I don’t know what it is about late summer and early fall this year, but they sure are bringing out the debut novels. Like last month, there are many new faces making their appearance on YA shelves. I’ve arranged the titles by genre and included read-alikes where possible, and all descriptions come from WorldCat. Remember, if you read something by a debut author — that is an author who has never published a book before in any genre or for any age group — take the time to suggest it to YALSA’s William C. Morris committee.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Origin by Jessica Khoury (Razorbill/Penguin, 9781595145956)
Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home — and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life. Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin — a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan, 9780374373665)
In alternating chapters, tells of the mermaid Syrenka’s love for Ezra in 1872 that leads to a series of horrific murders, and present-day Hester’s encounter with a ghost that reveals her connection to the murders and to Syrenka. Technically, Fama is not a debut author, though this is her first YA novel.
Nerve by Jeanne Ryan (Dial/Penguin, 9780803738324)
As a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, high-schooler Vee is unhappy to be watched constantly but finds it exhilarating to be paired with handsome Ian taking ever riskier dares — until the stakes become too high. Looks like a book that’ll have good appeal to gaming fans!
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang (HarperCollins, 9780062114877)
Fifteen-year-old Eva cannot speak, cannot move, and should not, according to the laws of her world, even exist. She is a recessive soul, the one fated to fade away. Except she didn’t. Now Eva can only watch as her sister soul lives for them both — until two other hybrids have a shocking idea. This is the first in a trilogy.
Anything But Ordinary by Lara Avery (Hyperion/Disney, 9781423163862)
A slight error left Olympic diving-hopeful Bryce Graham in a five-year coma and now, at at twenty-two, she must adjust to a world that went on without her and to visions that may or may not be real.
Personal Effects by EM Kokie (Candlewick, 9780763655273)
Matt has been sleepwalking through life while seeking answers about his brother T.J.’s death in Iraq, but after discovering that he may not have known his brother as well as he thought he did, Matt is able to stand up to his father, honor T.J.’s memory, and take charge of his own life. Kokie’s debut will appeal to fans of Trish Doller’s 2012 debut Something Like Normal and Dana Reinhardt’s Things a Brother Knows, among other post-military service YA novels.
Butter by Erin Jade Lange (Bloomsbury, 9781599907802)
Unable to control his binge eating, a morbidly obese teenager nicknamed Butter decides to make live webcast of his last meal as he attempts to eat himself to death. This book should appeal to readers who want stories about people dealing with body image issues realistically (and painfully), as well as those who want stories about bullying.
I Swear by Lane Davis (Simon and Schuster, 9781442435063)
After Leslie Gatlin kills herself, her bullies reflect on how things got so far. This looks like it might make an interesting read-alike to Butter, even though they tackle slightly different issues surrounding bullying.
Mysteries and Thrillers
Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon (Flux, 9780738733364)
While a serial killer stalks his small Georgia town, sixteen-year-old Henry tries to find the truth about the terrible accident that robbed him of his mother and his memories, aided by his friend Justine but not by his distant father.
The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox (HarperCollins, 9780062020642)
When Charlotte is pushed in front of the F train, she wakes up as the newest member of the Dead Girls Detective Agency and learns that she must solve her own murder before she can pass to the Other Side. Fun fact: Cox is the deputy editor of Cosmopolitan UK.
Dead Cat Bounce by Nic Bennett (Razorbill/Penguin, 9781595144690)
When his banker father is blamed for the world’s greatest financial crisis, sixteen-year-old Jonah, a financial prodigy, races to uncover the truth and save the world.
Don’t forget — you have the opportunity to suggest your favorite 2012 debut novels to the William C. Morris committee for consideration. All of the information for how to do that is available on YALSA’s website.
— Kelly Jensen, currently reading Touching the Surface by Kim Sabatini, an October debut novel.