Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn is one of our most-anticipated books of the year. Not only did Bookish include it in our BookCon wings, we also named it one of the summer’s must-reads. Spin the Dawn follows Maia, who travels to the Summer Palace in disguise to compete against 12 other tailors to win the favor of the Emperor of A’landi. Here, to celebrate the release of her novel, Lim shared some of her favorite YA novels by Asian authors that readers should add to their TBRs.
I dare you not to fall in love with Mei, a pre-med germaphobe and dancer who is also a freshman at MIT. Mei struggles with trying to please her traditional Taiwanese parents while also figuring out who she is and what she wants to be, a conflict that deeply resonated with me. If you’re looking for a book with a sweet romance, hilariously panic-inducing text messages from the Taiwanese mom you never had (or maybe do have!), and an undeniably lovable and memorable protagonist, then pick up this book.
Melati is a Beatles-loving teen who grapples with an inner djinn, one who sends her terrible images of her mother’s death and can only be appeased by tapping and counting. She’s one of the bravest, most relatable heroes I’ve come across in fiction, and her relentless determination to find her mother amid the violence and panic of the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur kept me on my toes for the entirety of Alkaf’s debut. This book will make you laugh and think and sob, and I loved it.
Esha is the mythical Viper of Dharka, an assassin whose bad side, trust me, you don’t want to get on! She’s dangerous and loyal, compassionate and clever, and unstoppable with a whip. Teerdhala brilliantly weaves Hindu mythology into her epic fantasy against the backdrop of a complex, fully-imagined war, and I could not resist the novel’s heart-wrenching forbidden romance.
Mercy is one of the boldest, most enterprising protagonists I’ve ever encountered, and she’s stayed with me long after I finished Lee’s book. Determined to build a better future for her and her family, Mercy secures a place for herself at St. Clare’s School for Girls through a little bribery and much cleverness. Though parts of this book devastated me (it begins just before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906), I rooted for Mercy all the way and loved her bravery, her gumption, and her love for her family.
When Lei is chosen to become a Paper girl, one of the Demon King’s concubines, she defiantly vows to resist her fate and find a way home. Along the way, she falls in love with a fellow concubine and together, they boldly rise against the discrimination and injustices the Demon King has enacted against humans. This Southeast Asian-inspired book is set in a lush and unique world of magic and demons, but it’s Ngan’s cast of courageous women (and arsenal of delicious food descriptions) that especially won me over.
Genie Lo is just your everyday high school student looking to get into a good university. But when demons overtake her town, she discovers she’s a celestial being with the power to take them down. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was growing up, and Genie Lo is her modern-day, kickass counterpart fighting Chinese monsters. Genie’s voice is fierce, candid, and irresistibly charming, the Chinese folklore spot-on, and the action sequences fun and heart-poundingly thrilling. This is a contemporary fantasy not to be missed.
Elizabeth Lim grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was raised on a hearty diet of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Before becoming an author, Elizabeth was a professional film and video game composer, and she still tends to come up with her best book ideas when writing near a piano. An alumna of Harvard College and the Juilliard School, she now lives in New York City with her husband and her daughter. Spin the Dawn (book one in the Blood of Stars series) was her first original novel, and Unravel the Dusk is her second.