We know, we know, you already have so many books you still need to read! Whether its that pile of gift books from the holidays or the virtual stack of library books you’ve got on hold, there always seems to be another recently recommended book that you’ve been meaning to get to. But hear us out: these ten debut novels cannot be missed. From high-concept satirical thrillers to emotionally resonant journeys of the heart, this list has something for everyone’s taste. And with storytelling this fresh and this unique, you may even find yourself falling for a book that isn’t typically your type. With all ten books by first-time novelists, these are titles that are bound to make a splash.
After suffering an unthinkable tragedy, Amy Ashton, who once dreamed of being an artist, has begun collecting beautiful objects. As her house becomes crammed with delicate details, she grows ever more convinced that surrounding herself with things instead of people will keep her safe. But when a family with two young boys moves in next door, Amy will have a hard time keeping her heart and her door closed for long. THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON is a big-hearted, gentle book to soothe the soul.
For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Evvie Drake Starts Over comes a funny and tender debut about a reclusive artist whose collection has gotten out of control—but whose unexpected friendship with a pair of new neighbors might be just what she needs to start over.
Amy Ashton once dreamed of becoming an artist—of creating beautiful objects. But now she simply collects them. Aquamarine bottles, bright yellow crockery, deep Tuscan red pots (and the odd slow-cooker) take up every available inch of space in her house. Having suffered a terrible tragedy—one she staunchly refuses to let herself think about, thank you very much—she’s decided that it’s easier to love things than people. Things are safe. Things will never leave you.
But when a new family moves in next door with two young boys, one of whom has a collection of his own, Amy’s carefully managed life starts to unravel, prompting her to question why she began to close herself off in the first place. As Amy embarks on a journey back into her past, she has to contend with nosy neighbors, a meddlesome government worker, the inept police, and a little boy whose love of bulldozers might just let Amy open up her heart—and her home—again.
Quirky and charming, big-hearted and moving, The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton proves that it’s never too late to let go of the things that don’t matter...and welcome the people who do.
Ev has a secret: she can feel the emotions people leave behind on particular objects. But having seen this ability ruin someone close to her before, Ev insists upon either destroying or selling the most feeling-heavy objects. Meanwhile, across town, Harriet can feel them too, and has made it her mission to collect the items Ev sells. When they finally meet, Harriet insists that together they can build a museum of objects that heal instead of harm. But as they plan for the future, the same darkness Ev saw in action before threatens to suffocate someone new.
Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper and The Keeper of Lost Things, an atmospheric and enchanting debut novel about two women haunted by buried secrets but bound by a shared gift and the power the past holds over our lives.
Ev has a mysterious ability, one that she feels is more a curse than a gift. She can feel the emotions people leave behind on objects and believes that most of them need to be handled extremely carefully, and—if at all possible—destroyed. The harmless ones she sells at Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market to scrape together a living, but even that fills her with trepidation. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Harriet hoards thousands of these treasures and is starting to make her neighbors sick as the overabundance of heightened emotions start seeping through her apartment walls.
When the two women meet, Harriet knows that Ev is the only person who can help her make something truly spectacular of her collection. A museum of memory that not only feels warm and inviting but can heal the emotional wounds many people unknowingly carry around. They only know of one other person like them, and they fear the dark effects these objects had on him. Together, they help each other to develop and control their gift, so that what happened to him never happens again. But unbeknownst to them, the same darkness is wrapping itself around another, dragging them down a path that already destroyed Ev’s family once, and threatens to annihilate what little she has left.
The Memory Collectors casts the everyday in a new light, speaking volumes to the hold that our past has over us—contained, at times, in seemingly innocuous objects—and uncovering a truth that both women have tried hard to bury with their pasts: not all magpies collect shiny things—sometimes they gather darkness.
Fifteen-year-old Roan’s life has been defined by her equestrianism for as long as she can remember. Her domineering coach (who also happens to be her father) has demanded obedience from her inside and outside the stables, and she can hardly remember a time when their relationship wasn’t abusive and inappropriate. But when Roan develops a relationship with a boy her own age, she begins to see how life can be more than what she’s known. Haunting and gripping, DARK HORSES is perfect for fans of V. C. Andrews’s FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.
A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.
