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5 debut novels on my list for January

I’m obsessed with debut novels.  As a hopeful, one-day debut novelist, reading the first novels of other writers leaves me with a pot full of emotions:

  • Amazement – that so many people can find the perfect words to put my feelings about the truisms and falsehoods of life down on paper.
  • Sadness – that many of these books have to come to an end.  Sometimes I want to jump with both feet so that I can eat up the words from the inside out.
  • Intimidation – Could I ever, in telling my own story in my own way, live up to the literature that some of these novelists have created.
  • Hope – If I can muster up some hard-core work ethic and finish up one of these suckers, maybe, just maybe, I could one day be a debut novelist, too.

With all of that said, I follow the release of debut novels carefully.  Here are the top five on my list to read in January.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney –

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way-the Themis way. So when Alex Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds-a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.
In this account of a teenage girl’s search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight.

Night Swim by Jessica Keener

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents’ lifestyle appears enviable – a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children – but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents’ arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when their mother dies in a car crash one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences. In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry

Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of design school in Manila. With dubious financing and visions of Fashion Week runways, he sets up shop in a Brooklyn toothpick factory, pursuing his goals with monkish devotion (distractions of a voluptuous undergrad not withstanding). But mere weeks after a high-end retail order promises to catapult his (B)oy label to the big time, there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic Boyet is brought to Gitmo, handed a Koran, and locked away indefinitely on suspicion of being linked to a terrorist plot. Now, from his 6′ x 8′ cell, Boy prepares for the trial of his life with this intimate confession, even as his belief in American justice begins to erode.

Cracked by K.M. Walton

In this gripping debut, a teen takes a bottle of pills and lands in the psych ward with the bully who drove him to attempt suicide.Victor hates his life. He’s relentlessly bullied at school and his parents constantly ridicule him at home.

Bull is angry. He’s sick of his grandfather’s drunken beatings. And he likes to take out his rage on Victor.

Determined to end it all, Victor takes a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills—only to be disappointed when he wakes up in the psych ward. And his roommate? None other than Bull, whose loaded-gun effort at self-defense has been labeled as a suicide attempt. Things go from bad to worse—until the boys discover they might just have something in common: a reason to live.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI,Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence—fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood—and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him.

Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London’s enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience—obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer.

Happy reading and happy writing to all of you!

What are you reading this month?  Any debut novels I should add to my list? 

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. As another aspiring writer, I think it’s amazing for writers of all kinds to follow and support one another in the pursuit of seeing dreams and visions finally make it to print. You’ve definitely inspired me to take more notice of other debut authors and their contributions to the literary community.

    January 13, 2012
    • Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. Let me know if you discover any hidden gems for my must-read list (debut novels or otherwise!) Happy reading and writing!

      January 16, 2012
  2. I’m with you, I love debut novels. There is often a freshness to them. And, like you, I will one day publish mine. There is always a first novel before a second and a third and a……

    I adored The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachael Simon. I reviewed it on my blog.

    January 13, 2012
  3. Hello and good luck reading all those novels. Currently I am reading “The Green Mile” by Stephen King — that’s for my handbag because it is light and I can take it wherever I’m going. My home reading is “The Prague Cemetery” by Eco Umberto. I’m enjoying the story but I have the hardback, classy book. Far from any debut novels I’m afraid but some of your chouces look pretty good — enjoy. 😉

    January 15, 2012

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