Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Ashish has just had his heart broken by his first love. Since it happened, he hasn’t been the same, in his basketball game or his love life game. At the suggestion of his sometimes friend, Ashish turns to his parents to set him up with an Indian girl. Sweetie is a fierce track superstar, but is constantly under the scrutiny of her mother over her weight. When Ashish’s parents want him to date Sweetie, Sweetie’s mother immediately turns down the offer, again citing Sweetie’s weight as the reason why. Furious, and ready to do something rebellious for once, Sweetie proposes to Ashish a date in secret, and the rom com fireworks begin.
With fleshed out secondary characters, a body positive message, and swoon-worthy romance, There’s Something About Sweetie is a sweet YA read. The way Sweetie grows into her confidence as the story progressed was heartwarming to read and easily relatable for any teen struggling with convincing others to let you just be yourself. Ashish is such an equally sweet and sensitive character as well, and the sadness he experiences after his break up is all too real for so many experiencing their own first loves. Even the tenuous relationship with Sweetie and her mom was done well, and the pressure from overbearing parents about weight loss and appearance is unfortunately a very real thing a lot of teens face, making this a book where there is something for everyone to relate and connect with.
For fans of teen romantic comedies such as Netflix’s The Perfect Date or Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ (the book and the movie).
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Scholastic Press / Scholastic
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Kimi takes advantage of an opportunity to visit Japan and meet her grandparents, immersing herself in a culture she doesn’t know much about with a new romantic interest, Akira, who impressed her with his mochi costume. Kimi must learn to value her roots, her own fashion skills as a means to a career, but also in speaking her mind to the person she’s most afraid to share it with: her mother.
Kuhn’s Japanese heritage plays heavily in this romance that delightfully weaves the differences between three generations set in Japan with a Japanese-American main character. The lighthearted approach is warmed by fully-fleshed characters including Kimi’s candy-sneaking grandfather or her best friends encouraging her from back in the States. Everyone is patient while Kimi finds her voice in this coming-of-age story with the right mix of heart, head, and passion. Moments of levity like climbing into Buddha’s nostril compliment the insta-love romance but ground the serious conversations with Kimi’s grandmother or contrasting cultures.
Recent books like American Panda, This Time Will Be Different, and The Astonishing Color of After have showcased Asian heritage with a mix of contemporary storytelling and historical context that also highlight generational conflict. All would work as read-alikes while Kuhn’s title is also an easy pick for a display or booklist of charming teen romances or #ownvoices novels.