32 YA Titles for Every Day of Asian Pacific American History Month & Beyond

We've rounded up some of our recent YA favorites by and about people from the Asian/Pacific Islander diaspora. From a Korean-inspired sci-fi to the conclusion of Jenny Han's romance trilogy, these works will keep all teens reading the whole month (and beyond).
We've rounded up some of our recent YA favorites by and about people from the Asian/Pacific Islander diaspora. From a Korean-inspired sci-fi to the conclusion of Jenny Han's romance trilogy, these works will keep all teens reading the whole month (and beyond). Looking for more titles? Check out this blog post on "Teen Librarian Toolbox." For younger readers, this recent list of 20 titles might be of help.

redstarAHMADI, Arvin. Down and Across. 336p. Viking. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780425289877.

Gr 8 Up –Scott Ferdowsi cannot commit to anything. He has written a novel with only three chapters and he quits his summer internship after only one week. He frequently gives up and has no drive to finish projects. Intrigued by a genius professor studying grit, Scott hastily jumps on a bus to D.C., meets Fiora and adventure ensues. Fiora is impulsive, creates crossword puzzles that are reflective of her rough childhood, and eventually pushes Scott out of his comfort zone. He begins sneaking into bars, asking girls he has never met out on dates, creating crossword puzzles, and finds himself in the process. Most teens do not know what they want to do at 16, so Scott is not in the minority with his indecisive behavior. Students will relate to the struggle Scott feels to find his passion and future path. This story authentically represents the pressures placed on a child of immigrant parents. The book skews older due to underage drinking and mention of drug use. With an Iranian main character and a female lead with anxiety and depression this book confronts issues of racism, mental health, and sexism in an appropriate and candid manner. VERDICT A story of friendship, growing up, and learning to commit to something, this YA debut will be a great selection for high school libraries.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

redstarAHMED, Samira. Love, Hate & Other Filters. 288p. Soho Teen. Jan. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781616958473. POP

Gr 9 Up –Maya Aziz should be on top of the world. She got accepted into film school at NYU, and the cute boy she has been spending time with seems to be into her. The only problem is, she’s been hiding all of this from her loving but very traditional Indian American parents. They have already chosen a local college for her to attend and introduced her to a nice Muslim boy who is (eventual) marriage material. As she builds up courage to tell them the truth, a terrorist attack takes place nearby, and one of the suspects shares the same last name as Maya’s family. They are suddenly the targets of suspicion, fear, and intimidation in their own community. Maya is singled out by an unhinged student at her school, and when his harassment escalates to violence, not only is she physically hurt, but all of the ground she gained with her parents is lost as their protective instincts go into overdrive. Maya’s voice is pitch-perfect; funny, warm, and perfectly teenaged in its bouncing focus—she is afraid for herself and her family, crushed by the hatred she is facing in her community, scared of disappointing her parents—but she also really wants to go to film school and is really falling in love. Sweet and smart with a realistic but hopeful ending, this novel is a great examination of how hatred and fear affects both communities, and individual lives. VERDICT Recommended for all libraries serving teens.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

redstarALI, S.K. Saints and Misfits. 336p. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481499248.

Gr 9 Up –Life has settled since Janna’s parents’ divorce, but several new obstacles are making things difficult. Her brother, Muhammad, is moving back home as he changes majors and pursues marriage, while Janna silently battles against a respected boy at her mosque who attempted to rape her. To cope, Janna has separated people into categories. Farooq is a monster, but there are also saints, like Muhammad’s fiancée. And then there are misfits, like Janna. This categorization isn’t expressed overtly other than through chapter headings and occasional references, but it allows readers to see the world as Janna views it. Yet where there is darkness, there is also light: Janna has a lovely relationship with an elderly gentleman she cares for weekly, loves Flannery O’Connor, is a focused student, and has a crush on a boy, though he’s non-Muslim. Ali’s writing is balanced between Janna’s inner dialogue and what transpires around her. The structured delivery magnifies the teen’s rich voice in a character-driven novel about identity, highlighting her faith and typical teenage stress. Readers can empathize with Janna’s problems, and the pages will turn quickly. Each secondary character adds depth to the narrative and simultaneously strengthens the diverse portrait that the Toronto-based author shares. VERDICT This timely and authentic portrayal is an indisputable purchase in the realistic fiction category.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School Library, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

