The air is getting cooler and the days are getting shorter, making it the perfect time to wind down with a debut novel. October has a host of titles penned by new writers across every imaginable genre. Remember: if you’ve read a debut novel this year — defined as the first book written by an author (not just their first young adult book) — then suggest it to the William C. Morris committee.
I’ve divided these books by genre and organized them loosely into interesting thematic pairings where possible. Likewise, I’ve included read-alikes for some of the titles. All descriptions are from WorldCat.
Skinny by Donna Cooner (Scholastic, 9780545427630)
After undergoing gastric-bypass surgery, a self-loathing, obese teenaged girl loses weight and makes the brave decision to start participating in high school life, including pursuing her dream of becoming a singer and finding love.
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton (Little Brown, 9780316198684)
The stress of hiding a horrific incident that she can neither remember nor completely forget leads sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy to become alienated from her friends, obsess about weight loss, and draw close to Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston. This book will probably appeal to those readers who have enjoyed Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak or Hannah Harrington’s Speechless.
Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (Bloomsbury, 9780802728401)
Superstitious before being diagnosed with leukemia, high school senior Mia becomes irrationally dependent on horoscopes, good luck charms, and the like when her life shifts from cheerleading and parties to chemotherapy and platelets, while her parents obsess and lifelong friend Gyver worries. Schmidt’s book will appeal to readers who have enjoyed Jenny Han’s books or Sarah Dessen’s, especially when it comes to the romantic elements.
Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos (Simon & Schuster, 9781442440531)
Accompanied by her brother’s friend, Tyler, sixteen-year-old Rachel ventures through San Diego and nearby areas seeking her brother, eighteen-year-old Micah, a methamphetamine addict who ran away from home.
Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson (Henry Holt/Macmillan, 9780805093919)
When fifteen-year-old Rick’s mother finally leaves for good, Ricki’s absentee father steps in, taking Ricki with him as he chases bail “skips” across the country, but their fledgling relationship is tested as they pursue attractive, manipulative, seventeen-year-old Ian Burnham.
Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kate Burak (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan, 9781596437364)
A new girl in Amherst, Massachusetts, comes to terms with her mother’s suicide and her best friend’s disappearance with the help of Emily Dickinson’s poetry — and her dress.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (Balzar+Bray/Harper, 9780062094193)
When a teen boy loses the love of his life in a car accident, he’ll do anything to get her back — even travel to another universe.
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (Disney Hyperion, 9781423159568)
In 1995 Evanston, Illinois, sixteen-year-old Anna’s perfectly normal life is turned upside-down when she meets Bennett, whose ability to travel through space and time creates complications for them both.
Flutter by Gina Linko (Random House, 9780375869969)
Although doctors want to treat 17-year-old Emery Land for the seizures that define her life, she runs away from the hospital in the hopes of uncovering the secret behind her “loops” — the moments during her seizures when she travels to different places and moments in time.
Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini (Simon & Schuster, 9781442440029)
In the afterlife for the fourth time, seventeen-year-old Elliot knows she has one last chance, but before she can begin her fourth life, she must delve into her past, earn the forgiveness of her best friend, reconnect with her soul mate, and set things right for the future.
Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ronald Bass (Razorbill/Penguin, 9781595145192)
What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever? Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn’t be more different — except for one thing: They share a secret that they can’t tell a soul. At night, they dream that they’re each other. The deeper they’re pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever. Bass is a screenwriter, and you may be familiar with his work on My Best Friend’s Wedding or The Joy Luck Club.
Blind Spot by Laura Ellen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547763446)
Tricia Farni was last seen alive the night she fought with Roswell Hart — a night Roz can’t remember. Can Roz piece together the events of that night, despite the eye disease that robs her of most of her vision, in order to clear her name and find a murderer?
Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547729961)
Fifteen-year-old Celia Balaustine discovers girls at her school are having near fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays and wonders if she can find out the mystery before her own sixteenth birthday.
Velveteen by Daniel Marks (Delacorte/Random House, 9780385742245)
Velveteen was murdered at 16, but that’s not her real problem. Life in purgatory is hard work when your side job is haunting the serial killer who killed you.
Mystic City by Theo Lawrence (Delacorte/Random House, 9780385741606)
In a Manhattan where the streets are underwater and outcasts called mystics have paranormal powers, Aria Rose is engaged to Thomas Foster and the powerful Rose and Foster families — long time enemies — are uniting politically; the only trouble is that Aria can not remember ever meeting Thomas, much less falling in love with him.
Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson (HarperTeen, 9780062025722)
While visiting Norway, sixteen-year-old Ellie must step out of the shadow of her popular older brother, join forces with his infuriating best friend, and embrace her Valkyrie heritage to rescue teen boys kidnapped to join the undead army of the ancient god, Odin.
Dark Star by Bethany Frenette (Disney Hyperion, 9781423146650)
Audrey, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a superhero, must access powers she never knew she had to defend Minneapolis from terrifying demons that have emerged from Beneath.
Crewel by Gennifer Albin (FSG/Macmillan, 9780374316419)
Gifted with the unusual ability to embroider the very fabric of life, sixteen-year-old Adelice is summoned by Manipulation Services to become a Spinster, a move that will separate her from her beloved family and home forever. This is the first in a series.
Historical Fiction & Mystery
Venom by Fiona Paul (Philomel/Penguin, 9780399257254)
In Renaissance Venice, orphaned Cassandra Caravello is one of the elite but feels trapped in the city of water until she stumbles upon a murdered woman and is drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, grave robbers, and secret societies, guided by Falco, a mysterious and alluring artist.
The Innocents by Lili Peloquin (Razorbill/Penguin, 9781595145826)
Nothing ever came between sisters Alice and Charlie. Friends didn’t. Boys couldn’t. Their family falling apart never would. Until they got to Serenity Point.
Fall to Pieces by Vahini Naidoo (Marshall Cavendish/9780761462170)
Knowing that two friends are lying and keeping secrets about the night another friend killed herself, seventeen-year-old Ella searches for the truth.
Did you catch all of that? It’s a huge month for debuts and there’s a huge variety to read through, too. And don’t forget — you can suggest your favorite titles to the Morris committee for consideration.
— Kelly Jensen, currently reading Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos