Sara Fujimura is the author of Every Reason We Shouldn’t, a charming YA romance with a side of yummy Korean pastries. Since food plays a major part of her book, Sara has put together a list of YA books that every foodie should read!
If you’ve been following me on social media for any length of time, then you already know that I love YA books, traveling, and eating. When I can find a book that checks all three boxes, then it goes straight to the top of my TBR pile. A successful foodie YA novel has me hunting down the food featured in the book and maybe even attempting to make it at home. If you love to explore the world through food, here are five YA books for your favorite foodie reader:
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Goo’s book features two Korean-American teens—one a Kpop star, the other working for a tabloid—who have a life-changing, 24-hour adventure in Hong Kong together. What starts out as Lucky searching for a forbidden hamburger, turns into a full-scale foodie extravaganza with Jack. I had to make a beeline for emergency bao (which I have also eaten in Hong Kong) right after reading.
Bao—(or sometimes baozi) a steamed, yeasty bun filled with savory or sometimes sweet fillings.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Kuhn’s travel romance is set in Kyoto, my favorite Japanese city. Artistic Japanese-American Kimi goes to her estranged maternal grandparents’ home over Spring Break. Along with repairing their family’s rift and figuring out college plans, Kimi meets (and has a whirlwind romance with) Akira, who works in his grandfather’s mochi store. Kuhn spotlights many Japanese foods, but the book’s signature dish is what I craved the most by the end of the novel.
Mochi—a Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice. Daifuku is mochi stuffed with a filling like anko (sweetened red bean paste).
Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas
Cuevas weaves multiple cultures together as the main character, Cuban-American Isabella, moves in with her Dad and French stepmother in Lyons, France to compete for a coveted apprenticeship at a high-end restaurant. Cute Spaniard Diego stirs the pot (*rim shot*), both challenging and cheering Isa on. Whether she is practicing her knife skills to make perfectly-cut pommes frites or conquering a persnickety soufflé, Isa’s culinary journey will make your mouth water.
Pommes frites—Americans call them French fries, but the jury is still out if pommes frites originated in France or Belgium.
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
We’re off to Italy next to explore Florence, often from the back of bicultural Italian-American Lorenzo’s moped. Reeling from the recent death of her mother, Lina comes to Florence to retrace her mother’s steps while trying to create a family with her new guardian, who may or may not be her father. While off doing their sleuthing, Lorenzo introduces Lina to the perfect summer treat, stracciatella gelato, which is as sweet as their budding romance.
Stracciatella gelato—Gelato is similar to ice cream but has a different mouthfeel because of the lower milk fat content. Stracciatella means “shards,” so this vanilla-based gelato has chocolate shards instead of chocolate chips in it.
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
You don’t need a passport for this one. Phoenix-based YA author Konigsberg’s summer love novel about polar opposites Max and Jordan takes place in a rickety food truck in Mesa, AZ, a Phoenix suburb. To save Jordan’s home from foreclosure, the boys have to work as a team, conquer a steep learning curve, and find a signature dish to set “Coq Au Vinnie” apart from the competition. I loved how they experimented with Arizona specialty prickly pear, but what sent me to the kitchen was their signature dish: Cloud eggs.
Cloud eggs—Egg whites whipped into foam create a nest for the egg yolk to sit in before being baked until firm.
Are you drooling yet? All of the couples in my books have a signature food, too. Sky and Ryouhei have melon pan in Tanabata Wish. Virginia and Marco bond over lemon drops in Breathe. Olivia and Jonah’s budding romance is definitely sweetened by hotteok. What about you? What YA book takes you on a culinary journey until your stomach rumbles?