BOWMAN, Akemi Dawn. Starfish. 352p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481487726. Gr 9 Up–Kiko Himura has constantly been made to feel like an outsider by her mother and the majority of her town for being half Japanese. The only things she really has in her life are her best friend, who is going to leave to college this year, and her art. Kiko realizes her ticket to escaping her insufferable mother and feelings of inadequacy is applying to art school in New York. When she does not get accepted to her dream school, she fears she is doomed to drown in her small town. But when she happens to see her childhood best friend at a party, her life begins to spin wildly out of control. Readers living with anxiety or depression will immediately identify with Kiko’s plight to survive in social situations and maintain a functioning lifestyle. The realistic conversations with her narcissistic mother and discussions of childhood trauma might be hard to stomach for some because of their brutal honesty. Teens will root for Kiko and hope she develops the strength to overcome her hardships. The characterization of her childhood best friend and mentor are the only semi-unrealistic aspects of the book, as they continue to remain in the “too-good-to-be-true” camp, but these holes are easy to overlook. Bowman has written a deep and engaging story that will not only entertain but also may encourage readers to live their best lives. ­VERDICT A worthy first purchase for any public or school library collection.–DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarCHAN, Crystal. All That I Can Fix. 320p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534408883. Gr 7 Up –Exotic animals have been released by the owner of a local zoo, moments before he shoots himself dead in the small town of Makersville, IN. This is probably the last thing that teenager Ronney needs in his neighborhood. As newsworthy an event as this is, it is nothing compared to the harsh realities of his own life. Ronney is from a mixed-race family, and since Makersville is small, Ronney knows that all eyes are on him. That is, when they’re not on his father, who previously attempted suicide and now lives in a depressed state; or his mother who can’t deal with anything and instead pops pills; or his fourth grade sister, who is certifiably a genius but is dreadfully afraid of the escaped animals. Ronney deals with his family that is slowly falling apart, his best friend who wants to capture all the animals, and a lonely boy who asks him to take on an impossible quest. This quirky coming-of-age novel is full of hardships that the protagonist must endure, while still maintaining a lighthearted tone. VERDICT A strong choice for YA collections, this complex selection with a variety of relatable characters in extraordinary circumstances will win over teens.–Caitlin Wilson, Meadowdale Library, North Chesterfield, VA This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

redstarCHAO, Gloria. American Panda. 320p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481499101.

Gr 9 Up –Mei Lu is out of place at MIT and everywhere else in her life. At 17, she is younger than all of the other college freshmen. In her Taiwanese family, she is struggling against her parents’ expectations of med school and an approved marriage. Mei is a dancer at heart with a lifelong dream of opening a dance studio, and her fear of germs is another strike against her future as a doctor. As she fights to create her own place in the world, she must also restore her relationship with her exiled brother and figure out how her crush on a Japanese fellow student fits into her traditional family’s expectations. The college experience is a unique and welcome setting, and the Mandarin language woven throughout creates a rich reading experience. Mei’s relationship with her parents is emotionally complex, with deeply ingrained cultural traditions and biases in sharp contrast to the life Mei imagines for herself. While Chao writes in the author’s note that this is just one story of one Taiwanese American experience, the themes of defying parental expectations, following dreams, and fighting to belong are universal. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries serving teens.–Kate Olson, Bangor School District, WI This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

redstarCHEE, Traci. The Speaker. 512p. (Sea of Ink and Gold: Bk. 2). Putnam. Nov. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780399176784.

Gr 7 Up –This installment picks up where The Reader ended, with Sefia and Archer on the run from The Guard. Unsure about how to proceed, Sefia searches the Book and uncovers several jaw-dropping discoveries: Tanin is still alive and Archer is still believed to be the one to lead the impending Red War. In an effort to quell Archer’s nightmares and to stop the conflict, the pair uses the Book to find and kill impressors and free their captives. Meanwhile, Tanin will stop at nothing to retrieve the Book, to ensure important events take place that lead to the Red War, and to hold on to her power. This sequel is an intense story about destiny, sacrifice, and selflessness. Chee introduces dynamic characters with gut-wrenching backstories, whom readers will want to hate but won’t be able to resist rooting for. Strategically written with elements from the previous volume, this entry is rich with twists and turns that will leave readers in constant shock while reminding them that there are no coincidences in this narrative. VERDICT A must-have for all collections and highly recommended for fans of Mary E. Pearson’s “The Remnant Chronicles” or Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Queen’s Thief” series.–Dawn Abron, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

CHEN, Justina. Lovely, Dark, and Deep. 352p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Jul. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338134063. POP Gr 8 Up–When Viola faints from a reaction to the sun, she is saved by Thor, aka Josh, the boy who tried to sell his comic at her bake sale booth. After she is diagnosed with solar urticaria with polymorphous light eruption, a rare condition with no cure, her crisis manager parents’ reaction is to manage the situation, but Viola doesn’t want her life to change. She dreams of attending NYU in Abu Dhabi and becoming a foreign correspondent to bring increased attention to the causes she campions through her successful bake sales. Viola tries to continue living as normal a life as possible by starting a relationship with Josh and working on her college applications, but her reactions become increasingly severe—not just from the sun but from all light emitting sources, including her phone and computer. After a particularly bad episode that lands her in the hospital, Josh leaves, blaming himself, and Viola withdraws into the basement where she can be safe, shutting herself away from everything and everyone. Teens will want to read this for the romance and rare medical condition, but they will stay for the sympathetic protagonist who must come to terms with her changed reality. For readers interested in learning more about photosensitivity, Anna Lyndsey’s Girl in the Dark: A Memoir provides a look from the inside into the realities of a similar condition. VERDICT Sure to be popular and recommended for all collections.–Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

redstarCHOI, Mary H.K. Emergency Contact. 400p. S. & S. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534408968. POP

Gr 9 Up –This debut novel examines modern relationships in the age of smart phones. Penny Lee leaves behind her humdrum high school years and meets her new college roommate Jude, who introduces Penny to her tattooed, mysterious, and sexy young uncle, Sam. After a strange chance encounter, Sam and Penny become each other’s emergency contact. Choi creates an up-to-date and realistic contemporary romance by upending the love story trope. Miscues and miscommunications, which often propel romantic plots forward, are replaced by open and constant screen-to-screen communication. The tension exists in the development of the relationship, starting with just texts, and evolving to a multi-platform, “in real life” friendship. In alternating chapters, Penny and Sam reveal their innermost thoughts. Choi explores love, family issues, identity, loneliness, and acceptance in the context of 24/7 social media. Despite the ever-present contact, deeply connecting with another human being remains remarkably difficult. Choi creates another layer of meaning by addressing the microaggressions that Penny, who is Korean American, faces. The protagonist’s response is handled deftly. An internal monologue includes a multiple-choice list of potential reactions to external situations that will ring true with readers and make them appreciate Penny’s wry sense of humor and direct approach. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for the teens who enjoy realistic relationship fiction. Recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.–Eva ­Thaler-­Sroussi, Needham Free Public Library, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

Chupeco, Rin. The Heart Forger. 528p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492635857. POP

Gr 7 Up –The sequel to The Bone Witch takes up where the first book left off as Tea, a bone witch with the power to resurrect the dead, continues her rampage against the ones who exiled her and took the life of her one true love. As an impending, all-out war is brewing among The Eight Kingdoms, more of Tea’s past is revealed to readers, while her actions in the present race toward impending doom. Chupeco’s follow-up shares many of the same aspects of the first book that continue to make for a dark, engaging fantasy series. Alternating chapters continue to reveal the events of Tea’s past that led to her revenge-filled present. This installment takes on a darker tone than the first volume. However, it is still accessible for middle school readers because of its short chapters and fast-paced plot. VERDICT A must-purchase for libraries where the previous entry and other epic fantasies are popular.–Molly Dettmann, Moore Public Library, OK

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

Dao, Julie C. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. 384p. Philomel. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524738297.

Gr 10 Up –The first volume in the “Rise of the Empress” series, Dao builds the world of Feng Lu, five kingdoms ruled by the Dragon Lords through their earthly descendants. Xifeng is raised by her aunt Guma in desolate poverty. Guma instills in the child that she’s meant for greater things than being a simple peasant. Xifeng has courtly manners and an education that will enable her rise to rule the kingdoms. Guma practices dark magic and welcomes the Serpent God who will lead Xifeng to greatness. The girl leaves her village for a life in the palace and must learn to balance cruelty with intelligence. Rich in detail and full of gore and blood, this dark novel will satisfy “Game of Thrones” fans. The magical elements are few and slow to develop in the beginning; the setting and unfolding of the plot is based in East Asian storytelling and drama. Uneven writing is confusing in chapters, but the reimagining of the Evil Queen story will entice fans of antiheroine journeys. VERDICT Violent and gory descriptions place this strong choice on high school crossover to adult fantasy shelves.–Pamela Thompson, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarFLEMING, Ann Marie. Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming. illus. by Kevin Langdale & others. 274p. Bedside. Mar. 2018. pap. $25. ISBN 9781988715025.

Gr 7 Up –Based on the film of the same name, this graphic novel centers on Rosie Ming, a young Canadian of Chinese and Persian descent who lives with her Chinese grandparents in Vancouver and writes poems about Paris, a city she longs to visit. After self-publishing a book of verse, Rosie is invited to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, where she discovers the richness of Iranian history and culture, makes new friends, uncovers the truth about her estranged Iranian father, and learns about poetry from all over the world. A variety of celebrated poets are portrayed in the book, including Hafiz and Rumi, and their writings and several snippets of Iranian history are accompanied by striking artwork from many gifted artists. Langdale is the primary illustrator, and his colorful backgrounds and expressive characters move the narrative forward and tie together the various art styles and cultures represented. The depiction of Rosie (a character, also known as Stick Girl, whom the author created years ago and who has appeared in short films and webisodes), the lone stick figure, contrasts starkly with Langdale’s fluid style. The meagerness of the protagonist’s body and face emphasizes her immaturity and makes her journey towards self-discovery that much more powerful. VERDICT A heartwarming exploration of art, poetry, history, and culture, this is an inspired look at forging connections and finding one’s place in the world. Pair with Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina for a profound look at identity and imagination.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

redstarGILBERT, Kelly Loy. Picture Us in the Light. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484726020.

