Hello everyone! Happy Wednesday and Inauguration Day if you are in the US. Can’t Wait Wednesday is all about the books readers are excited to read.
Today, I am talking about debut novels coming out this year (as I promised in last week’s Can’t Wait Wednesday post). Hopefully some new books
The Push by Ashley Audrain (January)The Push by Ashley Audrain
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on January 5, 2021
A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.
Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.
But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.
Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.
Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.
The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.
While many are describing this book as a thriller I would describe what I’ve read of it as more of a compulsively readable literary novel but we shall see. No matter how you characterize it, Audrain’s debut deals with motherhood and madness, the choices we make and how that impacts our children.
From The Moon I Watched Her (January)From the Moon I Watched Her by Emily English Medley
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press on January 19, 2021
Named by BuzzFeed as one of Winter 2021's Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Books!
"This poignant story of loss and self-discovery shines by showing the human desires for truth, community, and love under a church’s oppressive control."--Publishers Weekly
Emily English Medley’s heartbreaking novel From the Moon I Watched Her is filled with secrets and lies both about family and God. --Foreword Reviews
It’s hot, Texas, and the year 1977. Jimmy Carter is in office.
The Walters are a good, churchgoing family who stand for holiness, purity, grace, and Christian love. Except when they don't.
Family patriarch and fanatic preacher, Victor Black, knows many things for sure, including the fact that abortion is murder and should be punishable by death--a position he defends live in a televised debate. Black’s youngest granddaughter, Stephanie Walters, sits in the front row wearing her frilly Sunday dress, listening carefully to every word.
But it doesn't take long for cracks to appear in the Walters upstanding family facade. Stephanie's mother, Lily, begins telling unsettling stories about having a baby who died, and her story keeps changing. It’s clear Lily has a secret--one that righteous Victor Black would kill her for if he knew. This family secret burns more than the lies . . .
From the Moon I WatchedHer is a coming-of-age tale about the skeletons that lurk under church pews and the little girl who goes looking for and finds them. Amid the dark and quirky terrain of camp revivals, burning crosses, and public shunnings, one child from the Southern Churches of Christ cries out.
I could not possibly make a list without including at least one novel about a cult or high pressure religion. The reviews describe this one as super dark and disturbing and I am here for it. I am also intrigued by the progression of viewpoint as the main character grows up.
Dark Horse by Susan Mihalic (February)Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on February 16, 2021
“This is a powerhouse.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.
I know I have been raving about this one. I read the first chapter a few weeks ago and cannot stop thinking about it. This is dark literary fiction in the vein of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood or My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Rowan is a professional equestrian on track to compete in the Olympics but it’s clear from the beginning that Rowan and her father harbor dark, terrible secrets. This is not a light read, but those looking for a gritty, provocative coming of age story will definitely want to pick it up.
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec (February)The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Published by Ace Books on February 9, 2021
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda's story begins where most witches' tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin's all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she's foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.
These a reimagining of norse mythology about Loki and the witch Angrboda. I am excited about this one because it draws on Norse mythology, which is rather uncommon. Also, can we talk about that cover! I am super intrigued by the author’s exploration of family and identity in the context of myth and lore.
Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter (March)Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter
Published by Dutton Books on March 16, 2021
From debut novelist Laura Maylene Walter, a bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world very similar to our own--except that the markings on women's bodies reveal the future
Perfect for fans of Leni Zumas's Red Clocks and Naomi Alderman's The Power, Body of Stars is a unique and timely exploration of girlhood, womanhood, and toxic masculinity. A piercing indictment of rape culture, it is an inventive and urgent read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice--and what happens when they fight back.
Celeste Morton has eagerly awaited her passage to adulthood. Like every girl, she was born with a set of childhood markings--the freckles, moles, and birthmarks on her body that foretell her future and that of those around her--and with puberty will come a new set of predictions that will solidify her fate. The possibilities are tantalizing enough to outweigh the worry that the future she dreams of won't be the one she's fated to have and the fear of her "changeling period" the time when women are nearly irresistible to men and the risk of abduction is rife.
