It’s hard to take a chance on a new author and concept, but the wealth of talent emerging in debut titles deserves further attention, as evidenced by awards like ALA’s William C Morris YA Debut Award. If you’re looking for a new book to escape into or one to sell to your teens, here’s a short list of the newcomers worth checking out.
If ever a book to hand to fans of Ellen Hopkins or Carol Lynch Williams, it’s Kimberly Marcus’s Exposed (Random House, 99780375866937). This story, told in verse, explores rape through the eyes of Liz, who is not the victim but happens to be close to both the accused and the accuser. Liz is a photographer, and it is through her behind-the-screen work that we come to see that the effects of rape are wide reaching. Marcus’s website is here.
March brings us Kim Harrington’s Clarity (Scholastic, 9780545230506): a story about Clare, a girl who can see things â€“ lots of things â€“ when she as much as touches something. So when a dead body appears, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to get involved and help solve the crime. But will her talents fail her when she needs them most? Clarity promises family drama, romance, and a whole lot of magic. You can read blogger reviews of the title here and here as well as visit Harrington’s website here.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel/Penguin, 9780399254123) brings us a historical fiction set during World War II. 15-year-old Lina â€“ a Lithuanian girl â€“ lives like any average teen until the night that Soviets tear her and her family from their home. Her father is sent to prison camp, and the rest of Lina’s family is sent by order of Stalin to upper Siberia to work in some of the cruelest and harshest conditions imaginable. Over the course of years and thousands of miles, Lina’s drawings might be what help her and her family maintain hope for being reunited. This title has gotten a good deal of pre-pub buzz, including blog reviews here and here and a pair of good teen review here. You can learn more about the book here.
Everyone has idolized another person â€“ wished they could be as smart, as pretty, as skilled as someone else. That’s the story at the core of Kirsten Hubbard’s Like Mandarin (Random House, 9780385739351). Fourteen-year-old Grace, a girl bored in her small Wyoming town, has her wild dreams dashed by her mother time and again. But when she is paired for a school assignment with Mandarin, the coolest 17-year-old around, Grace is convinced she’ll be able to tear out of her small town and move on to bigger and better things. But the truth is, Mandarin isn’t all she’s pretending she is and may be leading Grace down a dangerous road. In the blogging world, this title’s gotten attention here and here . You can connect with Kirsten herself on her website here.
Bettina Restrepo brings us Illegal (HarperCollins, 9780061953422), a story ripped from the headlines. Nora’s on the verge of her quincenera, but the gift she most wishes for is for her father to return to their home in Cedula, Mexico. Her father is in America, working toward giving his family a future. Something inside Nora tells her she needs to find him, and thus the story of Nora crossing the border and taking on the identity of those who are identity-less in America. Find out more about this story about immigration and promises on Restrepo’s website here.
And finally, buzz has been building over Lauren DeStefano’s debut Wither: The Chemical Garden Trilogy (Simon and Schuster, 9781442409057). This book, written in merely 26 days, is a literary dystopian set in a world where men die at 25 and women die at 20. Rhine — the main character — is ripped from her comfortable life by a wealthy man who forces her into marriage. While she has everything she can possibly imagine in her new home, it’s when she befriends a household servant that she realizes this world she lives in isn’t as cut-and-dry as she thought. Wither is the first in a trilogy and has garnered comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale. DeStefano’s book has been reviewed here and here . Her own website is here.
If you read a book by a debut author that you believe is great, you (yes, you!) can fill out a nomination form for YALSA’s William C. Morris Award here (and also read more about the guidelines there.)
– Kelly Jensen, who is currently reading Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler.