Impressive Debut Novels

Great novels by first-time authors you don’t want to miss!

The Tobacco Wives

Adele Myers

When teenage Maddie’s recently widowed mother suffers a mental breakdown, she is abruptly sent to live with her Aunt Etta, a renowned seamstress working for the wealthy wives of postwar Bright Leaf, North Carolina, where tobacco is king. With the annual gala rapidly approaching, Etta is happy to have Maddie’s significant sewing skills for the numerous gowns, hats, and accessories required for this see-and-be-seen event. But when Etta is hospitalized, the burden falls on Maddie’s slender shoulders to design and develop couture worthy of the finest Parisian salons. Added to the stress is her discovery of a whistle-blowing scientific dossier that exposes tobacco’s lethal health effects, some of which are already affecting people she is coming to love. In a town where she is the unknown stranger, Maddie must decide whom she can enlist to help unmask the cover-up that is keeping the townspeople and the world at large addicted to a deadly substance. Debut novelist Myers sets her activist novel in 1946, but the causes of workers’ and women’s rights are timeless.

Read More View in Catalog

Tripping Arcadia

Kit Mayquist

Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So, when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston's most elite families, she knows she must accept it--no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description. By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies... and trying not to fall for Jonathan's alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the family patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge, a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much, and who she's willing to sacrifice for payback.

Read More View in Catalog

How High We Go in the Dark

Sequoia Nagamatsu

Nagamatsu examines the way a pandemic changes the world in the decades and even centuries that follow in chapters told from the perspectives of various linked characters. The story opens when Dr. Cliff Miyashiro journeys to Siberia to finish the work that claimed the life of his daughter, a passionate environmentalist. When Cliff and his colleagues accidentally release an ancient virus contained in the remains of a prehistoric girl frozen in ice, the world christens it the Arctic Plague. As the pandemic spreads across the earth, society finds ways to grieve and honor the dying and dead, including erecting an amusement park specifically for terminally ill children, creating robotic dogs that capture the voices and personalities of lost loved ones, and hotels where families can stay to celebrate the lives of those they've lost. The tragedy causes humanity to look to the stars for salvation, as Cliff's wife, Miki, sets off with their granddaughter and a contingent of pioneers hoping to establish a colony on a habitable planet. Both epic and deeply intimate, Nagamatsu's debut novel is science fiction at its finest, rendered in gorgeous, evocative prose and offering hope in the face of tragedy through human connection.

Read More View in Catalog

Sisters in Arms

Kaia Alderson

Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve. As these courageous women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy-everyone is determined to see this experiment fail. For two northern women, learning to navigate their way through the segregated army may be tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza know that there is no room for error; they must be more perfect than everyone else. When they finally make it overseas, to England and then France, Grace and Eliza will at last be able to do their parts for the country they love, whatever the risk to themselves. Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion (the Six Triple Eight).

Read More View in Catalog

Black Buck

Mateo Askaripour

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother's home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC's hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor. After enduring a "hell week" of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as "Buck," a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he's hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America's sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game. Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America's workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

Read More View in Catalog

Firekeeper’s Daughter

Angeline Boulley

Reeling after the death of her uncle, Daunis is trying to adjust to her new normal, a challenge at the best of times in her gossip-prone town, especially when her scandalous origins leave her caught between two worlds: Ojibwe on her father’s side, and French, dating back to fur traders, on the side of her mother. When she witnesses a murder at the hands of someone who is addicted to meth and from a prominent family of her tribe, she has a choice: let the cycle of pain continue or protect her community. This debut novel is gripping from the start, letting the reader know that they’re in for wild ride. Boulley, herself an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, writes from a place of love for her community. An incredible thriller, not to be missed.

Read More View in Catalog

The Prophets

Robert Jones, Jr.

"A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence."

View in Catalog

Gold Diggers

Sanjena Sathian

Flouting expectations, second-generation Indian American teenager Neil Narayan prefers hanging out to striving mightily for success. Soon he's hanging out with Anita Dayal, helping her use stolen jewelry to create an alchemical potion drawing on the ambitions of the jewelry's original owner. Author Sathian "lays waste to American stereotypes in a magic realist-touched debut."

Read More View in Catalog

Beasts of a Little Land

Juhea Kim

An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement, following the intertwined fates of a young girl sold to a courtesan school and the penniless son of a hunter.

View in Catalog

The Reading List

Sara Nisha Adams

A BEST OF SUMMER READ ACCORDING TO NEWSWEEK, PARADE MAGAZINE, NBC NEWS, LITHUB, AND POPSUGAR! "The most heartfelt read of the summer...a surprising delight of a novel."--Shondaland An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb. Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries. Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home. When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again.

Read More View in Catalog

What can we help you find?