This month is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so it only seemed fitting to choose a related theme! I’m leaning toward keeping to an Asian and Pacific Islander book/author theme for the whole month, highlighting some books of different genres that are set in Asia or the Pacific Islands, or by Asian or Pacific Islander authors. I decided to start out with the one that was the easiest for me, which is recent YA releases that are by Asian or Pacific Islander authors. There have been quite a few YA contemporary books featuring Asian characters and by Asian authors. I personally haven’t noticed quite as many by or about Pacific Islanders, so if anyone knows of any, please recommend me some! The books mentioned here are all fairly recent or upcoming releases, and they are all on my TBR so I’m excited to give them a try!
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
I’ve seen this book on many people’s most anticipated lists this year, and it’s no surprise since it looks very interesting! This book is due out next week, and it has been compared to When Dimple Met Rishi mixed with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It is about a Muslim girl named Nishat, who wants to come out as a lesbian to her parents, but worries about losing her relationship with them by doing so. Her decision becomes even more complicated when her childhood friend Flavia comes back into her life. Nishat falls for her immediately, even though they are both working on competing henna businesses for a school contest. To make matters worse, although Nishat chose henna because it is a part of her culture and is important to her, Flavia, who is Brazilian, chose it merely because it is trendy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book deal with cultural appropriation before, and I’m very interested to see how it might be handled. Nishat’s family is from Bangladesh, as is the author of this book, so it is #ownvoices for that representation.
2) Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
This book is the upcoming release by Gloria Chao, a Taiwanese-American author whose books also feature Taiwanese characters. I read her debut American Panda not too long ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to reading more of her books. This one is due out in November, and it is about a girl named Chloe Wang who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents. The guy, Drew, began working for Rent for Your ‘Rents, a company that specializes in providing fake boyfriends to impress Asian parents, to make money after his parents cut him off. Chloe’s goal is to get her parents to accept Drew so they will stop pressuring her to marry a wealthy young man from their Asian-American community, but when she starts to fall for Drew for real, she isn’t sure what to do since the persona he presented to her parents was an act designed to impress, and she isn’t sure they’ll like the real Drew as much. This sounds like such a fun story, and I’d love to give it a try when it comes out!
3) A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
This book came out in September 2019 and seems to have mostly flown under the radar so far. it is about a 15-year-old girl named Simran who comes from a long line of Indian matchmakers, and her family believes she has the “gift” too. Simran wants nothing to do with matchmaking until she realizes that it could help boost her and her best friend’s social status, so she decides to start a matchmaking service via an app. Her app soon matches the most popular boy in school with a shy new girl, much to the annoyance of his ex-girlfriend who believes that they are meant to get back together. To be honest, I sometimes have a hard time getting into books with such a young main character at this point, but this one just sounds like so much fun to read. I’m also intrigued by the way the author combined some the traditional matchmaking with technology through Simran’s app. It definitely seems like and fun and relatively fluffy YA romance.
4) This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
I read Misa Sugiura’s debut, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, back in 2017 and I really enjoyed it. For some reason, I remember there being quite a bit of controversy surrounding that book, but haven’t been able to find anything about it. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, please let me know! This one is her most recent release from last summer, which is about a 17-year-old girl named CJ Katsuyama, who loves helping her aunt at their family’s flower shop, and soon discovers that she has a talent for arranging flowers into perfect bouquets. When her mother decides to sell the shop the family who cheated CJ’s grandparents during the period of Japanese internment camps in America, causing a rift that threatens to split the family and the community. CJ had never lived up to her mom’s ambitious nature, but now she may have finally found something she really wants to fight for. I actually don’t remember much of It’s Not Like It’s a Secret at this point, although I do remember that while I liked it, I didn’t quite love it as much as I’d hoped. However, I think many of the reasons are things that are not so uncommon with a debut, so I’m curious to see if I’ll like this one more.
5) 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
I’ve read three of Sandhya Menon’s books so far, and really enjoyed them all! This one is a new follow up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something About Sweetie, which follows a character named Pinky who is a social justice warrior, and Samir, a boy who has some unusual quirks leftover from his time caring for his sick mother. When Pinky’s parents get on her case about some of the decisions she’s made, she decides to recruit Samir to pose as her boyfriend for the summer so her parents will leave her alone. Despite their bickering, they soon realize that this summer might be more memorable for both of them than they had expected! I really enjoyed Pinky and Samir when they were mentioned in There’s Something About Sweetie, and I’m very interested to see the dynamics between the two of them. Sandhya Menon’s books are always so much fun to read and I also tend to really enjoy the fake dating trope, so this seems right up my alley!