Sky is a book that I think everyone should read.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Kimi Nakamura loves fashion. She loves the power that the right outfit can bring to a person that can make them feel the best they have ever felt. She spends hours crafting and putting together Kimi Originals – outfits designed to help her and her friends the ultimate versions of themselves. Unfortunately for Kimi, her mother believes that these hours spent designing and creating clothes could be put to better use to create pieces for her portfolio for the prestigious fine arts college she had recently been accepted into creating swaths of tension between the two. When given the opportunity, Kimi jumps at the chance to go to Kyoto for spring break to visit her maternal grandparents and escape her mother. Kimi’s escape immersion slowly turns into a journey looking at the mother she left behind and the journey that lies ahead of her.
Kuhn has written a number of books including a YA fantasy series that has blown the boots of most people who have read them. This is a fun, rom-com, and self-discovery journey of a story that helps stir all of our desires to travel and explore and become the person who we always thought we would be.
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
I’m not a huge fan of book trailers, but sometimes certain ones can really grab your attention and spark an interest into the book. That was the case for Frankly in Love for me– after watching the exquisitely well-executed book trailer for this novel, I was hooked (check out the trailer here). I’m a sucker for fake-dating trope in romances; it’s really one of my favourite romantic tropes and Frankly in Love ticks so many of those boxes for me.
In the novel, Frank Li is a Korean-American teenager caught between his Korean culture and parents and his Southern California upbringing. One of the big dating rules for Frank is that he can only date other Koreans, but that proves to be difficult when he falls for Brit who’s White. Joy Song is in the same boat as Frank, so the two of them make a pact to “date” each other to have the freedom they so yearn. But, love and relationships are rarely uncomplicated – which Frank soon finds out.
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Teenage dating is never easy – it’s arguably a period of ones life where every feeling is felt, every piece of clothing is tried on, and where laughter, love, tears, and heartbreak can happen within the span of a school day. For Simran “Simi” Singh, she may have found the solution to such teenage problems when she starts a matchmaking app to help others find their perfect matches. Simi comes from a long line of Indian matchmakers who have a proven track record for helping parents find the perfect partner for their adult children, and she’s already proven her prowess when she accidentally sets up her older cousin. Complications soon follow when the app pairs up a high school wallflower and with the schools’ star soccer player, turning the school’s hierarchy into chaos and painting a target on Simi’s back.
A Match Made in Mehendi is a fun book that explores the love lives of teenagers in the modern age and the difficulties that one runs into when culture, identity, and your high school social hierarchy come clashing together. It is a light book that does touch on issues of microaggressions, bullying, LGBTQ+, but doesn’t dive deeply into these topics to a depth that other books that touch on these issues do.
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Lucky is on the cusp of the next step in her stellar K-pop career. She’s already one of the genres biggest artists with millions of fans around the world. She’s just performed in front of thousands of adoring fans in Hong Kong and about to debut on The Tonight Show in the U.S. Everything is going great for Lucky, except its nearly midnight and she’s staying in a five-star hotel and desperately craves a hamburger. Jack is sneaking into the five-star hotel to find some scoop for his tabloid job when he runs into a girl wearing slippers who is doggedly searching for a hamburger and decides to help. What happens next will change the course of their lives.
Somewhere Only We Know is a story about Lucky and Jack that happens over the course of a day. These two people from very different worlds find this common ground and develop something magical between the two of them. It’s a fun book that’s not too serious and a joy to read.
Stand Up, Yumie Chung by Jessica Kim
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
I hope these recommendations help you find your next book written by an AAPI author. Look out for the next post on book recommendations for science fiction and fantasy novels written by AAPI authors.
Thanks for reading!