Looking for some fresh additions to your to-read pile for the spring season? Look no further than this list of eleven standout novels, all from debut novelists with unforgettable new voices. With white-knuckle thrillers, atmospheric horror novels, touching coming-of-age stories, and awe-inspiring science fiction, this list has something for everyone. Better still, none of these novels are just one thing. Bursting with originality and new perspectives, these titles are as genre-bending as they are captivating.
11 Sparkling Spring Debuts That’ll Revitalize Your TBR
In this propulsive and timely family drama, Isabelle is the only child of New York City’s most famous literary it couple: her father, a bestselling writer, and her mother, a society hostess. But on her thirty-fifth birthday, Isabelle’s wish to be a novelist has been stymied, her mother has died, and a shattering secret about her family has been revealed. Meanwhile, a story within a story follows a woman determined to take down a man who cheated his way to the top. But who are these characters meant to be? And who is the author?
The only child of an iconic American novelist discovers a shocking tangle of family secrets that upends everything she thought she knew about her parents, her gilded childhood, and her own stalled writing career in this brilliantly observed standout debut.
Growing up in the nineties in New York City as the only child of famous parents was both a blessing and a curse for Isabelle Manning. Her beautiful society hostess mother, Claire, and New York Times bestselling author father, Ward, were the city’s intellectual It couple. Ward’s glamorous obligations often took him away from Isabelle, but Claire made sure her childhood was always filled with magic and love.
Now an adult, all Isabelle wants is to be a successful writer like her father but after many false starts and the unexpected death of her mother, she faces her upcoming thirty-fifth birthday alone and on the verge of a breakdown. Her anxiety only skyrockets when she uncovers some shocking truths about her parents and begins wondering if everything she knew about her family was all based on an elaborate lie.
Wry, wise, and propulsive, A Likely Story is punctuated with fragments of a compulsively readable book-within-a-book about a woman determined to steal back the spotlight from a man who has cheated his way to the top. The characters seem eerily familiar but is the plot based on fact? And more importantly, who is the author?
In a near future ravaged by climate change, Rose agrees to spy on an architect running the mysterious Camp Zero in the far north of Canada, in exchange for help for her Korean immigrant mother. Once there, Rose meets another newcomer—a college professor named Grant who is running from his family’s dark secrets—and together the two discover that Camp Zero and its architect are not what they seem . . . nor is the group of women soldiers stationed nearby. CAMP ZERO is a bold and transportive feminist thriller.
In a near-future northern settlement, a handful of climate change survivors find their fates intertwined in this mesmerizing and transportive novel in the vein of Station Eleven and The Power.
In the far north of Canada sits Camp Zero, an American building project hiding many secrets.
Desperate to help her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother, Rose agrees to travel to Camp Zero and spy on its architect in exchange for housing. She arrives at the same time as another newcomer, a college professor named Grant who is determined to flee his wealthy family’s dark legacy. Gradually, they realize that there is more to the architect than previously thought, and a disturbing mystery lurks beneath the surface of the camp. At the same time, rumors abound of an elite group of women soldiers living and working at a nearby Cold War-era climate research station. What are they doing there? And who is leading them?
An electrifying page-turner where nothing is as it seems, Camp Zero cleverly explores how the intersection of gender, class, and migration will impact who and what will survive in a warming world.
In this razor-sharp and atmospheric closed-room mystery, perfect for fans of The Menu and Clue, six world-class bakers have come to famed baker Betsy Martin’s Vermont estate to compete in a baking competition. But while Betsy is known as “America’s Grandmother,” her in-person persona proves quite different from her on-screen performances. And when small attempts at sabotage escalate to murder, no one can be trusted in this delightfully dark puzzle box of a novel.
“This delicious combination of Clue and The Great British Bakeoff kept me turning the pages all night!” —Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Only Murders in the Building meets The Maid in this darkly beguiling locked-room mystery where someone turns up dead on the set of TV’s hottest baking competition—perfect for fans of Nita Prose, Richard Osman, and Anthony Horowitz.
Every summer for the past ten years, six awe-struck bakers have descended on the grounds of Grafton, the leafy and imposing Vermont estate that is not only the filming site for “Bake Week” but also the childhood home of the show’s famous host, celebrated baker Betsy Martin.
The author of numerous bestselling cookbooks and hailed as “America’s Grandmother,” Betsy Martin isn’t as warm off-screen as on, though no one needs to know that but her. She has always demanded perfection, and gotten it with a smile, but this year something is off. As the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.
A sharp and suspenseful thriller for mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon is a brilliant puzzle filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you reading late into the night until you turn the very last page of this incredible debut.
In 1971, Dr. Evelyn Taylor joins the Jane Network, an underground abortion network in Toronto, determined to give women a choice over their bodies and their futures, despite the constant threat of arrest. Years later, pregnant twenty-year-old Nancy turns to the Jane Network for help and then joins the network herself, despite harboring a shattering secret from her past. Then, in 2017, Angela discovers a shocking confession in a stack of old mail and sets out to bring the truth to light, once and for all.
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
This “powerful debut” (Hello! Canada) for fans of Kristin Hannah and Jennifer Chiaverini about three women whose lives are bound together by a long-lost letter, a mother’s love, and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose—inspired by true stories.
2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane.
1971: As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite harrowing police raids and the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had.
1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates “Jane” and finds a place of her own alongside Dr. Taylor within the network’s ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.
Looking for Jane is “a searing, important, beautifully written novel about the choices we all make and where they lead us—as well as a wise and timely reminder of the difficult road women had to walk not so long ago” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
When Cara meets and falls in love with funny and charming Brendan, she believes he is part of an experimental unit for the U.S. Special Forces. How else can she explain the secret she’s seen with her own eyes: he can breathe underwater. But after giving birth to their son Micah, Brendan has mood swings that make her question everything. One day, Brendan disappears, taking Micah with him. Years later, now married to a different man, Cara can’t stop believing that her son is out there somewhere . . . along with the truth about her first love.
“Moving and immersive...truly compelling.” —Marjan Kamali, nationally bestselling author of The Stationery Shop
What happens when the man you love most in the world—who may be lying about everything—unexpectedly disappears and takes your small child with him? Emma Fedor’s riveting and powerful debut explores the fierceness of first love and how far one woman will go to learn the painful truth about her family.
When Cara and Brendan first meet, she’s fresh out of college, recovering from the recent death of her mother, and spending time on Martha’s Vineyard while trying to figure out her next steps. She’s swept away by Brendan’s humor and charm, and intoxicated by his thrilling, dangerous secret: he can breathe underwater. Able to stay beneath the waves for longer than should be possible, Brendan reveals that he is part of a secret experimental unit of the US Special Forces. And Cara, struck by the power of his conviction, by his unstoppable charisma, and by the evidence before her, believes him.
Their summer romance turns serious. Then Cara gets pregnant. When their son, Micah, is born, she’s sure their happy ending is underway. Still, she’s thrown by Brendan’s dramatic moods, his unexplained disappearances, and the weight of his secrets. Cara is determined to stay strong for her young family, to heal Brendan’s psychic wounds, to keep him safe. Until he and baby Micah vanish, leaving her desolate and alone and questioning everything she once thought was true.
Five years later, Cara is still struggling to move forward, married to another man and trying to rebuild her life, when a local fisherman announces he’s spotted two people—one of them a small child—treading water in Nantucket Sound, far from any vessels and miles from shore. The news rekindles Cara’s never-abandoned hope that her little boy may still be alive. As she fights to untangle delusion from reality, and revisits a past she’s worked hard to reconcile, Cara is determined to learn the truth about her lost love and finally find her son.
Alex’s dream of becoming a famous author has never gotten off the ground, which is why she’s shocked and thrilled to receive an invitation to join a monthlong writing retreat at the isolated estate of horror author Roza Vallo. Once there, though, Alex encounters both her ex–best friend turned rival, Wren, and a bizarre challenge from Roza: whoever writes the best novel while at the retreat will get a seven-figure book deal. But as Alex is trying to focus on her writing, Wren is becoming increasingly vindictive, Roza increasingly odd, and the retreat’s atmosphere increasingly haunted . . .
The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.
Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.
But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.
A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.
1852, England. Margaret Lennox, finding herself widowed at a young age, accepts a governess position at an isolated country estate. Once there, Margaret cannot shake the feeling that something lurks in the shadows of the large house. Meanwhile, the shocking rumors around town of the estate’s widowed mistress have Margaret on edge. To cope with her loneliness, she begins a taboo affair with the gardener, only to realize that she won’t be able to escape her past, or the secrets that haunt Hartwood Hall, quite so easily in this shiver-inducing gothic mystery.
In this genre-bending debut that melds noir detective stories, alternate history science fiction, and literary dark comedies, the U.S. finds itself on the decline after losing to Argentina in the Falklands War. The secret to Argentina’s success? A series of weaponized chemical pigments that can produce emotions on contact. Psychopigment Enforcement Agent Kay Curtida tracks their trade movements in the black market outside the ruins of San Francisco, until the tip of a lifetime sends her on a labyrinthine journey through conspiracies, her family history, and her own emotions.
A beguiling blend of noir detective story and science fiction perfect for fans of Michael Chabon and Emily St. John Mandel, this unputdownable debut imagines a world where emotions have been weaponized, and a small-town law enforcement agent uncovers a conspiracy to take down what’s left of American democracy.
In an alternate 2009, the United States has been a second-rate power for a quarter of a century, ever since Argentina’s victory in the Falkland’s War thanks to their development of “psychopigments.” Created as weapons, these colorful chemicals can produce almost any human emotion upon contact, and they have been embraced in the US as both pharmaceutical cure-alls and popular recreational drugs. Black market traders illegally sell everything from Blackberry Purple (which causes terror) to Sunshine Yellow (which delivers happiness).
Psychopigment Enforcement Agent Kay Curtida works a beat in Daly City, just outside the ruins of San Francisco, chasing down smalltime crooks. But when an old friend shows up with a tantalizing lead on a career-making case, Curtida’s humdrum existence suddenly gets a boost. Little does she know that this case will send her down a tangled path of conspiracy and lead to an overdue reckoning with her family and with the truth of her own emotions.
Told in the voice of a funny, brooding, Latinx Sam Spade, The Shamshine Blind is “a rip-roaring beautifully crafted mash-up of cop noir, sci-fi, and alt-history that left me dazzled by its prescience and literary zing” (Leah Hampton, author of F*ckface).
In this powerful debut, two men must decide what is worth risking when advocating for a better world. In 1894, John and Henry write a controversial book arguing that homosexuality is not a crime but something harmless and natural. The topic hits close to home: while both are married, John has a male lover and Henry’s wife has a female partner. But when Oscar Wilde is arrested on the eve of the book’s publication, John and Henry must decide if they publish what they know is right or keep their book from print to protect their loved ones.
A brilliant and captivating debut, in the tradition of Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín, about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.
In this powerful, visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world, two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime—risking their old lives in the process.
In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call “inversion,” or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.
Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?
A richly detailed, insightful, and dramatic debut novel, The New Life is an unforgettable portrait of two men, a city, and a generation discovering the nature and limits of personal freedom as the 20th century comes into view.
Eager to escape her past, Clare moves to Edinburgh, Scotland, and buries herself in her studies at university. When she meets the charismatic and rich Tabitha—along with Tabitha’s attractive and clever group of friends—Clare knows they are part of the life she wants to build. But soon, Clare’s relationship with Tabitha deepens to obsession. When Tabitha reveals a dangerous project she wants Clare’s help with, Clare realizes the full extent of what she and her friends might be capable of in this pulse-pounding suspense novel about ambition and toxic female friendships.
To his friends, Julian Strickland is the coolest guy around: a drummer and seemingly the only Black man in Portland. But Julian knows himself to be a sheltered Christian homeschooled kid. When he begins a tentative relationship with Ida, a talented Black painter, he starts to believe he’s truly found his place. But then things take a turn for the worst: Ida won’t respond to his texts, his best friend betrays him, his house burns down, and his band seems to be on the brink of collapse. THE WEIGHT is a poignant coming-of-age story about race, faith, and friendship.
A powerful coming-of-age novel about a twenty-something Black musician living in predominantly white Portland, Oregon, playing in a rock band on the verge of success while struggling with racism, romance, and the legacy of his strict religious upbringing.
Julian Strickland is seemingly the lone Black man in the hipster dreamland of Portland, Oregon. To his friends, he’s the coolest member of the scene: the soulful drummer from Chicago in an indie rock band that’s just about to break through. But to himself, he’s a sheltered Christian homeschool kid who used to write book reports on Leviticus. A virgin until the night of his marriage, divorced at twenty-four, he’s still in disarray two years later—pretending to fit in, wondering if any of his relationships are real, estranged from his family, and struggling to reconcile his relationship with God.
Then he meets Ida Blair, a Black painter at the start of a promising career. They begin a tentative relationship, and Ida seems to offer Julian relief from his confusion. But suddenly she stops responding to his texts. Things only get worse when Julian’s best friend mysteriously turns on him, his house burns down, and the band considers breaking up on the eve of their most important show yet. It seems the only thing Julian has left—the only thing he’s ever had, really—is the weight he is carrying.
Jeff Boyd’s beguiling first novel is a piercing exploration of faith, racial identity, love, and friendship—woven of acid humor, disarming vulnerability, and unforgettable poignance.
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