Gr 9 Up –A glimpse into the lives of teens who are dealing with issues surrounding academic excellence and parental pressure. This offering by the author of Conviction tackles topics such as suicide, sexual identity, and loss. Danny Cheng and his friends attend one of Cupertino’s privileged public high schools and future success is almost certain. Danny’s artistic talent has been recognized by his dream school, RISD, and no one is more proud of his full scholarship than his first-generation Chinese American parents. When Danny accidentally discovers a box of his father’s papers containing copies of names, photos, and public records of a powerful Silicon Valley family, he wonders if his parents are involved in something illegal with ties to their former life in China. On the cusp of adulthood yet under consistent parental watch, Danny is determined to unravel the mystery of his family’s painful past while navigating increasingly complicated personal relationships and school life. The strength of this novel lies in the ambitious main character’s simultaneous snark and vulnerability, which sways readers’ loyalty between him and his well-meaning parents. Uncomfortable feelings are communicated through smart, acerbic exchanges and Danny’s inner monologues. Dreamlike flashbacks smoothly weave the past’s secrets into present-day plotlines. Despite their obvious wealth and sheltered upbringings, the characters are a likable complement to the strange but plausible underlying mystery. The author demonstrates exquisite facility with tech-savvy teen-speak in every scenario and balances the authentic dialogue with elegant prose. VERDICT An excellent choice for YA collections.–Jane Miller, Nashville Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

See SLJ's interview with Kelly Loy Gilbert.

redstarGOO, Maurene. The Way You Make Me Feel. 336p. Farrar. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304089. POP

Gr 9 Up –“You simply couldn’t out-jerk a jerk like me.” Clara Shin, the protagonist in Goo’s latest, delivers this line with pride. Life is a joke for prank-loving, prickly Clara, who is Korean Brazilian American. She has a blast with her friends, wistfully follows her social media influencer mother’s exploits on Instagram, and keeps “realness” at arms’ length. When one of her pranks lands her in real trouble, her hip dad tightens the reins, assigning her to a summer working in his sweltering food truck alongside her overachiever archenemy, Rose Carver. As the girls find a way to work together and eventually form a friendship, and Clara meets Hamlet, a cute boy whose earnestness pains her and makes her heart flutter, she warms up to the idea of actually caring about things. Clara’s struggle with what her shift in attitude means for the identity, defenses, and friendships she has constructed for herself is sensitively drawn; even as readers cringe at some of her behavior, they’ll be rooting for her. Hamlet’s sweet inexperience veers into unintentional controlling behavior from time to time, but his openness gives Clara plenty of space to figure out what she wants. VERDICT Sweet, sexy, hilarious, and featuring a spectacular father-daughter relationship, this book will fly off the shelves.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue. HAN, Jenny. Always and Forever, Lara Jean. 320p. (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Bk. 3). S. & S. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430487. Gr 9 Up–A bittersweet conclusion to the charming YA romance series. Lara Jean Song Covey embarks on her senior year with lots to look forward to—her widower father’s wedding, a trip to New York City, graduation, and college with her adorable boyfriend Peter Kavinsky. But when her plans for the future start to unravel, the middle Song sister (who has never been good with change) questions what her heart truly wants. Featuring the same endearing sister relationships, mouthwatering descriptions of Lara Jean’s cooking, and timeless coming-of-age conflicts, this final volume in the series will continue to delight Han’s fans. Though the protagonist has grown over the three books, she is still the thoughtful, crafty, dreamy girl next door with whom readers first fell in love. Just as the characters have grown up, so have the series’s themes—the couple discuss the practicalities of their “first time,” and Lara Jean gets her first hangover. The beginning of the novel is mostly conflict-less, while the second half is filled with big life choices, breakups and makeups, and lots more. However, the pace is in keeping with the rush of senior year. Peter and Lara Jean’s romance takes center stage, but above all, Lara Jean learns to choose for herself, which is refreshing.  ­VERDICT Sparkling dialogue, swoon-worthy scenes, and likable characters make this a gem of a selection for most YA collections where Sarah Dessen, Nicola Yoon, and Jennifer E. Smith are popular.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

See Jenny Han's conversation with Jennifer E. Smith about the conclusion of her trilogy.

redstarHEILIG, Heidi. The Ship Beyond Time. 464p. (The Girl from Everywhere: Bk. 2). ebook available. HarperCollins/ Greenwillow. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062380784.

ya-hs-heilig-shipbeyondtimeGr 8 Up –This artfully constructed sequel to The Girl from Everywhere does not disappoint, with even more romance and adventure than in the first installment. Based on a devastating prediction, ship captain Nix takes her crew on a time-traveling journey to a mythological kingdom. They are pursuing a method of manipulating time, and with all the responsibility that her role as captain entails, she must make decisions that will change the course of history, risking her own existence—and the existence of those she cares for. As Nix comes to understand the depth of her love for her crewmate Kash, her perception of her parents’ bond and her father’s behavior reaches a new clarity that leads to forgiveness. Her struggle to faithfully lead her crew while searching for her heart’s desire (a way to prevent Kash’s death) echoes larger questions of identity within relationships and control (or lack thereof) over one’s future. Above all, this time-travel quest emphasizes the importance of living and loving in the moment as the path to true happiness. VERDICT This thrilling, layered maritime fantasy will be best enjoyed by those who have read the first volume. Recommend both titles to fans of Alexandra Bracken’s “Passenger” books and Rick Riordan’s mythology-inspired fiction.–Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

redstarKARIM, Sheba. Mariam Sharma Hits the Road. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062445735. POP

