Debut Authors for Young Readers

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With the thousands of new fiction titles for young readers published each year, it can be difficult to keep track of new voices trying to break through. Young readers can only help you so much, as they are especially loyal to their favorite authors and series. In addition, children’s authors don’t receive the same level of media attention that authors of adult fiction do — and young readers rarely follow that sort of coverage anyway. Even for a collection development librarian, debut authors are not easy to spot. Unless you are diligently combing through every review, you might miss the little waving flag saying, “Read Me!”

How can you keep up? Thankfully, there are resources for identifying hot new titles in YA literature.

Independent booksellers highlight a handful of titles each year in their “Indies Introduce” lists:

Publishers Weekly publishes interviews twice a year with selected debut authors in their “Flying Starts” series: Look for this feature in December to recognize shining fall authors. While these are great resources, they nonetheless miss dozens of other debuts.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association, places such importance on encouraging new authors, it established the William C. Morris YA Debut Award to “honor a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.”

Following YA authors on Twitter can also give you an inside look at rising talents. Established YA writers will often tweet and retweet their support of YA writers who just landed their first publishing contracts. A website solely dedicated to debut YA and middle grade writers of the year can give you a heads-up on new books. This year’s batch was called “The Swanky Seventeens,” and there’s already a webpage for the 2018 crop of debut YA and middle grade writers, known collectively as “The Electric Eighteens.”

2017 has been an exciting year for new voices, with the We Need Diverse Books Campaign beginning to hit its stride and calls for more diverse voices making their way through the entire publishing process. You’ll see such authors included in our debut lists.

This year, I’ve compiled two lists: 2017 Debut Juvenile Fiction and 2017 Debut Young Adult Fiction. Shown below are some of the titles I’m most excited about this year.

    The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – The children of a large biracial family living in Harlem are thrown for a loop when their family’s landlord decides not to renew their lease. Crazy plots, a first crush, a talented bunny, and the entire neighborhood all play a role as the children try to save their home. Glaser has told a pitch-perfect story of modern life in a gentrifying neighborhood that feels entirely timeless. Ages 8-12.

    The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – Morrigan Crow is famously destined to die on her eleventh birthday and all of the bad luck in her town is blamed on her. In spite of her destiny, Morrigan is chosen to compete for a spot in the Wondrus Society in the fantastical city of Nevermoor. As her world expands, she is introduced to new creatures, technology, and magic beyond her wildest dreams, and she begins to dream of a new future for herself, as well. Full of inventive fantasy and a witty, adventurous heroine, this new fantasy series is sure to be a hit with young readers. Ages 8-12.

    Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge – If starting middle school isn’t hard enough, how about adding the angst of seventeen hairs sprouting on your lip and a new girl trying to steal your best friend? Biracial Karma decides to embrace her family’s Sikh religious belief in karma and turn things around in her own life, facing bullies and the popular crowd with mixed results. This humorous and heartwarming debut will be adored by young girls ready to face the indignities of puberty head-on. Ages 8-12.

    The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore – 12-year-old Lolly and his best friend Vega live in the projects and are starting to get hassled to join a gang, but Lolly is really into Legos and Vega plays his violin. Lolly starts visiting the community center after school where he meets an autistic girl named Rose who is also really into Legos; in his absence, Vega buys a gun. Lolly must learn to balance two intense and very different friendships while staying true to himself. The authentic adolescent voice and richly-drawn characters make this novel a stand-out. Ages 10-14.

    Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza – Princess Rhiannon is fleeing across space after an assassination attempt that she is sure her Regent is responsible for. Aly, a kick-butt reality TV star, is on the run after he is framed for her murder. Both teens are on a quest for answers in a futuristic world of battleships, androids, and fascinating DNA modifications. Though they never meet, it is clear their stories are intertwined. This action-packed sci-fi novel covers heavy issues of race, fame, guilt, and a score more all while boasting well-developed characters and fast pacing. Readers will be eager for the companion volume. Ages 12 and up.

    When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Dimple loves coding and hates her parents’ idea of setting her up in an arranged marriage. Imagine her delight when, at coding camp, a guy walks up and says, “Hi, my future wife.” Yes, the parents hoped to throw Dimple and Rishi together on Dimple’s own turf. Rishi has a different opinion about their shared culture and draws pretty awesome comics. This romantic comedy, set in the world of cons and geekdom, explores the deep issues around family loyalty, being the child of first generation immigrants, and following your own heart. Ages 12 and up.