In this thrilling and transformative story, one woman’s life comes into focus at the intersection of various crises in her life. Simone has spent the last year grappling with fear and grief. She’s been diagnosed with MS, she continuously awaits new test results, and she’s just broken up with the love of her life. Then, on a cold December morning, a shooting occurs at the university where she works. Simone finds a temporary safe space, but as she waits for the shots outside to stop, she revisits all the moments that have led her to this one.
In the severe and somber village of Ørken, Norway, Maeva watches with concern as her blue-skinned, web-toed daughter, Leidah, grows and develops a strange power. While Maeva has kept her own magical ancestry secret from her daughter and neighbors for years, she realizes that Leidah and the suspicious townsfolk may make maintaining this secret impossible. Maeva’s adoring husband, Pieter, is desperate to prove that their family can be accepted by all, but Maeva must soon make the tough decisions that she knows will keep their daughter safe.
An utterly gripping love story set in nineteenth-century Norway, about a woman rescued from the sea, the fisherman who marries her, their tiny and unusually gifted daughter, and the shapeshifter who follows their every move, perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Yangsze Choo, Eowyn Ivey, and Neil Gaiman.
The sky opens up... I hear them laugh.
They don’t feel the sadness in the air.
They don’t feel the danger coming, riding in on the wind.
In the hinterlands of old Norway, Leidah Pietersdatter is born blue-skinned, with webbed hands and feet. Upon every turn of season, her mother, Maeva, worries as her daughter’s peculiarities blossom—inside the root of the tiny child, a strange power is taking hold.
Maeva tries to hide the girl from the suspicious townsfolk of the austere village of Ørken, just as she conceals her own magical ancestry from her daughter. And Maeva’s adoring husband, Pieter, wants nothing more than for his new family to be accepted by all. But unlike Pieter, who is blinded by love, Maeva is aware that the villagers, who profess a rigid faith to the new God and claim to have abandoned the old ways, are watching for any sign of transgression—and are eager to pounce and punish.
Following both mother and daughter from the shadows and through time, an inquisitive shapeshifter waits for the Fates to spin their web, and for Maeva to finally reclaim who she once was. And as Maeva’s elusive past begins to beckon, she realizes that she must help her daughter navigate and control her own singular birthright if the child is to survive the human world.
But the protective love Pieter has for his family is threatening the secure life they have slowly built and increasingly becoming a tragic obstacle. Witnessing this, Maeva comes to a drastic conclusion: she must make Leidah promise to keep a secret from Pieter—a perilous one that may eventually free them all.
Sharp and funny, CHEAT DAY explores the restrictions and indulgences of monogamy. Kit and David, college sweethearts, have settled into married life in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. While David enjoys a jet-setting career, Kit feels sidelined in her job at her sister’s bakery. When Kit begins an affair with a carpenter who is installing shelves in the kitchen of the bakery, she simultaneously cracks down on her self-control through a fad diet called the Radiant Regimen. But as her affair deepens, she’ll have to push her diet to the utmost extreme to manage her guilt.
A smart and funny debut novel about the unexpected consequences of one woman’s attempt to exert control over her entire life by adhering to a strict wellness regimen.
“Liv Stratman writes with such clarity, intelligence, and zip the Brooklyn debut novel is reborn in Cheat Day.” —Lorrie Moore
Kit and David were college sweethearts. Now married and twelve years older, they live in Kit’s childhood home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. While David has a successful career, jetting off on work trips to exotic destinations, Kit is stuck in a loop. She keeps quitting her job managing her sister’s bakery to seek a more ambitious profession, but fear of failure always brings her right back to Sweet Cheeks. Kit finds a fraught solace in cycling through fad diets, which David, in his efforts to be supportive, follows along with her. Their latest program is the Radiant Regimen, an intense seventy-five-day cleanse, and Kit is optimistic about embarking on a new chapter of clean eating and self-control.
But hungry in more ways than one, she soon falls into a flirtation with a carpenter named Matt who is building new shelves for the bakery kitchen. Unable to resist their mutual attraction, Kit and Matt fall into a passionate affair. Kit suppresses the guilt of her betrayal by adhering more and more strictly to the Radiant Regimen, pushing the diet, and her infidelity, to greater extremes.