Gr 9 Up –The past year has brought its share of woes for Mariam Sharma and her best friends, Ghaz and Umar. The remedy? A summer road trip. After their freshman year of college, Mariam, reeling from a recent breakup and in search of answers about her absent father, and Ghaz, who leaves behind a family apoplectic about her foray into modeling, join recent high school grad Umar on his cross-country trip to New Orleans for the Islamic Association of North America convention. High jinks involving pot brownies, mechanical bulls, and karaoke ensue. Ghaz and Umar ooze drama, keeping up witheringly sarcastic, at times raunchy commentary, while introspective Mariam takes it all in. However, like its characters, this breezy, irreverent romp has a deeply thoughtful side. Though devoted to his religion, Umar contends with the knowledge that there are Muslims who see him as a sinner because he is gay, while Ghaz expresses frustration with Islam and anger at her repressive family. Karim offers a nuanced perspective on the road trip novel, centering the experiences of three South Asian American teens who also encounter racism and Islamophobia on their journey of self-discovery. VERDICT This joyously exuberant tale will speak to readers who enjoy a blend of barbed humor and poignant reflection. An excellent choice for all YA shelves.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue. See SLJ's interview with Sheba Karim.

LO, Malinda. A Line in the Dark. 288p. Dutton. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735227422. POP Gr 9 Up–Friendship, romance, obsession, and crime all get tangled up in this complicated mystery about love and lies. Angie Redmond and Jess Wong are best friends, though Jess harbors a desperate and rather obvious crush on Angie. Their relationship becomes complicated when Angie begins to date Margot, a wealthy student at a nearby boarding school. Jess, a talented artist who creates a dark, supernatural comic about a love triangle, has her doubts about Margot, who seems cruel and controlling. Margot drives a wedge between Angie and Jess, but eventually, a murder brings them back together. As the police interview all three girls, the details of the night a student is killed highlight the tension among Angie, Jess, and Margot, but do not clearly point to who may have committed the crime. Just when it seems like the truth is coming to light, the story takes another turn, forcing readers to reassess everything they think they understand. Dark, twisty, and unsettling, this book almost begs to be read in one sitting, and then instantly reread. The pace picks up in the second part, with higher tension and uncertainty propelling the story forward quickly, encouraging teens to race to the whodunit conclusion. Though the final few chapters feel rushed, they provide a satisfying—and shocking—finale to this scandalous examination of jealousy, secrets, and untrustworthy characters. ­VERDICT A high-interest thriller with wide appeal recommended for all collections.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

See Malinda Lo's conversation with Stephanie Perkins.

redstarLU, Marie. Warcross. 368p. Putnam. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399547966. POP

Gr 8 Up –A highly engaging and incredibly exciting science fiction novel for young adults. Emika Chen is a bounty hunter living in a futuristic New York City. Emika has a juvenile record and spent time in the foster care system after her father died. She is struggling to pay her bills, and is banking on getting enough from the next bounty to settle up with her landlord. In the midst of her troubles, Emika gets involved in Warcross, a virtual reality video game played by nearly everyone. Players put on virtual reality glasses and can play others, build their own worlds, and keep memories there. There is a huge tournament where the best players from around the globe come together as teams to compete for the ultimate prize. When Emika tries stealing a valuable item in the opening ceremony, she glitches into the game and finds immediate fame. With this fame comes a job offer from the young Hideo Tanaka, creator of Warcross. He flies her to Japan on his private jet, and he asks for her help to find someone who is threatening the game. Emika is also a skilled hacker, so she accepts. The teen becomes a key player in the tournament and in Hideo’s life, as they develop a romantic relationship. Readers will move effortlessly through Lu’s fantastic writing, and they will enjoy getting to know this international cast of characters. The author adeptly weaves together exciting video games scenes, virtual reality, and romance. The great plot twist and cliff-hanger ending clearly leaves room for a sequel. ­VERDICT An enticing first purchase for YA collections, especially where Lu’s other books and science fiction are popular.–Nancy Jo Lambert, Reedy High School, Frisco, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

See SLJ's video chat with Marie Lu.

redstarMENON, Sandhya. From Twinkle, with Love. 336p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. May 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481495400. POP

Gr 7 Up –Aspiring filmmaker Twinkle Mehra wants to dismantle the patriarchy and show the world that a woman of color has stories worth telling. A typical teenager, she also has less lofty goals: shedding her “uncool” status, dating charismatic Neil Roy, and rekindling her strained relationship with her newly popular best friend Maddie. Complicating matters, Neil’s twin brother, Sahil, is secretly in love with Twinkle. When Sahil offers to work with Twinkle on a movie for the Midsummer Arts festival, she accepts. Though she develops feelings for awkward, endearing Sahil, she holds out hope for a romance with Neil—especially when she receives emails from a mystery admirer. Made up of journal entries from Twinkle (addressed to her favorite female filmmakers) and supplemented with text messages, emails, and Sahil’s blog posts, this bubbly, humorous novel effortlessly explores complex subjects, such as working-class Twinkle’s anger toward her more privileged classmates. Though this is Twinkle’s tale, the supporting cast is well defined, particularly Sahil, who grapples with his resentment of golden boy Neil. As in When Dimple Met Rishi, Menon gives her heroine room to stumble as she comes into her own; teens will be rooting for Twinkle the whole way. VERDICT A sweet, smart gem for most readers, especially fans of Menon, Jenny Han, and Miranda Kenneally.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

redstarNA, An. The Place Between Breaths. 192p. S. & S./Atheneum. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422253.

Gr 9 Up –Grace King is a resilient and talented high school senior, who has had to raise herself since her mother, who has schizophrenia, left the family when Grace was five. Grace’s father, a doctor turned researcher and recruiter, has obsessively devoted his life to finding his wife and advancing the treatment of the disease. More than a decade later, he is sure that he has lured the best geneticists in the field to work at a lab outside of Chicago and that they are about to make a significant breakthrough. Grace, who has won a coveted internship at the lab, has long since given up on romantic notions of her mother’s return or the belief in a miracle cure. She is a hard-core realist and a scientist through and through, until she starts to exhibit many of the symptoms that took her mother away from her and is forced to reexamine everything she thought she knew about faith and religion, science, and, most of all, hope. Steeped in lyricism and metaphor, Na’s devastating story explores the workings of the human mind, the melancholy sweetness of memory, and the power of dreams. The narrative is revealed in nonlinear seasonal chapters told in different voices, which reinforce the protagonist’s sense of dislocation and disorientation. VERDICT A slim but demanding and haunting novel for readers of Beth Kephart’s One Stolen Thing or John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

redstarOh, Axie. Rebel Seoul. 400p. Tu Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781620142998.

Gr 7 Up –It’s the year 2199, post the Great War that left East Asia divided. Living in the slums of Old Seoul, Lee Jaewon wants a better life and enrolls in the Apgujeong Academy in Neo Seoul to secure a high-level position in the military. After surviving a crucial simulator placement test, Jaewon is placed in the Tower to monitor a secret military weapon—human killing machines. As the rebels become stronger, the military must hurry to prepare their human weapons for battle. There’s just one problem: Jaewon has fallen in love with his assigned killing machine, Tera, and must make a tough decision between love and war. The theme of fathers and sons is multilayered and engaging in this stand-alone novel. Alex Kim, a friend of Jaewon, desperately seeks his father’s approval while his other friend Park Young has made peace with his father. Jaewon’s own parental issues fall somewhere in between as he struggles with abandonment and identity. This debut has a large cast of characters that includes teens and adults, and heroes and villains. Jaewon is the most fully developed, but those around him help to shape this appealing young man and to help him grow and decide which side he is on in the impending civil war. VERDICT This action-packed sci-fi novel, with deeper explorations of empathy, humanity, and the capacity to love, is a great choice for most collections.–Dawn Abron, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarOH, Ellen & Elsie Chapman, eds. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. 336p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062671158.

Gr 8 Up –Fifteen well-known young adult authors retell myths and legends from a variety of Asian countries and regions. Ghosts, androids, demons, and avatars make an appearance in this anthology. Each story is followed by a short essay in which the authors discuss the origins of their retold myths. This collection fills a gap in modern retellings of fairy tales and myths by presenting non-European myths. With stories that cover the science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal genres, there is something for everyone. Alyssa Wong takes the Chinese hungry ghost festival and places it in the American Southwest. Lori M. Lee’s retelling of the Hmong folktale “The Woman and the Tiger” involves an android who experiences emotions. Preeti Chhibber’s tale of the Hindu festival Navrati takes place in a gym in New Jersey and demonstrates how revenge can be bittersweet. In “Code of Honor,” a Filipino aswang—similar to a vampire—attends high school. Give to fans of Marissa Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicles” or Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of AsgardVERDICT An excellent first purchase for all libraries.–Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

redstarPAN, Emily X.R. The Astonishing Color of After. 480p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316463997. Gr 9 Up –Leigh comes home to the unimaginable—her mother, who has always been depressed, has committed suicide. As her grief swells, Leigh believes in her fog that her mother has not died but her mother’s spirit has now turned into a vivid bird who brings Leigh gifts, both physical and in the form of memories. Trying to put all the pieces together, her father and Leigh travel to Taiwan, where her mother immigrated from to the United States after meeting Leigh’s father. She has never met her mother’s family, and does not understand why her mother never spoke to Leigh about her parents or her childhood. Seeking answers for these questions and more, Leigh’s father leaves her in Taiwan to stay with her grandparents. The present-day is woven with flashback memories; Pan’s writing takes readers on a journey filled with so much emotion, color, and such well-developed characters with a touch of magic, readers will come to the ending drained and fulfilled at the same time. An exploration of grief and what it means to accept a loved one’s suicide, this book’s lyrical and heart-rending prose invites readers to take flight into their own lives and examine their relationships. VERDICT Pan’s debut novel is not to be missed. Give this to fans of magical realism titles and any reader who is battling grief.–Stephanie Charlefour, formerly of Wixom Public Library, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

See SLJ's interview with Emily X.R. Pan.

Pon, Cindy. Want. 336p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481489225. POP

Gr 9 Up –Jason Zhou and his friends are determined to change the world for the better. They live in an alternate future in smog-filled Taipei, where prolonged exposure to pollution can be fatal. The Jin Corporation holds a monopoly on manufacturing suits to protect citizens from the toxic air. Yet a rigid class structure divides those who can afford suits (yous) from those who cannot (meis). When it becomes clear to Jason and his friends that Jin, the CEO of Jin Corp, is driving profits by intentionally harming the environment and infecting citizens with a powerful strain of the flu, they decide to infiltrate and destroy the corporation. The success of this plan depends on Jason, who intends to pose as a you and gain intel by befriending Jin’s daughter. However, his developing feelings for Daiyu threaten to thwart the scheme. This fully realized futuristic city is complete with descriptions of airpeds, bots, and colorful nightlife. While the technological advancements are alluring, Pon reminds readers of the devastating effects of pollution by depicting the dull and damaged landscape of Taiwan. The plot moves along at a fast pace. There is plenty of romance to appeal to wistful readers, but this won’t deter fans who prefer action. A supporting cast of diverse and intelligent characters with relationships rooted in loyalty round out the book. VERDICT A strong sci-fi novel that will entice an array of readers. A solid addition to any library.–Amy Reddy, Lewiston High School, ME

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

redstarPERKINS, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. 320p. Farrar. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304904.

Gr 9 Up –Related in the alternating voices of two sisters and their respective daughters, this work captures the unique and, at times, fraught experience of navigating multiple cultures. Perkins examines the delicate balance between meeting family expectations and attaining personal happiness, a common motif in immigrant narratives. The story opens in 1970s New York, where the Das family has immigrated from England in hopes of planting roots and finding acceptance. Desperate for the adolescent freedoms they lacked in London, the teens chafe against their mother Ranee’s traditional Indian values. Older sister Tara (Starry) longs to be an actress, and budding feminist Sonia (Sunny) craves autonomy. The relationship between Sunny and Ranee is at the crux of the novel, representing the collision and ultimate blending of cultures. In the United States, Ranee struggles in vain to hold on to her “Indianness,” not only for herself, but also for her children. While Starry follows through on her entertainment dreams in Bollywood, it’s a slightly rougher path for Sunny. Perkins does not shy away from the complexities of race and culture with her realistic depiction of painful estrangement between mother and daughter when Sunny marries Lou, a black man. It is only through her connection to her granddaughters, Chantal and Anna that Ranee finds redemption and transformation. This novel underscores the importance creating a home no matter where you are in the world. VERDICT This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

REDGATE, Riley. Noteworthy. 400p. ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. May 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419723735. Gr 8 Up–Jordan Sun cross-dresses as Julian, a male a cappella singer, to use her height and low singing voice to her advantage in a ploy that evolves from the mounting frustration she feels after not getting cast in plays. She’s on theater scholarship far away from her San Francisco Chinese American parents, who are just barely scraping by financially. At Kensington-Blane, an upstate New York boarding school for the arts, Jordan is willing to risk aspects of her identity to audition for the Sharpshooters, a young men’s singing ensemble with a long and proud tradition. She cuts her hair and dons a wig when in “girl mode.” Once the teen makes the Sharps, she has to spend more and more of her time in cloaking glasses after raiding a thrift sale for boys’ duds. Something of a whim becomes a commitment: she must pretend to be a dude for the long haul as the group preps for a high-stakes competition in December, and she is soon embraced by the tight club, which is focused on the prize. The seven other members of the group—all quite distinctively characterized—become an accepting clique, a sanctuary of friendship and artistic endeavor. As Jordan comes to know outsider Nihal, punctilious music director Trav, and talented and extroverted Isaac, she becomes embroiled in their ambitions and their rivalries. Jordan/Julian treats readers to an outsider/insider’s perspective on gender. Setting and plot delightfully incorporate the arts, with themes of romance and self-awareness woven in. ­VERDICT This fun novel pushes against gender norms and will resonate with many teens. A strong purchase for most collections.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

This review was published in School Library Journal's March 2017 issue.

Sugiura, Misa. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret. 400p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473417.

Gr 9 Up –When high school junior Sana, who is Japanese American, moves from her lifelong home in Wisconsin to California, she can socialize for the first time with other Asian American teens. She arrives at her new school with a number of secrets, including her suspicion that her father has been cheating on her mother for years. Sana is also sure that she herself is a lesbian. And now she has a crush on Jamie, a whip-smart Latina classmate, and Sana has another secret that she’s sure she must conceal from her new crowd of friends. In addition, Sana also copes with her emotionally cold mother and faces racial profiling by a local cop when she’s with a group of Mexican American friends. Sugiura handles the story adroitly; readers will feel Sana’s onslaught of emotions, understand her missteps as she chooses dishonesty over opening herself to rebuke in several situations, and cheer for her strengthening capacity to own her identity, trust her friends, and see her parents’ relationship with empathy. Major and minor supporting characters of every age and both genders are just as credibly realized as Sana as her narration unfolds. VERDICT An essential and delightful choice that realistically celebrates a teen’s discovery of trust in herself and in others.–Francisca Goldsmith, Library Ronin, Worcester, MA

This review was published in School Library Journal's June 2017 issue.

redstarYEE, F.C. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. 320p. Abrams/Amulet. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419725487.

