An Na’s debut novel about Young Ju, a young girl who moves with her family from Korea to California, deftly explores the enormous personal, familial and social challenges that come with adjusting to a foreign land. Through Young Ju’s childhood perspective, A Step from Heaven depicts her family’s struggle to make their new life work as they encounter financial burdens, substance abuse and cultural hurdles. The novel, published in 2001, reflected An Na’s own experience; she also moved from Korea to California in her youth and has spoken in interviews about feeling torn between her Korean heritage and her American life. A Step from Heaven went on to win multiple awards, including the 2002 Michael L. Printz award, and delivers to young readers a truly impactful reflection on the nuances of immigration and assimilation through conflicting traditions, languages and personal experiences. —Peter Allen Clark

Buy Now: A Step from Heaven on Bookshop | Amazon

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at