31 YA Novels for Every Day of AAPI Heritage Month and Beyond

From fantasy to horror, these 31 novels featuring AAPI characters are great picks for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May and throughout the year.

From fantasy to horror, these 31 novels featuring AAPI characters are great picks for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May and throughout the year.
All of the AAPI YA Booklist Fantasy and Dystopian selection covers

Fantasy & Dystopian

 The Scarlet Alchemist by Kylie Lee Baker. Inkyard. ISBN 9781335458018. 
Gr 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Zilan, who is biracial, white and Chinese, must head to the capital for the highly competitive civil service exams to become an imperial alchemist so that she can take care of her impoverished family and spite the father who abandoned her—but her illegal use of life alchemy to perform resurrections has drawn the attention of the crown prince who wants to hire her. The main cast is Chinese. VERDICT A ruthless and standout series opener to a dark, adrenaline-fueled duology. Highly recommended for all collections.

Magic Has No Borders by ­Sona Charaipotra & Samira Ahmed, eds. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780063208261. 
Gr 7-10–This collection of short stories featuring South Asian characters and magic fills a void while celebrating culture and genre. Each tale features Southeast Asian myths or legends intertwined with diaspora experiences of culture, religion, and geographic location, with notable authors, such as Sabaa Tahir and Tracey Baptiste and newer voices, such as Naz Kutub and Tahir Abrar, setting the tone for a deeply imaginative reading experience. VERDICT As short story collections go, this strong selection featuring South Asian characters is joyous and original. Add it to the shelf.

The Vanishing Station by Ana Ellickson. Abrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419764226. 
Gr 9 Up–Ruby, who is Filipino American, recently graduated high school. She takes a job “jumping” trains in a magical underworld where BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) comes alive in the pages of a magical and sometimes terrifying journey into a world of intrigue and danger. VERDICT A must-have for teen libraries. Fans of espionage, romance, and magic will love this one.

 Guardians of Dawn: Zhara by S Jae-Jones. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250191427. 
Gr 6 Up–Magicians have been outlawed in the Morning Realms. Zhara, a magician herself, has been trying to sneak by and protect her younger sister, who is blind, from her abusive stepmother. Meanwhile, Prince Han is no safer, trying to protect his young magician brother from discovery and find the Guardians of the Dawn, a rebel group that smuggles magicians to safety. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles,” this heartwarming, heartbreaking start to a series will leave readers aching for more.

 The Last Bloodcarver by Vanessa Le. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250881526. 
Gr 7 Up–As the last practitioner of the Yarongese art of heartsoothing, Nhika is an outcast because of this medicine-based magic and her Yarongese ancestry. A patient visit gone awry ends with the wealthy Congmi family buying Nhika’s services on the black market, tumbling her into the secret investigation of their patriarch’s recent, suspicious death. Characters are largely coded as East or Southeast Asian. VERDICT All collections will benefit from this unequivocal first purchase that will resonate especially deeply with immigrant and diasporic teens struggling to see themselves in media.

Her Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim. Knopf. ISBN 9780593300992. 
Gr 7 Up–A spellbinding adventure that focuses on the bond between sisters and the strength it takes to be our true selves. Characters are coded a variety of Asian ethnicities. VERDICT Highly recommended for new and experienced fantasy readers. Hand to fans of Judy I. Lin’s A Magic Steeped in Poison or Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn.

Rebel Skies by Ann Sei Lin. Tundra. ISBN 9781774883983. 
Gr 7 Up–The first installment of a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy for fans of Elizabeth Lim’s Six Crimson Cranes and Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. Characters read as East Asian. VERDICT A diverse fantasy adventure about power, responsibility, and hope. Strongly recommended for YA collections.

Song of the Six Realms by Judy I Lin. ­Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250871619. 
Gr 9 Up– Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Lin builds a fantastical gothic story immersed in Chinese mythology and folktales. VERDICT A beautifully detailed Gothic fantasy that explores how ignorance and deceit can crumble a community.


 Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier. Clarion. ISBN 9780358272106. 
Gr 7 Up–With interest in dragon fantasy novels on the rise, Lucier’s new adventure has exquisite worldbuilding inspired by Pacific Island mythos and a comfortable, slow-building romance. Characters are cued Pacific Islander, with some additional diversity outside the main cast. VERDICT A deeply satisfying standalone readers will race through and a rare Pacific Island–inspired fantasy that belongs in all YA collections.

Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea. Penguin Workshop. ISBN 9780593522035. 
Gr 4-6–Anna Leilani Kama’ehu, a 12-year-old girl who is part-Hawaiian and part-Polish American, finds herself in the adventure of a lifetime as she seeks to right wrongs and rediscover the strength of her Hawaiian roots. VERDICT This story belongs in the hands of readers who love adventure fiction and mythological elements, as well as those who wish to find an example of rediscovering pride in one’s culture and identity.

 I’m Not Supposed to Be in the Dark by Riss M Neilson. Holt. ISBN 9781250788535. 
Gr 9 Up–Aria, of Cape Verdean and Filipino heritage, has always had magic around her. This novel features beautiful and whimsical writing that slowly reveals the magic and ghostly happenings around Aria and her friends and family. VERDICT A gorgeously written, supernatural fantasy that deserves a place in secondary libraries where romance, feelings, and magic are appreciated by teens.

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park. ­Delacorte. ISBN 9780593484975. 
Gr 9 Up–The world is cold; -50 degrees is the norm in winter. To escape their bleak existence, ordinary people watch television produced in Snowglobe, where glamorous reality shows are filmed inside a geothermal heated dome, the only warm place left. Readers will appreciate the rich Korean culture that permeates every part of the book and the well-done character development. All characters are Korean. VERDICT Purchase for collections serving high schoolers where there is a love of dystopian mysteries.

Kingdom of Without by Andrea Tang. ISBN 9781665901444. 
Gr 9 Up–In a futuristic, alternate-world Beijing, this thriller includes familiar dystopic, romantic, and heist tropes: corrupt governments and addictive drugs; enemies-to-lovers and only-one-bed; and conspirators with multiple skill sets. All characters are cued Asian, with names sometimes given in Chinese characters. VERDICT Hand this dystopic-heist-romance in an alt-world China to fans of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

These Deadly Prophecies by Andrea Tang. Putnam. ISBN 9780593524251. 
Gr 7 Up–Tabatha Zeng, a Chinese American teenager and an apprentice to an infamous sorcerer, has a problem. When her mentor, Sorcerer Solomon, is found dismembered and dead, Tabatha must find out who the murderer is to clear her name from a police investigation. VERDICT Junior high and high school students alike will love the fantastical twists and turns. This novel will be a popular addition to YA collections.

 Into the Sunken City by Dinesh Thiru. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780063310513. 
Gr 9 Up–The fresh premise, immersive, waterlogged atmosphere, and cinematic action of this dystopian riff on Treasure Island combine for an unforgettable read perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows or Adrienne Young’s Fable. Jin and Thara are of South Asian descent. VERDICT Addictively pulse-pounding deepsea future fiction, this is highly recommended as a first purchase for all collections.


AAPI YA booklist Romance covers


Chloe and the Kaishao Boys by Mae Coyiuto. Putnam. ISBN 9780593461631. 
Gr 8 Up–Friendship, matchmaking, family expectations, and a Filipino debut come together in this sweet novel about finding who you are. Between love triangles and enemies-to-lovers, this novel explores a few romantic tropes, but the highlight is a relatable heroine who is leaving her childhood behind and focusing on the adult she wants to become. VERDICT Recommended for all high school libraries, especially for those serving readers looking for Asian and Asian American voices.

The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250842114. 
Gr 9 Up–Things heat up in Bangladeshi Irish Shireen Malik’s life when she’s cast in a televised teen baking show alongside her ex-girlfriend. Shireen hopes to win the competition and bring recognition (and a cash prize) to her parents’ donut shop. But instead of excitement, Shireen feels apprehension heading into filming with her former girlfriend, Chris Huang, who is Taiwanese Irish and the daughter of rival shop owners. VERDICT Readers will root for Shireen not just to win the baking competition but also for her to grow and learn from her relationships and mistakes.

Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle. S. & S./McElderry. ISBN 9781665937634. 
Gr 9 Up–Korean American teen Brynn Kwan is powering through her senior year. Living with the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome makes even the fun parts exhausting, especially since she’s kept her medical history a secret. VERDICT A serviceable exploration of the complexities surrounding teen chronic illness. Despite some shortcomings in character depth and a frustrating dynamic in the romantic plot, this novel is recommended for purchase in larger collections.

 ASAP by Axie Oh. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780063299306. 
Gr 8 Up–This companion novel to XOXO includes cameos from favorite characters, while delivering an entirely new second-chance romance. Narrated by Sori, this book offers an insider view of life in Seoul and the world of K-pop, while making the story approachable to readers less familiar with both. Characters are Korean or biracial Korean and white. VERDICT A first purchase title from an author who does not miss.

The Boy You Always ­Wanted by Michelle Quach. HarperCollins/Katherine ­Tegen. ISBN 9780063038424. 
Gr 7 Up–In this novel told in alternating perspectives, there is a lot of depth to Quach’s characters and relationships with their families, exploring issues of traditions, duty to family, and how history reverberates through generations (their Chinese-Vietnamese families knew each other before immigrating to the United States). VERDICT A rom-com with a lot of heart and surprising depth, this is recommended for most collections.

 Caught in a Bad Fauxmance by Elle Gonzalez Rose. Random/Joy Revolution. ISBN 9780593645826. 
Gr 7 Up–Devin Baez and Julian Seo-Cooke have been enemies forever. Every winter break their families meet up at Lake Andreas, but there have never been any happy campfire moments between them. Julian asks Dev to be his fake boyfriend to deflect an unwanted suitor’s attention. Of course, chaos and love ensue. VERDICT Innocent camp high jinks, siblings who care deeply for each other, family loss, Latinx and Asian representation, and a sweet hopeful LGBTQIA+ love story—this is a must-have for teen libraries everywhere.