Gr 7 Up –Genie Lo lives in Silicon Valley, but not the nice part. All she wants is to get into the Ivy League so she can escape. But then Quentin, the weird new kid at school, tells her that he’s really the Monkey King and she is the human reincarnation of his weapon, the Ruyi Jingu Bang. In response, she punches him the face. Unfortunately for both of them, 108 demons have escaped from hell, and they need to track them down to save the world. Genie needs a crash course not only in demon fighting, but also in Chinese mythology—she has never read Journey to the West or seen one of the myriad movies. With the occasional helping hand from Guanyin and Erlang Shen, this rollicking page-turning adventure delivers action coupled with laughter. Genie’s not the first girl who has to balance school, family, and friends with averting the apocalypse, but her biting humor make her first-person narration a stand-out. A Chinese American girl who was angry and strong before being saddled with the fate of the world, Genie’s perspective on the strange turn her life has taken will have readers laughing out loud. Luckily, while the ending brings the story to a satisfying close, it does leave room for a sequel—readers will be demanding more Genie long before they turn the last page. VERDICT Hilarious and action-packed, this fantastically executed tale of the Monkey King in modern-day California introduces a great new character in Genie Lo.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.


DENSON, Abby. Cool Tokyo Guide: Adventures in the City of Kawaii Fashion, Train Sushi and Godzilla. illus. by Abby Denson. 128p. illus. Tuttle. Mar. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9784805314418. Gr 6 Up–Denson’s (Cool Japan Guide) second travel manual uses colorful cartoons to bring to life the sheer variety of experiences that Tokyo offers. The book is written by a frequent visitor to Japan for those organizing their first trip there. Initial chapters focus on planning and scheduling as well as crucial survival skills to commit to memory. Denson then describes an assortment of restaurants, theme parks, stores, architecture, and cultural locales. She highlights a wide array of activities and locations, emphasizing that there’s something for almost anyone to enjoy in the city. All the while, the character Kitty Sweet Tooth imparts key Japanese words and phrases. With bright colors and wavy lines, the illustrations present the city as an imaginative wonderland. These visual elements, paired with Denson’s breezy writing style, make what could have been a dull exercise into a delightful and educational excursion through Japan’s capital city and its surrounding areas. ­VERDICT Anyone with even a passing interest in visiting ­Tokyo someday would do well to seek out this title. It contains valuable information for those unfamiliar with the city as well as a few nuggets even the seasoned Japanophile will find useful.–Chuck Hodgin, Belmont University Library, Nashville

redstarMOORE, Kieron. Buddha: An Enlightened Life. illus. by Rajesh Nagulakonda. 160p. Campfire. Jul. 2017. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9789381182291.

Gr 8 Up –This phantasmagoric and dreamy graphic novel follows the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the spread of Buddhism, from the ancient city of Kapilavastu to all over the world. As the powerful rulers King Suddhodana and Queen Maya welcome a son into the world, the wisest elder predicts he will be one of two things: a mighty king or a great spiritual leader. Determined that his son become a Chakravarti, a “King of Kings,” Suddhodana ruthlessly shelters Siddhartha from the outside world, and the boy grows up with no concept of sickness or poverty. Eventually Siddhartha learns the truth and leaves a world of luxury in pursuit of enlightenment. By the end of his life, he has transformed the lives of thousands and amassed followers who are destined to carry his message throughout history. The linear narrative is easy to follow, simplifying complex religious and philosophical concepts. The exquisite art complements this otherworldly tale. Nagulakonda’s intricate linework and masterly use of color are delightful. VERDICT A unique origin story of Buddhism and its creator. Highly recommended for any graphic novel collection and for those interested in spirituality or history.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

redstarSAEDI, Sara. Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card. 288p. Knopf. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524717797. POP

Gr 9 Up –Readers will laugh, cry, and empathize with Saedi’s adolescent journey as an undocumented Iranian immigrant living in the United States. Her memoir recounts the discovery of her undcoumented status as a teen and the naturalization process in her early adulthood. Saedi paints a clear picture of the financial hurdles her family faced as they rebuilt a life in a new country, the legal implications of not having a Social Security number, and the sharp contrast between her mother’s teenage years and her own. Readers will laugh at the author’s honest portrayals of awkward high school experiences and understand the anxiety that comes with the constant fear of deportation. The memoir tackles complex topics of immigration, sex, alcohol, cultural stereotypes, and what it means to navigate life between two cultures. Filled with pop culture references, journal excerpts, photographs, and relatable coming-of-age content, this book will keep readers fully entertained while pushing them to deeper cultural understandings. VERDICT A must-purchase for memoir collections.–Monica Cabarcas, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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Well, this post wasn't good for my to-buy list... thanks! 😉

Posted : May 13, 2018 08:40



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