Teens may grimace at the thought of taking SATs, but they have it easy compared with the counterparts in China where millions of children are trained from a young age to succeed in school, all for the one-day gaokao, or university admissions examination. In her new young adult novel, Like Spilled Water—the title of which refers to the notion that daughters are not as valued as sons because they will leave their parents’ home after they marry—Jennie Liu tackles the anxiety and other ramifications centered around this exam. 

At the start of Kelly Yang’s debut YA novel, Parachutes, she notes the story includes incidents of sexual harassment and rape. Although Yang has been wanting to write this story for almost two decades, this novel about high school students who move alone to the US while their parents stay back in China couldn’t be better timed. While the concept of parachute students isn’t new—it was pioneered by Hong Kong students in the 1990s—mainland Chinese families have adopted the custom and students from China account for the largest group of international high school students in the US (and, indeed, other countries from Australia to Britain).

Samira Ahmed is a force in young adult literature, bringing voice to Muslim American teens and calling out increasingly rampant Islamophobia. In her latest novel, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, she combines a contemporary story with historical fiction that reaches back to Lord Byron (who bore the sobriquet that also titles the novel), Alexandre Dumas and Eugene Delacroix. Two young women are at the centers of these stories, thereby telling history from women’s perspectives.