If You Still Recognize Me by Cynthia So. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780063283268. 
Gr 8 Up–British Chinese teen Elsie Lo, whose family is from Hong Kong, is making grand-gesture plans to confess her crush on Ada, the biracial Nigerian and white British fanfiction writer she befriended on Tumblr. VERDICT Despite some bumps this is a good purchase where teens are deeply into fandom.

 Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q Sutanto. Delacorte. ISBN 9780593434017. 
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Chinese Indonesian Kiki Siregar finds gaming easier as a guy. While pretending to be a guy, Kiki has made a very real friend in another player, Sourdawg. Kiki’s parents transfer her to Jakarta’s top Chinese School, where Sourdawg is a student. Adjusting to the school's conservative atmosphere is harder than Kiki expected. VERDICT A powerful trifecta of humor, romance, and feminism grounded in positive change.

Never Vacation with Your Ex by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka. ­Viking. ISBN 9780593326909. 
Gr 8 Up–There’s only one thing threatening to ruin Kaylee’s beach vacation in Malibu: her ex-boyfriend, Dean. Taiwanese American Dean, with his long dark hair in a bun and his hipster style, has loved Kaylee since childhood, but is struggling to digest their recent breakup. What follows is a steamy, banter-filled attempt at getting over an ex while falling in love again. VERDICT Highly recommended. Fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen’s summer romances will devour this book.


AAPI YA booklist Contemporary covers


Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim by Patricia Park. Crown. ISBN 9780593563373. 
Gr 8 Up–Senior year of high school is bad enough, but for Alejandra Kim, there is extra drama. She is also dealing with microaggressions for her traditional Spanish first-name and very Korean face and last name, grieving her father’s death, and feeling like she doesn’t fit in with her clueless white “woke” classmates. VERDICT Libraries can’t go wrong with adding this timely book to their collection.

Chasing Pacquiao by Rod Pulido. Viking. ISBN 9780593526736. 
Gr 7 Up–There’s a fight every day at “War Zone High,” where homophobic slurs (both in English and Tagalog) and toxic masculinity run rampant. It’s no wonder Bobby keeps his homeschooled boyfriend secret. But, when Bobby is outed by a classmate’s hate speech, he decides to own it rather than deny it. Pulido’s heartfelt debut is wonderfully steeped in geek and Filipino culture. VERDICT An underdog story with a powerful message about putting heroes on a pedestal, this is for all teen collections.

Look No Further by Rioghnach Robinson & Siofra Robinson. Abrams/Amulet. ISBN 9781419757402. 
Gr 8 Up–This novel transitions between the dual narration of 17-year-old Niko Castadi and 15-year-old Ali Tan. When family secrets come to light and bring the two characters together as estranged siblings who share a Chinese American father, the book reveals how much our families, friends, along with our combined upbringing and experiences, shape us into the people we are. VERDICT An enjoyable, heartwarming read. Through their strategic use of art-based references and terms, the authors paint a beautifully descriptive and vibrant world inhabited by endearing and relatable characters that readers cannot help but cheer for.

The Queens of New York by E.L Shen. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063237957. 
Gr 9 Up–One summer, two continents, and three best friends make this novel a compelling story of resiliency, strength, and finding your people. Ariel, Jia and Everett are best friends. They all come from different Asian American homes. This book is a love letter to female friendship, and how girls can show up for one another in a very organic and meaningful way. The story has something for every reader. VERDICT A good purchase for high school libraries, especially those in need of diverse main characters and voices.


AAPI YA booklist Thriller and Horror covers

Thriller & Horror

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547610815. 
Gr 8 Up–A possibly haunted house, an angry teen, and paranormal elements join forces in this dark debut novel. Jade Nguyen was born and raised in Philadelphia to immigrant Vietnamese parents. This novel is a slow-burn, dark tale of identity, immigration, colonialism, and sexuality (Jade is bisexual). VERDICT Recommended for all libraries, especially for those serving readers seeking Asian and Asian American voices.

My Flawless Life by Yvonne Woon. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063008694. 
Gr 7 Up–Hana Yang Lerner is the go-to fixer at her prestigious Washington, DC, private school, where her wealthy classmates routinely hire her to dispatch their problems. Woon creates a diverse cast of characters—Hana is biracial (her mom is Chinese American and her dad is cued white), Luce is Cuban American, and James is Chinese American—and the characters’ discussions often dig into weighty ethics questions about privilege and responsibility. VERDICT A fresh thriller that will appeal to fans of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, Dana Mele’s People Like Us, and Alexa Donne’s The Ivies.


AAPI YA booklist Historical cover

Historical Fiction

 My Father, The Panda Killer by Jamie Jo Hoang. Crown. ISBN 9780593642962. 
Gr 9 Up–A dual-narrative, compelling read about family, intergenerational trauma, and immigration. The first voice is that of 17-year-old Jane, born in California to Vietnamese refugees who escaped the war. It’s 1999. The second voice belongs to Phúc, who is 12 in 1975, and his small southern Vietnam village is experiencing the wrath of the Vietcong. When he manages to escape on a small vessel with other desperate people, the worst is yet to come. VERDICT An important book, highly recommended for high school and public libraries.


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