“The Half of It” Read-alikes

Many of us are enjoying the Netflix movie The Half of It, a coming-of-age romantic comedy that focuses on shy and friendless high school student Ellie Chu, who is the only Asian student in her town. Ellie makes extra money writing papers for her fellow classmates and is approached by football star Paul Munsky to write a love letter to the popular Aster Flores. Ellie initially refuses because she is also secretly in love with Aster, but reluctantly accepts after she learns her home’s electricity will be cut off if payment isn’t made by the end of the day.

Whether you love coming-of-age rom-coms, Asian American teen stories, or LGBTQ teen stories, here are some read-alikes you might enjoy:

High School Fiction
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa SugiuraItsNotSecretCover
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend. When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known.

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks SavingMontgomerySoleCoverand girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects. Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having two moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanAllTheBoysCover
This book was also turned into a popular Netflix movie and is the first in a trilogy. Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai HidierBornConfusedCover
Dimple Lala of Springfield, NJ has spent her whole life resisting her parents’ traditions. But now she’s turning seventeen and things are more complicated than ever. She’s still recovering from a year-old break-up, and her best friend isn’t around the way she used to be. Then, to make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” Of course, it doesn’t go well, until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web of words and music. Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were IfYouCouldBeMineCoversix. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed. So they carry on in secret until Nasrin’s parents suddenly announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution: homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. Sahar will never be able to love Nasrin in the body she wants to be loved in without risking their lives, but is saving their love worth sacrificing her true self?

Girl Mans Up by M-E GirardGirlMansUpCover
All Pen wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl, and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah DooleyAshesCover
After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family. 

Highly Illogical Behavior By John Corey WhaleyHighlyIllogicalCover
Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there? Solomon is the answer. Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, sitting through Star Trek marathons with him and introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their walls fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.
This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen CallenderEpicLoveCover
Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life. Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend. 

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Moss Jeffries is many things—considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd. But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else—someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, AngerCoversomeone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.  And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.

Moss can’t even escape at school—he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations—it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals. Something will have to change—but who will listen to a group of teens? When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate, or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Middle Grade Fiction
Stargazing by Jen WangStargazingCover
Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. But after Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends are soon best friends, sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs. Moon’s visions have an all-too-earthly root, however, and soon Christine’s best friend is in the hospital, fighting for her life. Can Christine be the friend Moon needs, now, when the sky is falling?

Front Desk by Kelly YangFrontDeskCover
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.
Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.
Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?
It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen OhFlyingCover
Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold short story collection—written by some of the best children’s authors including Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Grace Lin, Tim Federle, Soman Chainani, and many more and published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us. 

Nonfiction 
Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge & Marke BieschkeQueerCover
Teen life is hard enough with all of the pressures kids face, but for teens who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender), it’s even harder. When do you decide to come out? To whom? Will your friends accept you? And how on earth do you meet people to date? Queer is a humorous, engaging, and honest guide that helps LGBT teens come out to friends and family, navigate their new LGBT social life, figure out if a crush is also queer, and rise up against bigotry and homophobia.
A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America For Young People
by Ronald Takaki & Rebecca StefoffDifferentMirrorCover
Adapted for young people, this book deals with the subject of minority perspectives of multicultural America, incorporating quotes, folk songs, letters, telegrams, and photographs into the text. It deals with, Native Americans, African Americans pre- and post-slavery era, Irish, Mexicans, Chicanos, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, and ties up the book with a current (for the time the book was written) summary of where minorities are now. Each chapter talks about the history of a different ethnic group, and covers over a period of time public attitudes towards the minority, public policy, laws for or against the minority, and attitude of the minority towards their situation.
Gay & Lesbian History For Kids by Jerome Pohlen
GayCoverGiven today’s news, it would be easy to get the impression that the campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality is a recent development, but it is only the final act in a struggle that started more than a century ago. The history is told through personal stories and firsthand accounts of the movement’s key events, like the 1950s “Lavender Scare,” the Stonewall Inn uprising, and the AIDS crisis. This up-to-date history includes the landmark Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land. 

This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson & David LevithanThisBookisGayCover
Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU. Inside you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.

~Anna Coats, Head of Youth Services

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