YA Reads Featuring Korean-American Protagonists Written by Korean-American Authors
1. Good Enough by Paula Yoo - Getting 100% on the SATs, or getting a date with a cute trumpet player? Scoring top honors in youth orchestra, or scoring tickets to a punk rock concert? Following your parents’ dreams to an Ivy league college, or following your heart? It’s senior year, and Patti Yoon is about to find out what it really takes to be good enough!
2. Since You Asked by Maurene Goo - No, no one asked, but Holly Kim will tell you what she thinks anyway. Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim is the copyeditor for her high school’s newspaper. When she accidentally submits an article that rips everyone to shreds, she gets her own column and rants her way through the school year. Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine’s Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family’s traditional Korean values?
3. Burn For Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian - Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls, Kat, Lilia, and Mary, secretly plotting revenge. None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible. With an alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently…” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.
4. Fire with Fire (Burn for Burn #2) by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian - Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan. Work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped at the Homecoming Dance. Not even close. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They’ll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia and then they will crush him. It’s the only way he’ll learn. It seems once a fire is lit, the only thing you can do is let it burn…
5. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han - What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
6. The Fold by An Na - Joyce never used to care that much about how she looked, but that was before she met JFK—John Ford Kang, the most gorgeous guy in school. And it doesn’t help that she’s constantly being compared to her beautiful older sister, Helen. Then her rich plastic-surgery-addict aunt offers Joyce a gift to “fix” a part of herself she’d never realized needed fixing—her eyes. Joyce has heard of the fold surgery—a common procedure meant to make Asian women’s eyes seem “prettier” and more “American”—but she’s not sure she wants to go through with it. Her friend Gina can’t believe she isn’t thrilled. After all, the plastic surgeon has shown Joyce that her new eyes will make her look just like Helen—but is that necessarily a good thing?
7. Wait for Me by An Na - Mina is the perfect daughter. Bound for Harvard, she’s Honor Society president and a straight-A student, even as she works at her family’s dry-cleaning store and helps care for her hearing impaired little sister. On the outside, Mina does everything right. On the inside, Mina knows the truth. Her life is a lie. Then, the summer before her senior year, Mina meets someone to whom she cannot lie. Ysrael, a young migrant worker who dreams of becoming a musician, comes to work for her family, and asks Mina the one question that scares her the most. What does she want?
8. Girls For Breakfast by David Yoo - Nick Park loves girls. Drumstick legs, cherry-colored lips, dumpling cheeks…everything about them he wants to eat up. But he’s dateless and has been since he discovered girls in the third grade, and he’s convinced himself that this is solely based on the fact that he’s the only Korean American teenager in Renfield—the fifth richest (and WASPiest) town in Connecticut. In Nick’s mind, he sticks out like a banana in a wheat field. And now it’s time for him to figure it out once and for all. Is it all in his head or are his suspicions that his heritage is keeping him from a triumphant boob fest true?
9. Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before by David Yoo - If Albert Kim has learned one thing in his tragic adolescence, it’s that God (probably a sadistic teenaged alien) does not want him to succeed at Bern High. By the end of sophomore year, Al is tired of humiliation that he’s chosen to just forget girls and high school society in general, and enjoy the Zen-like detachment that comes from being an intentional loser. Then he meets Mia Stone, and all the repressed hormones start flooding back. Mia, his co-worker at the Bern Inn, is adorable, popular, and most intimidatingly, the ex-long term girlfriend of Ivy-bound, muscle-bound king of BHS and world class jerk, Ryan Stackhouse. But chalk it up to the magic of Al’s inner beauty.
10. Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee - Chan Jung Kim has always been popular. But that was when he lived in L.A. and was the star of his soccer team. Now his family’s moved—to a tiny town in Minnesota, where football’s the name of the game and nobody has ever seen an Asian American family before. Desperate to fit in, Chan throws himself into the game—but he feels like an outsider. For the first time in his life, he finds himself thinking about what it really means to be Korean—and what is really important.
11. Finding My Voice by Marie G. Lee - The only Asian in a small American high school, Ellen Sung looks forward to spending time with schoolmates, finding a boyfriend, and getting into the college of her choice, but must contend with racism.
12. Saying Goodbye by Marie G. Lee - In this sequel to FINDING MY VOICE, Ellen Sung arrives at Harvard for her freshman year. There she begins to explore her independence by taking a creative writing course in addition to her pre-med classes, finding a new boyfriend, a Korean-American, and becoming close friends with her African-American roommate.
13. Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Hyul Choi - It is 1945, and courageous ten-year-old Sookan and her family must endure the cruelties of the Japanese military occupying Korea. Police captain Narita does his best to destroy everything of value to the family, but he cannot break their spirit. Sookan’s father is with the resistance movement in Manchuria and her older brothers have been sent away to labor camps. Her mother is forced to supervise a sock factory and Sookan herself must wear a uniform and attend a Japanese school. Then the war ends. Out come the colorful Korean silks and bags of white rice. But Communist Russian troops have taken control of North Korea and once again the family is suppressed. Sookan and her family know their only hope for freedom lies in a dangerous escape to American-controlled South Korea.
14. Echoes of the White Giraffe by Sook Hyul Choi - Sookan, the unforgettable heroine of Year of Impossible Goodbyes, is now fifteen years old and a refugee in Pusan, a city in a southern province of Korea. The Korean War is raging, and she once again has been separated from her father and brothers. Anxiously awaiting any news of them, Sookan imagines a time when she can return to a normal life in Seoul. In the meantime, though she often feels sad, alone, and scared, she finds solace in a forbidden friendship and from the mysterious “shouting poet” who offers her and her fellow refugees inspiration each morning.
15. Gathering of Pearls by Sook Hyul Choi - As Sookan Bak, the heroine of Year of Impossible Goodbyes and Echoes of the White Giraffe, travels the long distance between Seoul, Korea, and New York City, she is consumed by questions about her future. What will her life in America be like? Will she be able to communicate and fit in? Will she do well in her studies? And has she been selfish in her decision to leave her family and pursue her own dreams? Here is the compelling, often surprising story of Sookan’s first year in a very foreign country—a joyful, overwhelming, and exhilarating time.