2011 is another year seeing an explosion of fantastic young adult fiction. Some of YA’s best writers have had new books out (Sarah Dessen, Scott Westerfeld, and Simone Elkeles are only the tip of the iceberg), but there have also been some books that tend to fall under the radar, for many reasons.
As a blogger, I participate in The Story Siren’s Debut Author Challenge. This year, I challenged myself to read at least 18 totally new young adult authors who had books published this year. I’ve met my goal and hope that I can get a few more debut authors under my belt before the year is out. How often do you challenge yourself to read outside of your favorite authors? The more new authors we read, the more discoveries we can make about fun books to nominate (like for YALSA’s Readers’ Choice List), and it helps all of us to see what the big trends in publishing are. And more than anything, it’s fun to discover new authors, am I right?
This year, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering several new YA authors whose books were not only phenomenal reads, but need to be talked about more and read by more people. So with that, I bring you some of my favorite debut YA titles from 2011.
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. I cannot NOT mention this title. It’s a smaller YA book, clocking in at only 202 pages but wow, it packs a punch. A secret cross-country journey, analogies (but very teen-friendly analogies) to Of Mice and Men, and a male protagonist who has lost his best friend to an incurable disease. It sounds like a downer, and there are definitely enough reality bites moments but there is also growth and sarcastic humor and characters readers are going to identify with. So I ask you, have YOU read The Pull of Gravity?
Bunheads by Sophia Flack comes out on October 10, 2011, but definitely put it on your list of books to read. Not only is the cover incredibly eye-catching but it’s one of several new ballet-themed YA books this year. Sophia Flack danced with the New York City ballet from 2000-2009, so the book has a very authentic feel to it. It captures the intensity, hard work, and competition that professional ballerinas are facing. The protagonist is 19 so it’s also a good fit for some of your older teens who think YA do not have much to offer them anymore. Hannah is living on her own in NYC but it is a tough life.
Hourglass by Myra McEntire is a more paranormal/sci-fi story but it’s got ghosts, a love story, and a character who is anything but ordinary. MTV’s Hollywood Crush says it is â€œDoctor Who in a YA packageâ€ if that gives you any indication of the compelling nature of this story. Time is very interesting in Hourglass and I think it has easy appeal to many readers, across several genres.
Kim Harrington’s Clarity is another fun read. Clare Fern has special powers of her own. In fact, she is a member of her family’s psychic business. It’s not an ordinary upbringing and Clare just wants to be ordinary. There is romance but it’s not the major point of the story. Instead, Clare is a bit like an extraordinary Nancy Drew as she tries to solve a murder in town, a murder that her brother is the prime suspect for. Clare is sarcastic and funny and along with the coastal setting which shines for those longing for a taste of summer any time of the year, this book is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
You may have heard of Moira Young’s Blood Red Road. After all, it’s being touted as the next Hunger Games. This book does have appeal to the Hunger Games readership. It features a kickass heroine who is on the search for her kidnapped brother. There is violence, there is fighting (literally, Saba has to fight people else she will have to run through the gauntlet and be killed), a journey, and some very interesting characters along the way. I think the cover is stark enough too where it doesn’t scream â€œgirlâ€ and potentially alienate readers who, for whatever reason, don’t want to read â€œgirlâ€ book (though as we know, there are no such things as girl OR boy books).
I will say, despite the 18 debuts I’ve read, I need to find a few more titles to suggest to my male friends and readers. So if you know of any great debuts from 2011 that will appeal to the guys, please share in the comments! And I definitely want to know, what have been some of YOUR favorite YA debuts for 2011?
— Sarah Wethern, currently reading Notes from an Accidental Band Geek by Erin Dionne.
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