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Debuts Buzzing at BEA

The last week of May was Book Expo America, which is held at the Javits Center in New York City. This is the annual buzz show for upcoming books, and this is where industry professionals, from booksellers to librarians, learn about the titles that will be making a splash in the fall and winter seasons (and you can read an exciting post by Erin Daly about her experiences at the Expo here at The Hub). One of the things I found most interesting in my week-long trip to the Big Apple was the wealth of debut young adult authors earning big buzz for their forthcoming titles, and I thought I’d put some of these titles on your radar.

Perhaps the biggest buzz book and one that was in high demand was Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (September 27, Simon and Schuster, 9781442421762). In this book, we’re thrown into the unclear world of Mara Dyer, who has just awoken in a hospital from an accident that killed her friends and left her unharmed. She doesn’t know how she got to the hospital or why she’s there, and she thinks there was more to the accident than what she’s been told. Moreover, she’s under the belief she’ll never be able to do normal things again, including falling in love. But, she may just be wrong about everything. This book has had little description given for it, as it’s one that the publishers said you have to read to understand. It sounds like a bit of a mystery, combined with a bit of magical realism, and as many other stories, this is the first in what promises to be a much sought-after series. Hodkin, who is a trained lawyer, said she was inspired to write the story during an interview she was conducting with a teen girl seeking legal council, and the story this girl had to tell sparked the idea behind Mara Dyer.

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (October, HarperTeen, 9780062027875) is not only Fallon’s first novel, but it’s also the first book to be published out of Inkpop, a creative writing community for teens hosted by Harper Collins. Something horrible has happened in Megan’s life, and it sets her on a course that’s been predetermined — she has no say in how things play out, and the world is beyond her control. She moves to Ireland and is drawn to small-town Kinsale, where she’s able to begin making friends and trying to put her life together as best she can. Little is she aware though that Adam, a boy to whom she is inexplicably drawn, will bring her into a whole new world — one where she actually belongs. This fantasy sounds like it will go either the urban fantasy route or the paranormal route, and it will likely delight fans of either genre. It is the first in a planned series.

Amy Garvey’s Cold Kiss (September, HarperTeen, 9780061996221) is a fantasy romance title that follows Wren in the aftermath of her boyfriend’s death. Wren summons powers she has within her to bring him back from the dead, but he is, of course, little more than a zombie. She can’t let anyone know about her powers nor about the boy she’s raised from the dead, so she keeps him a secret — or at least, she tries to keep him a secret. New boy in town, Gabriel, knows she’s got a secret and she, too, is drawn to Gabriel. But is she crazy enough about this new boy to give up on Danny? The pitch for this novel says it’s perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series and Kami Garcia/Margie Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures series. Like the other books, this, too, is the first in a series.

Continuing the theme present in some of the other buzz books of fantasy and mythology is Elizabeth Miles’s Fury (August, Simon and Schuster, 9781442422246). In this book, Emily’s got quite the cozy life in Maine — she’s even finally getting the attention of a guy who she has been chasing for quite a while. The problem is, of course, that the guy has a girlfriend, and that girlfriend happens to be her best friend. Chase, a guy in the same town, has a terrible secret, and keeping up the facade has become more and more challenging. The thing is, neither her nor Emily will control the events of their life from here on out: three mysterious women (the furies) will. This book, again the first in a series, explores the mythos and the power of the furies.

Amid the number of fantasy and paranormal books earning their buzz this year was one quieter contemporary title on the show floor: Sophie Fleck’s Bunheads (September, Little, Brown, 9780316126535). This stand alone novel follows the ultra competitive world of the Manhattan Ballet Company and Hannah, who is devoted to all things ballet. With the high stakes, cut throat competitions, the loss of any sort of social life, and the inability to do the things all teens do, like date, will Hannah survive in this world? At some point, she’ll have to make the choice of following ballet or diving into the world outside competitive dance. Fleck herself was a dancer, and this book promises to be one with huge appeal to dance fans (it sounds like it’d be a wonderful book to hand off to your teens who love shows like Glee or American Idol, as well as fans of Sara Bennett-Wealer’s recent debut Rival).

As I’ve been detailing in my monthly posts, this has been and continues to be a strong year from first-time novelists. Seeing debut novels receive so much buzz at Book Expo America means that we’ll continue to see creativity and diversity fill our shelves in the library and capture the myriad and diverse interests of the teen readers we serve. Don’t forget to keep your eye out for some of these titles as you hit the expo floor at ALA this weekend.

— Kelly, who is reading Jessi Kirby’s debut Moonglass, as well as Judy Blundell’s Strings Attached.

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Kelly Jensen

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  1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer sounds really similar to The Adoration of Jenna Fox, at least at first. But I like that kind of mysterious plot, so I’d still read it.

  2. Jessi Jessi

    I haven’t read the other titles, but Mara Dyer deserves the buzz. Hodkin is smart, funny as hell, and insanely talented!

  3. […] The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (one of the biggest buzz titles at this year’s Book Expo America, which I talked about here), Jocelyn Davies’s A Beautiful Dark (for paranormal fans), and Kiki Hamilton’s The […]

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