2012 doesn’t look like it’s going to be a slow year for debut novels at all, and once again, March offers up a host of books written by first-time authors, spanning every genre. There’s a lot to get excited about, and if you do read something written by a debut author this month or this year, don’t forget to take the time and suggest it for the committee to consider for YALSA’s William C Morris Award.
Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters (Penguin/Putnam, 9780399254239) follows 14-year-old New York City girl Kelsey as she begins her freshman year in high school. She’s got dreams that are way bigger than her bank account and her closet, and while she sees starting high school as an opportunity to finally become the girl she’s always wanted to be, her plans are ruined time and time again. The book sounds like it’s a funny one and a good pick for younger teens, and the description says fans of Meg Cabot and Lauren Myracle will enjoy this read.
It seems like tackling the topic of cancer is a trend this year–see John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Megan Bostic’s Never Eighteen–and now, Jesse Andrews offers one up in his debut Me & Earl & The Dying Girl (Abrams/Amulet, 9781419701764). Greg’s a film maker. Well, he was a film maker until he decided he’s made his last film and now, he’s writing this book. He doesn’t want to, but he is. Greg’s self-deprecation is funny, but it’s ultimately his way of dealing with the fact his mom has made him befriend a girl named Rachel that he knew from church back in the day. The thing is, Rachel’s got cancer, and Greg’s mom believes that by making him befriend her, her days will be a little easier. While he’s reluctant to forge a relationship, he does, and the pay off is much different than he expects–which is why he’s writing the book and why he gave up film making in the first place. Andrews’s debut is funny, and while it tackles a heavy and tough topic, it’s never maudlin.
The cover alone for this one catches attention, doesn’t it? Gina Damico’s Croak (Houghton Mifflin/Graphia, 9780547608327) starts when Lex’s parents can no longer handle her bad behavior and they ship her off to live with her uncle. Uncle Mort lives on a remote farm, and her parents believe the hard life of farm work might help her get her priorities in order. Except there’s one problem: Uncle Mort’s really the grim reaper. And the town he lives in? It’s a haven for reapers. Lex isn’t going to learn how to farm now; she’s going to learn the business of soul reaping. The problem is that when Lex stumbles upon the victims of the reapings, she wants to seek justice for them. She doesn’t want to be a reaper herself. Or does she? Croak sounds creepy in all the right ways.
March is apparently the month of having a weapon on the cover of your debut novel, too, though it’s certainly fitting for Cole Gibsen’s Katana (Flux, 9780738730400). Described as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” meets “Kill Bill,” Gibsen’s debut follows Rileigh as she uncovers a big secret about herself after she successfully fends off a group of people who try to mug her. She learns from a martial arts instructor that she embodies the power, skills, and knowledge of a 500-year-old samurai warrior. Now that she knows, she’s being attacked by ninjas, and she has to learn how to wield not only her internal power, but also the power of the katana. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, except Rileigh’s not sure she wants this sort of responsibility. She just wants to live a normal life.
S. D. Crockett’s After the Snow (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends, 9780312641696) takes us into a very cold world–literally. Willo has only ever known winter, as he and his family live in a world where there are no working oceans, among other things. They live in the forest, away from the watchful eye of the government and other citizens, but one day, when Willo returns home, his family is completely gone. Now he has to not only fend for himself, but he has to travel to a city he’s always feared to go to while trying to survive and find his family. Sounds like a chilly twist in the dystopian field.
As usual, this is only a small sampling of the titles coming out this month. Other debuts include Aimee Agresti’s Illuminate (Harcourt, 9780547626147), another novel tackling the idea of buying and selling souls and the first in a trilogy; Elisa Ludwig’s Pretty Crooked (Harper/Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062066060), which is a modern-day Robin Hood high school caper story mixed with romance and fashion; Lissa Price’s Starters (Random House/Delacorte, 9780385742375), set in a future where teens rent their bodies to older people so they can be young again and things become complicated when the host doesn’t want to participate in the renter’s actions; Where it Began by Ann Redish Stampler (Simon and Schuster, 9781442423213), which begins with a girl waking up in a hospital bed with no recollection of how she got there and who discovers her status-climbing ways may have something to do with it; and Slide by Jill Hathaway (Harper/Balzer + Bray, 9780062077905), a story about Vee, a girl who can slide into and out of people’s minds … and that skill may end up being helpful in solving a mystery.
If you read one of these titles–or any other books written by a first-time novelist published this year–and you think it’s worth being considered for the Morris Award, you can nominate it right here.
— Kelly Jensen, who is currently reading Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (a June debut)