Without the protagonist, there is no story, so it’s important you find a good one. You want someone you can cheer for, someone whose story is going to make you laugh and make you cry, someone you can embark on an adventure with. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite Asian heroines in YA literature–inspired by my recent read of Girls of Paper and Fire–whom I’ve followed through thick and thin! I hope it helps you find your new favourite character!
I couldn’t start this post without including the protagonist from our November book! I absolutely loved Lei. She made a fantastic heroine by being incredibly strong and brave throughout her ordeal of being a Paper Girl–a concubine of the Demon King. What I loved most about Lei was the way she always attempted to make a joke to keep the other girls’ spirits up when things got bad. Her blossoming romance with one of the other Paper Girls was so swoon-worthy, and I was completely invested in Lei’s story–and her beautiful Asian-inspired fantasy world–from page one.
In this amazing space adventure, Lyra Daniels is a wildly entertaining protagonist. She’s cheeky, funny, clever, and naughty, and I loved the way it felt as though she were talking to me directly throughout the story. In this mystery amongst the stars, Lyra is uncovering the ancient Chinese Terracotta Warriors on other planets, which her ancestors on her mother’s side helped to build. Lyra is a computer whiz, and it was so great to read about her sneaking around the space version of the Internet, uncovering the bad guys, but she remains someone I want to wrap in a soft blanket and keep safe. Keep an eye out for a giveaway of a signed copy of Navigating the Stars, opening soon!
Speaking of characters I want to wrap in warm fluffy blankets, I can’t go past Zu when we’re talking about awesome Asian girls. Zu is so warm and compassionate, with a big heart in her little body. She’s one of those characters who has gone/goes through so much but remains incredibly strong and kind, and able to see the good in people even when they can’t see it in themselves. She’s loved by everyone who meets her, she’s loved by me, and she’ll be loved by you when you read this series!
If you’re looking for a creepy YA read with a bit of a dark character, look no further than Breezy Lin. I read this one for Halloween and there was something about it–and Breezy–that has stayed with me. Breezy is dead, but climbs out of a shallow grave and discovers a spooky new world that simmers behind our own, where things exist that shouldn’t exist. She’s an interesting, refreshing take on a young adult character, with a haunting story about life, death, and humanity that you’ll continue to think about long after you close the book.
Leigh Chen Sanders
Leigh is such an amazing character to read about. She thinks of her emotions as colours, which made for gorgeous writing. When her mother commits suicide, Leigh begins to see her as a red bird, and travels to Taiwan to find out more about her mother’s family, since she knows nothing at all. Leigh struggles with her identity as half-white and half-Asian; she has never felt quite American or quite Chinese, and that struggle to determine who you are is something we can all relate to. This is such a beautiful, heartbreaking book about grief and depression that I can’t recommend highly enough. You’re going to absolutely love Leigh, and empathise with her every step of the way–just remember to bring tissues.
Have you read any of these books? Did you love the girls as much as I did? Do you have any other books with Asian heroines I should be introduced to? I’d love to hear them!