As a high school student in Oregon, Rona Wang was invited to math competitions at MIT. She was so talented that after graduation, she ended up attending the renowned university to study math and computer science. And all the while, she cultivated another passion as well: writing. Turns out, she’s pretty good at that, too.
Now a junior at MIT, Wang has just inked a two-book deal with publishing house Simon & Schuster. Her debut novel, “You Had Me at Hello World,” is set to hit shelves in 2022.
The young adult novel follows a Chinese-American, lower-income teenager from Oregon who travels to MIT for a coding competition. Sound familiar? That’s because Wang, 21, drew inspiration from her own experiences in writing the book. The coming-of-age story follows the protagonist as she creates an app to help immigrants navigate the U.S. Though Wang says the story springs from her own life, she hopes readers will relate to the characters as well.
“I really hope that readers can see themselves in my stories,” Wang said. “Not just Asian-Americans, immigrants, or women in STEM, but anybody who has ever felt unsure of themself or anybody with a dream that they tirelessly pursue, I hope they can all get something from my book.”
Wang said she’s been telling stories since before she could write. In high school, she collected accolades for her writing -- from gold and silver Scholastic awards to a first-place title in Sierra Nevada University’s 2015 creative nonfiction writing competition. She started a Tumblr blog at the time to showcase her work and study tips, which ended up gaining such a following it inspired Wang to create an independent literary journal, Glass Kite Anthology, and host summer writing workshops for high school students hoping to improve their craft.
Though “You Had Me at Hello World” is Wang’s debut novel, she published a collection of short stories titled “Cranesong” in February 2019 with HalfMystic Press.
Wang wrote her novel as a sophomore and found out she received the six-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster a few weeks ago. As for the second book, Wang is unsure what it will be about at this point but knows it will likely be published in 2023.
“It still feels so surreal,” Wang said. “It’s definitely been a lifelong dream. When I was in elementary and middle school, I just wanted my books to be on bookshelves someday.”