The best authentically Hawaiian books for tweens and teens

Who am I?

Growing up in a kanaka maoli—Native Hawaiian—family in Hawai’i, I hungered for stories centered around island kids and their authentic lived experiences. I scoured classrooms, libraries, and bookstores looking for stories that reflected my reality, but all I ever found were dusty collections of ancient legends, not books that appealed to my sense of wonder or adventure. It’s the reason I wrote the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy and why I’m so excited to share this collection with you. These books are everything I always wanted to read as a child growing up in Hawai‘i—and more!


I wrote...

One Boy, No Water

By Lehua Parker,

Book cover of One Boy, No Water

What is my book about?

When you’re allergic to water, Hawai‘i isn’t always paradise.

I’m Zader Kaonakai Westin. One drop of water on my skin burns like lava. Uncle Kahana knows more than he says about my water allergy and why I crave raw meat. But I don’t care about secrets. I just want to be a surfing star like my brother Jay instead of the Blalah’s favorite punching bag at Lauele Intermediate. After a shark scare, Jay quits surfing, but surfing’s like breathing to Jay. I have to help my brother get back in the ocean or he’ll go crazy. Staying out of the water seems safer, but Niuhi aren’t like regular sharks. When Niuhi are around, safety is an illusion, and everyone knows it’s bump first, then bite.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of KINO and the KING

Lehua Parker Why did I love this book?

With a sacred stone in hand, twelve-year-old Kino hides from bullies in an ancient grass hut on display at Bishop Museum. In a blinding flash, she travels back in time to 1825 and meets a young boy who is destined to become King Kamehameha III. Together they go on an epic adventure facing sharks, Night Marchers, wild boars, and more as they collect the four items Kino needs to return home. I love this fantasy story with Hawaiian kids as heroes because it treats Hawaiian history and culture as both magical and ordinary rather than sensationally exotic.

By Jen Angeli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked KINO and the KING as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Want to escape into an epic adventure back in time? Pick up a copy of KINO and the KING and follow Kino Kahele on her visit when Hawaii was a young nation, and the Kamehameha Dynasty ruled the land. After Kino receives a pohaku (stone), that is supposed to help Kino find her destiny, she is chased by bullies into the Hawaiian Hall at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. She ducks into the ancient grass hut display and hides her rock in a conch shell. With a flash of bright light, she is transported to 1825 where she meets 11-year-old…


Book cover of Night of the Howling Dogs

Lehua Parker Why did I love this book?

What starts out as a camping trip in remote Halape for a boy scout troop from Hilo turns desperate when an earthquake hits and their camp is devastated by a tsunami. The boys are scattered, and it’s up to Dylan and his nemesis Louie to reunite the troop and get them to safety. Inspired by real events that I remember, this book is a survival story about friendship, leadership, and teamwork that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

By Graham Salisbury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night of the Howling Dogs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

DYLAN'S SCOUT TROOP goes camping in Halape, a remote spot below the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The only thing wrong with the weekend on a beautiful, peaceful beach is Louie, a tough older boy. Louie and Dylan just can't get along.That night an earthquake rocks the camp, and then a wave rushes in, sweeping everyone and everything before it. Dylan and Louie must team up on a dangerous rescue mission. The next hours are an amazing story of survival and the true meaning of leadership.


Book cover of The Islands at the End of the World

Lehua Parker Why did I love this book?

When sixteen-year-old Leilani and her father traveled to O’ahu from Hilo to try a promising but experimental treatment for her epilepsy, they never expected to be stranded in the middle of a worldwide geomagnetic storm. With tsunamis striking randomly, all modern technology broken, and facing food shortages under martial law, Leilani and her father have to fight their way home. Along the way, Leilani discovers that the one thing that makes her different may be the one thing that saves us all. It’s an apocalyptic page-turner centered on Hawaii’s ecology and traditional cultural solutions.

By Austin Aslan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Islands at the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In this fast-paced survival story set in Hawaii, electronics fail worldwide, the islands become completely isolated, and a strange starscape fills the sky. Leilani and her father embark on a nightmare odyssey from Oahu to their home on the Big Island. Leilani’s epilepsy holds a clue to the disaster, if only they can survive as the islands revert to earlier ways. 
   A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels. The author has a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the…


Book cover of Written in the Sky

Lehua Parker Why did I love this book?

Raw and real, ‘Ikauikalani, is a middle grader who is adrift after the death of his grandmother. Through ‘Ikaui’s daily experiences, we see firsthand the effects of mental illness, drug abuse, bullying, and dispossession faced by the homeless living in Ala Moana Park. ‘Ikaui struggles to eat, keep clean, and fill his days. If he’s swept up by social services, ‘Ikaui fears a physical and spiritual death. But in the middle of his struggle, there are also remarkable moments of grace that allow ‘Ikaui to thrive. ‘Ikaui begins to discover who he is, connects his amazing gifts with his ancestral past, and heals generational wounds. It’s a thought-provoking story about the difference between being homeless and houseless.

By Matthew Kaopio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Written in the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young abandoned Hawaiian boy, living among the homeless in Ala Moana Park, spends his days observing tourists, swimming in the ocean and rummaging in the trash. At first glance there is nothing special about young Ikauikalani, till you learn he can see the future in the movements of the clouds. Following directions received from his deceased grandmother, Ikau sets off on a journey of self-discovery releasing his past and helping him to understand his own future.


Book cover of 'Ewa Which Way

Lehua Parker Why did I love this book?

This coming-of-age story is powerful, immediate, and like a bloody scraped knee, painfully evocative of the transition between childhood and adulthood. I loved this book for its ability to show all the complicated rules, expectations, and entanglements of being a kid trying to make sense out of adult behavior. Set in ‘Ewa Beach, Hawai‘i, in 1982, Landon and Luke face prejudices of class and race, their parents’ alcohol abuse and valium popping coping mechanisms, and sheer dysfunction. Landon shares his reality with heartbreaking twelve-year-old clarity.   

By Tyler Miranda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 'Ewa Which Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fiction. EWA WHICH WAY is a coming-of-age novel set in the early 1980s, around the time of Hurricane ‘Iwa. The DeSilva family, in economic straits, has suffered the setback of having to move from town to Ewa Beach, and the dissonance between parents impacts the lives of their young sons, Landon and Luke. In addition to humorous moments of growing up local, Portuguese, and Catholic, there are serious underlying themes regarding religion, ethnic tensions, assimilation issues, domestic violence, and the reality that children sometimes need to find their own way in the world at a very young age. With problems…


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Aggressor

By F.X. Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

F.X. Holden

New book alert!

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

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