As we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, get ready to dive into a fantastic array of young adult novels that shine a light on the lives of South Asian teens. These books are expanding the stories you see, reflecting the rich diversity within South Asia and its diaspora. With each passing year, more and more exciting books featuring South Asian protagonists are hitting the shelves, addressing the need for better representation in literature. Although there's still a long way to go before every South Asian experience is represented, these YA books offer an awesome starting point for exploring these vibrant and diverse stories.
Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel
Nikki, an aspiring photographer, accompanies her family on a trip to Dubai to celebrate the five days of Diwali in style. It should be the trip of a lifetime if Yash, the boy next door--with whom Nikki has a rocky history--weren't on board. Oblivious to the tension, Nikki's matchmaking family encourages Nikki to get better acquainted with Yash. Turns out a lot can change on a 12-hour flight beyond just continents. But can betrayals and conflicting ambitions be set aside long enough for the two teens to discover the true meaning of the Festival of Lights?
All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan
Sixteen-year-old Maya Krishnan is fiercely protective of her friends, immigrant community, and single mother, but she knows better than to rock the boat in her conservative Florida suburb. Her classmate Juneau Zale is the polar opposite: she’s a wealthy white heartbreaker who won’t think twice before capsizing that boat.
When Juneau invites Maya to join the Pugilists—a secret society of artists, vandals, and mischief-makers who fight for justice at their school—Maya descends into the world of change-making and resistance. Soon, she and Juneau forge a friendship that inspires Maya to confront the challenges in her own life.
But as their relationship grows romantic, painful, and twisted, Maya begins to suspect that there’s a whole different person beneath Juneau’s painted-on facade. Now Maya must learn to speak her truth in this mysterious, mixed-up world—even if it results in heartbreak.
While You Were Dreaming by Alisha Rai
If Sonia Patil had her way, she’d be attending her local comic con instead of covering a shift for her boss’s daughter. Since Sonia’s mom was deported and her sister, who never claimed deferred status under DACA, had to forgo college to support them, Sonia’s had her hands full with work, school, and pretending everything is okay at home.
Then Sonia, in homemade superhero cosplay, stumbles into saving her crush James’s life. When a video of the daring rescue goes viral, she—or, rather, a mysterious masked savior—is thrust into the spotlight. Now she’s hiding from TikTok detectives while trying to connect with James. And while she’s drawn to his friendly but oblivious nature, she can’t deny her escalating chemistry with another awkwardly charming boy.
Juggling crushes and a secret identity might just take superpowers. Will Sonia be able to hide in plain sight forever?
The Loophole by Naz Kutub
Sy is a timid seventeen-year-old queer Indian-Muslim boy who placed all his bets at happiness on his boyfriend Farouk...who then left him to try and "fix the world." Sy was too chicken to take the plunge and travel with him and is now stuck in a dead-end coffee shop job. All Sy can do is wish for another chance.... Although he never expects his wish to be granted.
When a mysterious girl slams into (and slides down, streaks of make-up in her wake) the front entrance of the coffee shop, Sy helps her up and on her way. But then the girl offers him three wishes in exchange for his help, and after proving she can grant at least one wish with a funds transfer of a million dollars into Sy's pitifully struggling bank account, a whole new world of possibility opens up. Is she magic? Or just rich? And when his father kicks him out after he is outed, does Sy have the courage to make his way from L. A., across the Atlantic Ocean, to lands he'd never even dreamed he could ever visit? Led by his potentially otherworldly new friend, can he track down his missing Farouk for one last, desperate chance at rebuilding his life and re-finding love?
The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar
“Welcome to the first ever Junior Irish Baking Show!”
Shireen Malik is still reeling from the breakup with her ex-girlfriend, Chris, when she receives news that she’s been accepted as a contestant on a new televised baking competition show. This is Shireen’s dream come true! Because winning will not only mean prize money, but it will also bring some much-needed attention to You Drive Me Glazy, her parents’ beloved donut shop.
Things get complicated, though, because Chris is also a contestant on the show. Then there’s the very outgoing Niamh, a fellow contestant who is becoming fast friends with Shireen. Things are heating up between them, and not just in the kitchen.
As the competition intensifies , Shireen will have to ignore all these factors and more― including potential sabotage―if she wants a sweet victory!
Of Light and Shadow by Tanaz Bhathena
When they don't give us our birthright, we steal it.
Roshan Chaya is out for justice. Abandoned by her parents at birth and adopted by the kingdom of Jwala's most notorious bandit before his brutal murder, she is now leader of the Shadow Clan, a gang of farmers-turned-bandits impoverished by the provincial governor's atrocities and corruption. Roshan's goal: to avenge her adoptive father and earn back rights and dignity for her people.
Prince Navin has always felt like an outcast. Second in line for the throne, he has never been close to his grandmother, Queen Bhairavi of Jwala. When a night out drinking with friends leads to his capture by the infamous Shadow Clan, Navin schemes to befriend Roshan and use her as a means to escape. His ploy, however, brings Navin closer to the corruption and poverty at the heart of Roshan's province, raising questions about its governor and Navin's own family.
To further complicate things, the closer Roshan and Navin get, the harder it becomes to fight their growing attraction. But how can they trust each other when the world as they know it starts to fall apart?