Told in precise, intimate detail, Cheat Day is a sharply comic novel that explores family, loyalty, monogamy versus monotony, deprivation versus indulgence, and the limitations of modern wellness.
In this biting satirical novel, Sasha Marcus, a once-successful wellness influencer, has fallen from grace. Banished from the internet by men’s rights protestors and trolls, Sasha turns to her best friend, struggling actor Dyson, for support. Dyson encourages her to renew her brand by becoming the face of his new business: a rehabilitation center for men that rids them of their toxic masculinity. But as Sasha delves into the horrors of this program, she realizes she may not know what Dyson’s true agenda is.
A “dazzling” (Bryan Washington, author of Lot) and brilliantly satirical debut novel for fans of Women Talking and Red Clocks about two best friends—a disgraced influencer and a struggling actor—who form The Atmosphere, a cult designed to reform problematic men.
Sasha Marcus was once the epitome of contemporary success: an internet sensation, social media darling, and a creator of a high profile wellness brand for women. But a confrontation with an abusive troll has taken a horrifying turn, and now she’s at rock bottom: canceled and doxxed online, fired from her waitress job and fortressed in her apartment while men’s rights protestors rage outside. All that once glittered now condemns.
Sasha confides in her oldest childhood friend, Dyson—a failed actor with a history of body issues—who hatches a plan for Sasha to restore her reputation by becoming the face of his new business venture, The Atmosphere: a rehabilitation community for men. Based in an abandoned summer camp and billed as a workshop for job training, it is actually a rigorous program designed to rid men of their toxic masculinity and heal them physically, emotionally, and socially. Sasha has little choice but to accept. But what horrors await her as the resident female leader of a crew of washed up, desperate men? And what exactly does Dyson want?
Explosive and wickedly funny, this “Fight Club for the millennial generation” (Mat Johnson, author of Pym) peers straight into the dark heart of wellness and woke-ness, self-mythology and self-awareness, by asking what happens when we become addicted to the performance of ourselves.
Fed up with being the only Black employee at her publishing house, editorial assistant Nella is excited when the company hires Hazel. But just as the two begin to bond, Hazel becomes a favorite of the higher-ups, while Nella is left more isolated and sidelined than ever. With notes appearing on Nella’s desk demanding her departure from the company and microaggressions transforming into something much more sinister, Nella slips into an obsession with finding out the truth of what is happening behind closed doors in this provocative thriller.
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel
Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Gail Durbin, devastated after a series of miscarriages, is determined to adopt, but her determination edges towards desperation after several adoptions fall through. Carli, a pregnant teenager from a working-class background, is eager to go to college and escape her hometown. While making the decision to give her child up for adoption was hard, Carli believes the Durbins are the right fit. Marla, Carli’s mother, has other plans. In this unexpectedly suspenseful novel, three mothers’ wills converge on a heartbreaking collision course.
A riveting debut novel about a couple whose dream of adopting a baby is shattered when the teenage mother reclaims her child.
What makes a family?
Gail and Jon Durbin moved to the Chicago suburbs to set up house as soon as Gail got pregnant. But then she miscarried—once, twice, three times. Determined to expand their family, the Durbins turn to adoption. When several adoptions fall through, Gail’s desire for a child overwhelms her.
Carli is a pregnant teenager from a blue-collar town nearby, with dreams of going to college and getting out of her mother’s home. When she makes the gut-wrenching decision to give her baby up for adoption, she chooses the Durbins. But Carli’s mother, Marla, has other plans for her grandbaby.
In Other People’s Children, three mothers make excruciating choices to protect their families and their dreams—choices that put them at decided odds against one another. You will root for each one of them and wonder just how far you’d go in the same situation. This riveting debut is a thoughtful exploration of love and family, and a heart-pounding page-turner you’ll find impossible to put down.
Isaiah and Samuel, two young enslaved men on a Deep South plantation, have found solace in each other while working in their enslaver’s barn. While their mutual love has given them each strength and hope, an older enslaved man has recently begun turning fellow slaves against their own in an attempt to gain favor. As Robert Jones, Jr.’s masterful storytelling dips in and out of the perspectives of both boys, their enslaver, and the many enslaved women who work to maintain a community, transcendent bonds will be tested by the weight of suffering.
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