Is there anything more exciting than the promise of a crop of fantastic new writers that comes with a new debut class each year? You may already know the answer is a resounding “No,” but what you might not be aware of is that this year’s debuts are frighteningly fantastic. Ask anyone who gets their hands on YA books ahead of time, and I guarantee they’ll corroborate that the debut authors of 2015 are a serious master class across all genres. Of course, we could only list some of the best and most highly anticipated here, but be on the lookout for a lot more gushing in the near future; this is a group of authors and titles that are not to be missed.
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera
Aaron Soto is a teenage boy living in the Bronx, dating an awesome girl, grieving the recent loss of his father, and falling for a new guy in a world where one thing is different from our own: the existence of the Leteo procedure, which allows for memories to be erased, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Silvera’s debut is equal parts gut-punch and warm hug, not to mention sweet, funny, creative, and a really welcome entry to YA with regard to having characters coming from a lower socioeconomic background.
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An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
This is one I haven’t been privileged to read yet, but the combination of epic fantasy, a Rome-like world, an intense sibling relationship, and a blurb from Legend author Marie Lu that says it made her miss her connecting flight ticks boxes I didn’t even know I had. In fact, every review I’ve seen or heard of this book has me counting down the minutes until its release.
The Conspiracy of Us, by Maggie Hall
I used to get asked for recommendations for YA adventure novels, and I would draw a complete blank for any that weren’t also heavy on fantastical elements. Hall’s new trilogy is a seriously fun departure, centered around an international conspiracy and full of action, set in very real and very awesome locales like Paris and Istanbul, and featuring a realistic teen heroine in initially naive-but-spontaneous Avery West. Bonus points for a love triangle that works in a major way and will definitely have readers taking sides by the time book two hits next year.
Mosquitoland, by David Arnold
You know those books that, despite being realistic contemporary, just transport you into another world entirely? That’s exactly the experience of reading Arnold’s debut, about a quirky, intelligent, determined girl named Mim on a quest to reach her sick mother, and the traveling family she makes for herself along the way, as she copes with her own pain and mental struggles. This book makes me wish I were a school librarian, just so I could buy ten copies for my collection.
Damage Done, by Amanda Panitch
If you, like many others, have found yourself wondering “Where is the Gone Girl of YA?” you’ll find your answer here come July. The story of a girl living a new life following a tragic event in her past she can’t remember, Panitch’s debut is smart, twisted, and utterly unputdownable. I’d say more, but in the grand tradition of books like Dangerous Girls and We Were Liars, this is a book about which the less is said, the better.
Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
There’s just something about ballet-centric YA, and the way the characters often possess such passion and drive…and some delightful hidden darkness. This cowritten debut is one I haven’t yet read, but a book billed as Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars was born to jump to the top of my to-read list, especially when it comes with the promise of a diverse cast, multiple perspectives, and a New York City setting.
Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia
I haven’t seen a ton of buzz about this one yet, which makes me totally gleeful, because it’ll be that much more glorious when it blows your mind. In Alex and Miles, Zappia has created one of the most memorable couples I’ve read in YA, couched in a beautifully written look at mental illness that’s equal parts humorous and heartbreaking.
Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
Mare is a low-born Red living in a world where power-possessing Silvers rule…until it turns out she herself is in possession of a power the likes none of her people have ever seen, landing her a spot in the royal court. Mare is a serious firecracker of a heroine, making her a worthy successor to the throne currently inhabited by Tris Prior—a good thing, since this new trilogy is poised to become YA’s Next Big Thing.
None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio
This book was always an exciting prospect—the story of a girl who discovers she’s intersex—and it would deserve and find an audience for that premise alone. Turns out? It’s also just a straight-up really good contemporary YA. It’s fun and funny and sad and painful and most importantly of all, it reads like a YA book about an intersex character, rather than a book about intersexuality.
The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell
Not only is this quiet debut a beautiful one, but it features so many aspects rarely seen in American YA. Abe Sora is a Japanese boy with ALS, and as he struggles with relationships due to the limits of his condition, he seeks out new ones on the internet. Infused with Japanese culture, supportive friendships, modern technology, and an impossible mental struggle, this is a read that is not to be missed, particularly by those seeking diversity in YA lit.
The Girl at Midnight, by Melissa Grey
Gorgeous, evocative, and fast-paced, this book is a fantastic start to a new trilogy that’s perfect for fans of Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, or, frankly, anything else. Though my tastes generally lean toward contemporary, this fantasy was one I couldn’t put down, thanks in part to a twisty and compelling plot, and even more so to a cast of memorable characters bursting with life, personality, and some killer lines.
Last Year’s Mistake, by Gina Ciocca
I’m a complete sucker for a solid contemporary YA romance, and Ciocca’s debut is a great one. A story of second chances that alternates between main character Kelsey’s past and present—and the boys who define each of those time periods for her—this is one of those sweet, fun, sexy reads you’ll return to every time you need something that makes you feel and puts a smile on your face and a swoon in your heart. I…may have already read it twice.
Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee
Every single thing about this book sounds so unique, just describing it makes me feel like I’m having some sort of fever dream. (And makes me extra itchy to get my hands on it to experience it for myself!) Samantha is a Chinese-American violinist yearning to escape from Missouri to New York in 1849, who’s then forced to escape to California instead. Oh, and the escape? Done with a runaway African American slave. With both of them disguising themselves as cowboys. If there’s a more must-read premise out there, I can’t imagine it.
We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach
There’s something so remarkably thoughtful about books with casts of layered characters; hopefully those unfamiliar with The Breakfast Club will discover that glory in books like this one. In his debut, Wallach’s cast is facing the potential end of the world, in the form of an asteroid headed toward Earth during their senior year. Which means it’s time for four teens to assess the struggles they’re facing in the context of every decision they make potentially being their last.
Shutter, by Courtney Alameda
YA horror has been stepping up its game lately, and Shutter looks to be an extremely promising, dark, thrilling entry into the genre. Micheline Helsing (one of the last descendants of the infamous Van Helsing line) is a ghost hunter with the ability to see the spirits of the undead, but when a hunt goes wrong, she ends up in a fight for her life. To be perfectly honest, I’m so terrified by this epic cover that I’m not even sure I can handle this book, but I sure can’t wait to try.