New YA Books By Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors

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Summer Loomis has been writing for Book Riot since 2019. She obsessively curates her library holds and somehow still manages to borrow too many books at once. She appreciates a good deadline and likes knowing if 164 other people are waiting for the same title. It’s good peer pressure! She doesn’t have a podcast but if she did, she hopes it would sound like Buddhability. The world could always use more people creating value with their lives everyday.

I keep an eye out for Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander authors releasing new titles, and lately, I have seen a lot of especially interesting new and new-to-me releases. In the interest of spreading the love around and getting more adoring fans for these titles, here is a list of some awesome AAPI-authored young adult books publishing in 2024.

If the AAPI acronym isn’t one you’re super familiar with, of course, you can guess that it covers a very large portion of the world. Generally, I find that some countries and regions are more well-represented among Asian and Asian-American authors, and some are decidedly not. If you want to read a little bit more about this, try this exploration of the AAPI label. However, there is a huge amount of room for improvement in the publishing world.

I particularly struggled to find Pacific Islander representation, so this roundup has only one title below. I’ll put her front and center and say, hey, publishing decision-makers: I want more Pacific Islander and Pacific Islander-connected stories of ALL KINDS. I know I am not the only one.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to our cool titles.

Cover of Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier

Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier

Makiia Lucier grew up in Guam and weaves connections and references to the mythology she grew up with into this romantic fantasy. Main character, Hanalei, is the much-cherished daughter of an old island family. When she becomes deathly ill, her father steals an egg from the royal family to cure his daughter and undo his life’s greatest pain. He also unwittingly condemns her to a life of exile. This book follows her as Hanalei studies her beloved seadragons and eventually crosses paths with the last remaining prince of Tamarind, a matriarchal society in which the prince hopes to cure his own mother of illness.

Cover of Just Happy to be HereCover of Just Happy to be Here

Just Happy to be Here by Naomi Kanakia

The first chapter of this book made me so uncomfortable in its observations of (some) privileged teenage girl talk that I almost stopped reading. I felt oddly ill at ease from the first pages. But the voice of the main character, Tara, a trans girl, made me keep going. I had to see how things would develop for her. How would Tara navigate these seemingly smooth but deeply chaotic social waters? Will she decide to keep trying to fit in? Will she be able to forge her own way forward? Will she decide to opt out entirely and find some other community besides the cisgender girls she hangs out with and her trans masculine (sort of/sort of not) friend Liam? I couldn’t leave her until I figured out how it would all turn out. I also really loved this cover design by Liam Woods and photography by Catherine Lee. Like many other readers, I am happy this book is here!

Cover of Lunar New Year Love StoryCover of Lunar New Year Love Story

Lunar New Year Love Story written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Always happy to read new graphic novels, I was particularly looking forward to this one. The love story part wasn’t the draw, and neither was the Lunar New Year connection, to be honest. I just wanted to see what Gene Luen Yang was doing next. Of course, I already knew and loved LeUyen Pham’s work, particularly in Princess in Black, Real Friends, and Outside, Inside. This book did not disappoint. It is impressive in its approach to several tough things at once: growing up, figuring out your identity and place in your community, and understanding how your family may have made choices you’d rather not face. Many readers should also pick this one up even if they, like me, don’t really care about romance. They will find a lot to appreciate here.

Cover of Pangu's ShadowCover of Pangu's Shadow

Pangu’s Shadow by Karen Bao

This drops you into a rich world and throws you into the action with the main character, Aryl, as she heads back into the research lab she has been avoiding while trying to maintain something of a life outside through dance and friends. Aryl gives you a short background of her life before a mysterious event kills her lab’s demanding head researcher, with whom she has clashed in the past. Suddenly, she and another assistant researcher, Ver, become the prime suspects and must clear their names. I loved the sci-fi murder mystery cross here. I also loved that Karen Bao included an author’s note about her background and drew attention to her experiences as a PhD student, a woman, and a Chinese American, and as someone who has lived with chronic pain and that some of those elements helped her write this book.

Cover of No Time Like Now by Naz KutubCover of No Time Like Now by Naz Kutub

No Time Like Now by Naz Kutub

Hazeem is a 17-year-old grappling with grief over the death of his father when he is confronted with the loss of another loved one, his grandmother. Shocked by the second loss, he ends up wishing for her to be granted extra life and comes face-to-face with Time. He must make choices now to decide how to move forward in his life. I enjoyed this and liked the main character immensely, including his internal dialogue, which seemed to be regularly buffeted by the winds of anxiety in a very believable way.

Cover of Kindling by Traci CheeCover of Kindling by Traci Chee

Kindling by Traci Chee

Though this feels like a large sweeping fantasy novel, it is written as if addressed to the reader directly and feels very intimate, too. The way it handles a world that has utterly failed its children is deeply affecting. Children in this world are born to be warriors, not in any noble sense, but in the horribly disappointing way that child soldiers are used all over the world. In a way that is just so very, very deeply wrong and also very believable.

Cover of What's Eating Jackie OhCover of What's Eating Jackie Oh

What’s Eating Jackie Oh? by Patricia Park

This revolves around a Korean American high school student who is not smashing academic records and earning all A+s in her classes as her parents would (according to her) normally expect. Instead, she is hiding her true passion in life: cooking. She loves working at her Korean grandparents’ diner and eventually gets pulled into the world of competitive TV cooking. This will work for some readers just because of the foodie element. However, I thought it was also interesting for its depiction of more than a few Korean American characters who are all working toward something a bit different than the stereotypical expectations of entrance into the top universities, and pursuit of whatever people believe are the best jobs and companies to join in the U.S.

Cover of Crane Among WolvesCover of Crane Among Wolves

A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur

One of the few historical choices on this list, June Hur delivers a kingdom set in the 1500s and a life of a 17-year-old Iseul who must set out on a dangerous mission to rescue her sister from a murderous king. I was gripped by this young woman setting off to free her older sister, and the adventure is obviously a treacherous one. I haven’t had a chance to finish this one yet, but I am looking forward to it soon.

If that’s not enough for you, you can also read 8 Asian American YA Romances and 18 books Asian American books. If you want to switch gears but still read AAPI authors, try these books of nonfiction by AAPI authors.

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