Celeste's beloved brother, Miles, is equally anticipating her transition to adulthood. As a skilled interpreter of the future, a field that typically excludes men, Miles considers Celeste his practice ground--and the only clue to what his own future will bring. But when Celeste changes, she learns a devastating secret about Miles's fate: a secret that could destroy her family, a secret she will do anything to keep. Yet Celeste isn't the only one keeping secrets, and when the lies of brother and sister collide, it leads to a tragedy that will irrevocably change Celeste's fate, set her on a path to fight against the inherent misogyny of fortune-telling, and urge her to create a future that is truly her own.
In this near future dystopian novel, women’s futures are determined by the birth marks on their bodies. As things normally do in dystopian novels, things go horribly wrong for our protagonist in this world where women have their dates dictated by men. What initially drew me to this title was it’s comparison to Lenny Zumas’s Red Clocks, which I absolutely adored.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (April)Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Published by Flatiron Books on May 4, 2021
A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur - Minos's greatest shame and Ariadne's brother - demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods - drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne's decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover's ambition?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
i am always looking for Retellings of Classics epics. I studied Classics in Graduate school and remember reading story of Ariadne. This retelling promises a story of love, family and likely tragedy against the blue waters of the ancient Mediterranean world.
Hurricanw Summer by Asha Bromfield (May)Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield
Published by Wednesday Books on May 4, 2021
Sometimes the storm is inside of you...
The powerful and emotional debut novel from Riverdale and Locke and Key actress Asha Bromfield that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
This own voices debut is set in Jamaica over the course of a single summer when Tilla travels to spend it with her father. As I mentioned above, I adore gritty coming of age stories with dark secrets and this rings all my wheelhouse bells. Plus, I’m super curious about the setting of the novel against a hurricane which hits the island while Tila is there.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (June)Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
on June 1, 2021
Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.
When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.
Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.
As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?
With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.
This one has been on my radar since the 6-figure deal was struck. I even encouraged the collection development team at my library to order it. With that said, this book has so many things to love: a boarding school full of ruthless students, biting social social commentary, and a pulse pounding mystery. Not to mention it’s comparisons to Get Out. I will read anything compared to Get Out.
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury (June)Blood Like Magic (Blood Like Magic, #1) by Liselle Sambury
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on June 15, 2021
A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.
After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.
Blood, romance and black girl magic, yes please! This is a dark urban fantasy whose custom dictates that every woman coming of age must fulfill her Calling. When determined young Voya fails her first test she is given a second one- sacrifice the man she loves. The problem: she doesn’t know him yet. It sounds so interesting, featuring an enemies to lovers romance.
God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney (June)God Spare the Girls: A Novel by Kelsey McKinney
Published by William Morrow on June 22, 2021
A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception.
Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daughters patiently uphold what it means to live righteously. Made famous by a viral sermon on purity co-written with his eldest daughter, Abigail, Luke is the prototype of a modern preacher: tall, handsome, a spellbinding speaker. But his youngest daughter Caroline has started to notice the cracks in their comfortable life. She is certain that her perfect, pristine sister is about to marry the wrong man—and Caroline has slid into sin with a boy she’s known her entire life, wondering why God would care so much about her virginity anyway.
When it comes to light, six weeks before Abigail’s wedding, that Luke has been having an affair with another woman, the entire Nolan family falls into a tailspin. Caroline seizes the opportunity to be alone with her sister. The two girls flee to the ranch they inherited from their maternal grandmother, far removed from the embarrassing drama of their parents and the prying eyes of the community. But with the date of Abigail’s wedding fast approaching, the sisters will have to make a hard decision about which familial bonds are worth protecting.
An intimate coming-of-age story and a modern woman’s read, God Spare the Girls lays bare the rabid love of sisterhood and asks what we owe our communities, our families, and ourselves.
Here’s another novel about about a high pressure religion, in this case, the novel follows two sisters trying to work through their adolescence as they navigate their own identities, young love, and the strict rules placed upon them. I absolutely adored Godshot from last year and this one seems to have similar themes.
What About You?
What debut novels are you excited to read this year? What do you think of my picks? Let me know in the comments!