Young Adult Books from Singapore

Today’s post about Singaporean literature comes from Mairin Raisdana at UWCSEA East and Kim Beeman at Tanglin Trust. We have picked out a range of our favorite books for mature readers written in and about Singapore, suitable for children ages 14+. You find can our post about middle grade books from Singapore here, Barb’s previous post about picture books from Singapore here, her post about chapter books for younger readers here, and our overview of publishers, bookstores, and other resources for SingLit here.


Lion Boy and Drummer Girl. Author: Pauline Loh. Epigram Books, 2018. ISBN:  9789814785105

Lion Boy and Drummer Girl by Pauline Loh is a very sweet teen romance book that takes place in Singapore and draws on local culture with a modern twist. The story focuses on a Leopop group- a popular culture trend that draws inspiration from lion dancing, martial arts and K-Pop music- called the Lion Legends whose founder has dedicated his whole life to the group. His daughter, Ying Ying, has grown up around the Lion Legends and works tirelessly as their manager; she has one rule, though: don’t fall in love with a lion dancer! This advice came from Ying Ying’s mother, who suffered the neglect of always coming second to the group and told her daughter that falling in love with a lion dancer would only bring heartbreak.

Then, Ricky arrives! Ricky is a new Leopop recruit brought in from overseas as the new hope of the Lion Legends’ future. He immediately forms his own opinions about his role in the group, and falls for Ying Ying. Obviously, neither go over well with her! Can Ricky win over Ying Ying and perform in the Lion Legends in a way that will make everyone (including himself) happy? 


Misdirection. Author: Ning Cai. Epigram Books, 2018. ISBN: 9789814785082.

The first book in what will be The Savant Trilogy, a new mystery YA trilogy. When parkour champion Maxine Schooling wakes from a three-year coma, she has no memory of how her parents and little brother were killed the night she was attacked. Using her new-found photographic memory, she covertly helps her hacker BFF with the police investigation of a savage serial killer on the loose. In her race to track down the Singapore Spectre, Max finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy involving stage illusions, a secret exposé, and a controversial megachurch headed by a powerful man. Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2016 Longlist.


Sofia and the Utopia Machine. Author: Judith Huang. Epigram Books, 2018. ISBN: 9789814785808.

Sofia is an ordinary schoolgirl living in a future Singapore where the population is divided into three social strata. When she inadvertently unlocks the gateway to a new world, she realises she must escape the government’s radar. She ventures into the lowest rung of society, the Voids, and meets with the eccentric Uncle Kirk and the resourceful Father Lang. While on the run, she learns why her father disappeared seven years ago and why the new world exists in the first place. Shortlisted for 2019 Singapore Books Awards Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Title. Finalist for the 2017 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.


Beng Beng Revolution. Author: Lu Huiyi. Epigram Books, 2019. ISBN: 9789814845168.

Beng Hock and his brother, Beng Huat (who prefers to go by Archibald), find themselves navigating a tumultuous Singapore in the near future that has run out of oil and gas. Running afoul of the growing gangs could mean slavery or death, jobs are scarce and food scarcer, and home is a crumbling shanty-town behind the City Hall Steam-Engine Station. And as if these changes aren’t drastic enough, a great power awakens inside Beng Hock, and he must learn how to control it before it destroys everyone and everything in his way. A finalist for the 2018 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.


This is What Inequality Looks Like. Author: You Yenn Teo. Ethos Books, 2018. ISBN: 9789811405952

What is poverty? What is inequality? How are they connected? How are they reproduced? How might they be overcome? Why should we try? This book—an ethnography of inequality—addresses these questions. Formed by a series of essays, they are written to be read individually, but have been arranged to be read as a totality and in sequence. Each aims to accomplish two things: first, to introduce a key aspect of the experience of being low-income in contemporary Singapore. Second, to illustrate how people’s experiences are linked to structural conditions of inequality.


Run. Author: Gabby Tye. Bubbly Books, 2014. ISBN: 9789810772222.

The first book in an exciting new trilogy by one of Singapore’s youngest author, Gabby Tye. The scientists got it wrong. Dead wrong. Groundbreaking work in genetics have unleashed something unimaginable. Something that has killed off every living thing except humans. Somewhere in Singapore, a 15-year-old girl wakes up with no memory. She doesn’t remember who she is, but can’t shake the feeling that there is something she needs to do. With nowhere to go and no one to trust, she joins a band of young survivors like her. Together, they must hunt for food and fight to survive. Only now, surviving isn’t enough. Some adults are changing and developing a new kind of hunger. Now, they must RUN.


Sugarbread. Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal. Epigram Books, 2016. ISBN: 9789814757300.

Pin must not become like her mother, but nobody will tell her why. She seeks clues in Ma’s cooking when she’s not fighting other battles—being a bursary girl at an elite school and facing racial taunts from the bus uncle. Then her meddlesome grandmother moves in, installing a portrait of a watchful Sikh guru and a new set of house rules. Old secrets begin to surface but can Pin handle learning the truth? Finalist for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. Shortlisted for the Singapore Book Awards 2017 (Best Fiction Title). Shortlisted for the Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2016 English (Adult) Books category. The Straits Times Book Of The Month (August 2016). Shortlisted for Singapore Literature Prize 2018.


18 Walls. Author: Teo Xue Shen. Epigram Books, 2018. ISBN:  9789814655439.

This action-packed thriller follows a squad of 18-year-olds who must fight an army of Savages in a war they did not choose. Ren is an elite fighter who feels no emotions. That makes him the perfect soldier to battle the Savages, a feral army of half-animal, half-human species prowling outside the 18 walls protecting the city…at least that’s what the propaganda machine will have him believe. He and his motley squad are armed with genetic enhancements before venturing beyond the walls. They come to learn more about themselves and their enemies than they could have ever imagined. Author Teo Xue Shen wrote 18 Walls when he was 19 and in the Singapore Armed Forces. He wrote this debut novel on his phone during his service and his experience informed and shaped the story.

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