Did you know you have until the end of November to get your field suggestions to YALSA’s Morris Award Committee for your title to be considered? If you haven’t yet suggested a favorite debut read this year, get on it.
November brings a far shorter list of debut novels than the previous few months have, but there is a nice array of genres represented. All descriptions come from WorldCat.
Rootless by Chris Howard (Scholastic, 9780545387897)
In a world devastated by war and disease, a young tree builder searches for the last trees on earth.
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.
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.
There must be something about the end of summer — this month, there are a huge number of debut novels coming to a bookshelf near you. Don’t forget that if you read something written by a previously unpublished author, you can take the time to suggest it to the William C. Morris Award committee. Because there are so many titles to hit this month, I’m switching up my style a bit from prior debut posts. Rather than a block of text to accompany a few titles, I’m going to sort the books by genre and offer up the shorter WorldCat descriptions and relevant publisher information and read alikes (though interestingly, a number of these look like they could be great read alikes to one another and I’ve tried to group them accordingly).
Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer (Egmont, 9781606843147)
After surviving being possessed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Mia leaves her family in New York to stay with cousins in Milan, Italy, where she must study her family’s heritage of demon catching in order to stay alive.
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins, 9780062082312)
Fifteen-year-old Eva is the clone of a girl living far, far away on another continent–and when this ‘other’ dies, Eva must step in and take over her life.
Even though the year is now more than half over, there’s no slowing in the number of debut YA novels coming out. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to July for a while now because it means two of my favorite debuts of the year are finally out and available. There’s a really nice mix of genres this month, too — there is most definitely a little bit of something for everyone. Don’t forget that if you read a novel written by a first-time author and think it’s noteworthy, take a few minutes to suggest it to the Morris Awards committee.
Should you stay where you’re comfortable or should you move somewhere new and experience a life totally foreign from everything you’ve known? That’s the dilemma explored in Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone (Penguin/Dutton, 9780525423898). Becca’s ready to leave her small town behind, but she’s got a boyfriend. Except, on the night of her graduation, he mistreats her and now she’s not so sure what’s best for her future. That same night, the dead body of a girl shows up on the side of the road. No one knows who the girl is, what her history is, where she came from, or who could be cruel enough to kill her. Rosenfield’s debut alternates between Becca’s struggle to figure out what her next steps are and Amelia’s very same struggles — except, of course, for one of the girls, this is a beginning and for the other, it’s an ending. The writing is literary and eerily reminiscent of Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls, and it will have great appeal to those who love Sara Zarr’s deliberate storytelling.
Now that the year has reached its halfway point, have you taken a minute to think about those debut novels you’ve read this year that are standouts? If not, you should, and it takes only a couple of minutes to submit field suggestions to the William C Morris Committee for consideration.
June’s packed with debut novels that should suit every kind of reader. If you haven’t had a chance to check out a book by a new author, here are a few worth considering.
When 19-year-old Travis is on leave and back at home from his duty with the Marines, he has a lot to adjust to: parents who aren’t necessarily getting along as well as they should, a brother who stole his girlfriend, the loss of one of his best friends, and Harper, the girl who can’t quite forgive Travis for the way he ruined her reputation. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (Bloomsbury, 9781599908441) explores the effects of war and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through the eyes of an imperfect male character. Doller’s book doesn’t give readers a nicely colored image of a hero; instead, we get Travis, who has a lot to work through both in terms of what it means to be a service person, but also what it means to be “normal.” This book will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction, and it’ll have particular appeal for readers who like stories about war (including fans of Dana Reinhardt’s The Things a Brother Knows, a 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults title).
Get ready to bulk up your to-read lists this month, as May is packed with debut novels worth checking out. As always, if you read a novel by a debut author–defined as an author who has never published before, whether for young adults, adults, or children–and it is stand out, make sure you nominate it for consideration for this year’s William C. Morris Award.
Kathleen Peacock’s Hemlock (Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins, 9780062048653) is the book to hand off to readers who are looking for the next good paranormal book as well as those who like a mystery. Mac’s best friend Amy just died, and the circumstances around her death aren’t clear. The small town of Hemlock has been dealing with an outbreak of lupine syndrome, the werewolf disease, and it’s been assumed that Amy has fallen victim to the white werewolf. Now, Trackers–a group specializing in the eradication of the werewolves–is in town and determined to end the outbreak once and for all. Except it’s possible Amy’s death may be the result of something much more sinister than simply werewolves. Hemlock offers a nice dose of romance, too, but it’s not a tired love triangle with a girl figuring out which is the right boy for her. Instead it’s two boys struggling with their feelings for a girl. This is a refreshing take on paranormal stories and the mystery will keep readers guessing who is good and who isn’t.
For fans of realistic fiction, M. Molly Backes’s The Princesses of Iowa (Candlewick, 9780763653125) should have a lot of appeal. At the end of the last school year, a drunk driving incident created a rift between Paige and her two best friends. After a summer abroad as an au pair, Paige returns to school thinking things could get back to normal–except they’re anything but. Her friends are angry, and Paige finds herself alone and taking a class in creative writing that she doesn’t even want to take. But it’s this class and meeting people who are so different from her–who aren’t from privileged backgrounds–that cause her to reassess who she is and what she believes in. This is a book that teens who love writing will appreciate, and the setting in small town Iowa is a nice change of pace.
2012 is going strong with debut novels, and April doesn’t look like it’ll be a letdown, either. Don’t forget to take the time to suggest debut novels you’ve found particularly good this year for the William C. Morris Award consideration. Interestingly, this month seems to be filled with a lot of stories about defying death.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin, 9780547628349) is the first in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Ismae is 17, and she’s involved in a brutal arranged marriage. Lucky for her, she’s able to escape to St. Mortain convent–except this is not necessarily the kind of convent one expects. Sure, the sisters worship the gods, but Ismae learns she’s been blessed with a special talent from the god of Death. Now she has to make a choice: stay at the convent, train as an assassin, and become a handmaiden to Death or escape. When she chooses to become an assassin, she faces an even bigger hurdle in having to decide whether or not to kill someone who matters to her.
Moving from assassins to angels, Scott Speer’s Immortal City (Penguin/Razorbill, 9781595145062) follows hot Angel Jackson as he prepares to take on the duties as a Guardian. In this city, everyone wants to be watched over by an Angel because they carry with them good luck and protection. Maddie, though, doesn’t buy into the lore at all, and her skepticism is what leads Jackson to be interested in her. Maddie doesn’t know he’s a Guardian, and of course, when they fall in love, she’s shocked and surprised to learn the truth. But here’s where the twist is: when a serial killer is loose in the city, Jackson is powerless and Maddie might be the one who has to protect him. This looks like it’ll appeal to fans of paranormal books, as well as those who cannot get enough angel lore.
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.