May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or AAPI! This celebration and appreciation of culture includes, for example, those who have originated from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Samoa; and in South Asia, includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore and Bhutan.
(Russia does not count, although it is located in Asia.)
One of the best ways to celebrate culture is to engage with books written by AAPI Authors. Below, we have composed a list of YA books written by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors, containing a diverse range of protagonists coming from different Asian American cultures.
In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know examines issues of cultural identity and racism both as they existed in the past and still manifest today, and asks the reader to think about legacy and which stories are passed down through time — all while indulging in a romantic amateur sleuthing adventure.
Zayneb is an 18-year-old hijabi from Indiana—and she was just suspended for standing up to her Islamophobic teacher. Now she’s on her way to Doha to spend two weeks with her cool aunt Nandy and forget about her troubles at school. On the flight, Zayneb meets Adam, who converted to Islam at age 11 after his mom died from multiple sclerosis. Enamored with each other, Adam and Zayneb begin to share their life stories.
Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?
For Kiko, a biracial Nebraska teen, attending Prism, a prestigious art school, will allow her to pursue her dream of making art and to escape a toxic family environment; denied admission, she has no Plan B. A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety, her narcissist mother, and her need to escape to someplace better.
Mei, a 17-year-old freshman at MIT, has followed her parents’ plans so far. Now all she has to do is get into a good medical school, become a doctor, and marry a nice Taiwanese boy. But with some distance from her parents (living in the Boston suburbs, they still demand to see her at weekly check-ins), Mei starts to buckle under the weight of their expectations and the truths she discovers about herself: she’s a germophobe who can’t stomach the thought of medical school.
College sophomore Chloe Wang is horrified by her parents’ latest misguided endeavor: relentlessly pushing her to accept a proposal from the insanely well-off—and deeply sexist—golden boy of their Palo Alto Chinese community, Hongbo Kuo. So, Chloe enlists the help of Rent for Your ’Rents, a “Match.com on steroids” providing fake boyfriends who pass even the most traditional Asian parents’ standards.
The loss of Miyoung’s fox bead has caused a tear between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and ghosts are suddenly flooding the streets of Seoul. The only way to repair the breach is to find the missing fox bead or for Miyoung to pay with her life. An enthralling sequel to Wicked Fox (2019).
A young woman struggles with body image, sexuality, identity issues, illness, and her place in the world as she reconnects with her estranged sister.
Two worlds. Two goddesses with their own secrets—one rules over a freezing world plunged in darkness, while the other rules over the part living under a scorching sun. As their respective worlds deplete a little more day after day, shadows from another world come with a warning. The goddesses’ daughters, Haidee and Odessa, must embark on a journey to the Breaching in an attempt to save the world.
Threatened by the encroaching darkness of the Arz, the kingdom of Arawiya and its five caliphates can only be saved by an artifact that will restore magic to the land. Few know that the Hunter, able to navigate the cursed forests of the Arz, is actually 17-year-old Zafira, disguised as a man since women are perceived as tainted in Demenhur.
Lucky, a Korean-American K-pop star suffering an existential crisis over her career, plays hooky one night after a big concert in Hong Kong, escaping her handlers and bodyguard. Woozy on anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills, she loses her way only to be rescued by Jack, an attractive stranger and fellow Korean-American who at first has no idea who she is and is struggling through his own personal crisis.
When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer.
When Lara Jean’s five secret letters to the boys she’s loved in her childhood are mailed to them by accident, Lara Jean finds herself fake dating one of them in order to get over another. Five letters, five boys; will Lara Jean be the heart breaker or the heart breakee?
In this future world, climate change and other disasters have brought people together from different countries into eco-cities that levitate above their regions. As the world crumbles around them, Kasey strives to uncover the mystery surrounding her sister Cee’s disappearance while Cee survives, marooned on an island and driven to search for Kasey through her wavering memories.
Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While waiting for her mother, who goes off to explore, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and continues to transport her to the past, eventually dropping her in a World War II Japanese American internment camp.
A Japanese American teen searches for her father—who turns out to be the crown prince of Japan. Dubbed the Lost Butterfly princess, she is swept up in royal life, complete with all its intrigue. The romance of being a princess quickly dissipates as tabloids, cultural differences, and a serious blunder at the Japanese prime minister’s wedding take their toll.
This is the story of American Desi teen Noreen’s gap year trip to New Delhi with her mother. There, Noreen meets handsome Kabir, who acts as sort of a travel guide. They soon become lovers, and he helps her connect with parts of herself that she lost in her grief over her aunt’s death while exploring South Asian politics, culture, and history, touching on issues such as Islamophobia, racism, classism, and violence toward women in a complicated country during the #MeToo era.
Punjabi teen Kiran Kaur lands in Canada with a terrible secret: She is pregnant with the child of the man who sexually assaulted her. Despite her family’s push to get an abortion, Kiran decides to keep the baby, moves in with her queer friend Joti, and gives birth to a girl she names Sahaara. Unable to keep up with studying, raising a newborn, and paying rent, Kiran drops out of university, loses her student visa, and becomes undocumented. As Sahaara becomes a teen herself and discovers her family’s secrets, she must learn how to protect her mother—and survive in a body she now associates with her mother’s sexual assault.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay. Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Scoring an amazing internship, new friends, a spot on the varsity soccer team, and a first boyfriend; things are finally falling into place for Darius. Except, then that changes, and everything gets complicated. Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn’t good enough.
Rika Rakuyama has never felt like she wholly belonged anywhere. Being half Japanese and half White, Rika and other characters struggle with who they are because people gossip about and comment on their race, sexuality (Rika’s cousin Belle is pansexual), and mental health and judge them according to ethnic stereotypes. Written like a modern fairy tale, this is a thoughtful exploration of finding one’s full identity and sense of place and community.
Plus-sized Korean American teen Skye Shin enters a K-pop competition in both the singing and dance categories. Skye’s strength and talent make her an inspiration to K-pop–loving teens everywhere, and she’s going to have to work harder than she ever has before to prove that talent can outshine prejudice.
Valora Luck has two things: a ticket for the Titanic, and a dream of leaving England behind and making a life for herself as a circus performer in NY. She gets turned away at the gangway because she is Chinese, but Val has to get on that ship. Her twin brother Jamie is on the boat with an influential circus owner, whom Val hopes to audition for. And then… the unthinkable happens to the unsinkable.
America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father–despite his hard-won citizenship–Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day, and not just under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.
A down-and-out teen, days from eviction with only $13 to her name, competes in the championships of the world’s most popular virtual reality game, WARCROSS.
Eighteen-year-old Gemma Huang lands her first major acting role—and in a film co-directed by her idol, veteran actress Eilene Deng, no less. She hops on the plane to Beijing for filming with only a twinge of guilt for breaking her parents’ cardinal rule: never go to China, and especially not to Beijing. Gemma’s always wondered what’s kept her parents away from their homeland, but she only begins to understand the extent of their secrets when she’s nearly mobbed at the airport.
After attending three different high schools, Shirin’s used to finding her way in new places. Unlike her brother, Navid, she lies low, earbuds under her headscarf, ignoring all the racist comments thrown her way. Shirin doesn’t take all the bull of her white classmates and their racist ignorance. But two things make this new school different: break-dancing and Ocean, the white lab partner who seems to see beyond Iranian-American Shirin’s hijab.
Pakistani American high school senior Danyal Jilani’s looks and charming personality don’t impress his father, who is disappointed by his poor academic performance and desire to attend culinary school. But when he meets smart college freshman Bisma Akram through his parents for potential future marriage purposes, Danyal learns of her scandalous secret—one that has made other families decide she isn’t a suitable marriage prospect
In the alternating voices of her two protagonists, Menon explores themes of culture and identity with insight and warmth. Seamlessly integrating Hindi language, she deftly captures the personalities of two seemingly opposite 18-year-olds from different parts of California and also from very different places regarding life choices and expectations as they attend Insomnia Con, a competitive six-week summer program at San Francisco State focused on app development.
At the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis, three teens grapple with love and friendship. Reza is living in New York City, and though he is attracted to men, he is paralyzingly afraid of AIDS, equating being gay with death. Judy, who loves fashion, is best friends with Art, the only out student at their school, and both are bullied by fat-shaming, homophobic peers. They become involved in AIDS advocacy, meet Reza, and both find themselves at odds with each other as both are attracted to him.
The story of two teens who can’t stand each other and start a fake relationship to prove to their moms how wrong they are for each other.
Fifteen-year-old Leigh Chen Sanders, daughter of an Irish-American sinologist father and a Taiwanese pianist mother, is in love with her best friend, Axel Moreno. The two have much in common, however, a rift has opened between them since their first kiss coincided with the day Leigh’s mother took her own life.
This saga tells the intertwined stories of Ranee Das, the matriarch, who uproots her family from Ghana to find fortune in the United States; Sonia and Tara, her daughters, who struggle with identity and acceptance; and Anna and Chantal, Ranee’s granddaughters, who fight injustices at home and in their communities.
In a future Taiwan, street kid Jason Zhou disguises himself as one of the wealthy elite in order to take down a murdering CEO who has created a suit and helmit made to protect only the wealthy from Taiwan’s polluted air.
Shocked out of his senioritis slumber when his beloved cousin Jun is killed by the police in the Philippines for presumably using drugs, Jay makes a radical move to spend his spring break in the Philippines to find out the whole story. Once pen pals, Jay hasn’t corresponded with Jun in years and is wracked by guilt at ghosting his cousin.
NASA has intercepted information revealing that an alien race will be deciding Earth’s fate in one week. Against this doomsday backdrop, three teens must decide what to do with their remaining days.
Vaneeta “Winnie” Mehta is digging a grave for her ex-boyfriend Raj’s entire film collection. She’d believed that Raj was destined to be with her; their match was fated in her janampatri (natal star chart) after all, so she was devastated to find out that he was hooking up with another classmate. But when Winnie reconnects with fellow film geek Dev Khanna and falls for him hard, she is forced to question all that has been prophesied: Is Raj really her destiny?
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop. Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII.
Korean American high school senior Valerie Kwon runs a wildly popular K-beauty business at school. But when new student Wes Jung enters the picture, he inadvertently becomes a rival when he brings to school K-pop–branded lip balm; he soon realizes that there’s a market for the branded merchandise he has access to through his advertising executive mom. A wager ensues: Whoever makes the most money during the school year gets both businesses’ earnings.
In an alternate ancient India, a rebel assassin sent to kill the cruel Gen. Hotha, and a reluctant soldier, nephew to the ruthless general, find forbidden love while they battle to save their lands from war and disaster.
Sheetal Mistry is half star, half human. Following the accident that puts her father in the hospital, Sheetal and her best friend go in search for her full star mother, for a drop of star’s blood to cure her father. Unfortunately for her, Sheetal’s maternal grandparents agree to save her father only if she wins a competition that will allow their family to rule over the other constellations.
In Saigon in 1975, 10-year-old Kim Hà celebrates Tet (New Year) with her mother and three older brothers; none of them guesses at the changes the Year of the Cat will bring. (Hà’s father’s been MIA from the South Vietnamese Navy for nine years.) On the eve of the fall of Saigon, they finally decide they must escape.
Eighteen-year-old Everett “Ever” Wong braces herself for a summer of curfews after her parents reveal that they signed her up for a Mandarin language and Chinese culture program. But upon arriving at Chien Tan, Ever quickly discovers how the program earned its nickname, Loveboat. Ever seizes this opportunity away from her strict parents to experience a slew of forbidden activities
A graphic novel story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits.
Claire is a rich 11th grader in Shanghai; Dani is a scholarship student at a private school in Southern California who helps her mother clean houses. When Claire is parachuted into America to finish high school and Dani’s mother needs the income from a boarder, they become unlikely housemates. Told in alternating voices, the story tells two disparate narratives that overlap but, unfortunately, never truly connect.
Sensitive, smart Frank Li is under a lot of pressure. His Korean immigrant parents have toiled ceaselessly, running a convenience store in a mostly black and Latinx Southern California neighborhood, for their children’s futures. Frank’s older sister fulfilled their parents’ dreams—making it to Harvard—but when she married a black man, she was disowned. So when Frank falls in love with a white classmate, he and his fellow Korean friend Joy pretend to fall for each other while secretly sneaking around with their real dates.
Unlike Gray, his aspiring rock star older brother, camera-shy Korean American teen Sunny Dae loves sharing his nerdy hobbies of live-action role-playing Dungeons & Dragons and designing cosplay props with his best friends. Then Sunny meets Rancho Ruby High School’s newest student, the beautiful, worldly, music-loving, Korean American Cirrus Soh. Soon, he finds himself doing things he’s never done before, like pretending his brother’s band is actually his.