Many readers love the fall, when new novels by well-known authors are apt to appear in bookstores. But some of us prefer the first part of the year, when first-time novelists make their debuts. Here are six notable debut novels to watch for in the first half of 2018.
Fire Sermon, by Jamie Quatro
Jamie Quatro follows up her New York Times notable story collection I Want to Show You More with her debut novel, Fire Sermon, in which a middle-aged writer named Maggie whose marriage has gone cold sparks up an affair with a poet named James, with whom she bonds over their shared interest in Christian mystics. Quatro cycles back to Maggie’s past, exploring how her faith led her to marry her husband Thomas when she was 21.
Halsey Street, by Naima Coster
In Halsey Street, Coster explores gentrification in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn she grew up in through the character of Penelope Grand, who dropped out after a year of college at the Rhode Island School of Design and tried to make a go of it as an artist in Philly before returning home to care for her injured father, Ralph. He once ran a record store, but as the neighborhood turned over and business dwindled, he closed the place, which is now an organic grocery store. Penelope’s mother, a Dominican immigrant named Mirella who worked as a housekeeper, left Brooklyn years earlier, but seeks to renew her connection with Penelope in this engaging debut.
Green, by Sam Graham-Felsen
Sam Graham-Felsen, who once worked as the head blogger for the presidential campaign of President Obama, drew on his experiences growing up for this funny, heartfelt coming-of-age tale that follows narrator David Greenfield as he begins attending an almost all-African-American middle school in Boston in 1992. David seeks to gain some credibility and friends who will make his adolescence bearable.
The Driest Season, by Meghan Kenny (February 13)
The fate of a Wisconsin family farm in 1943 turns on the actions of a fifteen-year-old girl named Cielle in the first novel by Meghan Kenny. Kenny, who previously published a collection of stories, Love Is No Small Thing, expanded a prize-winning story into The Driest Season. When Cielle discovers her father has hanged himself, she must help the community’s efforts to portray it as an accident so they won’t violate their loan conditions and lose the farm. You’d think that would be enough for Cielle to tackle in one slim, spare book, but she also faces her first stirrings of love, and must say goodbye to a beloved neighbor who enlists for World War II during this momentous summer.
Sal, by Mick Kitson (May 8)
Readers who enjoyed My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent should love this novel of the resourceful, 13-year-old Sal, who escapes an abusive home in Scotland with her ten-year-old sister Peppa to live in the wilderness, armed with knowledge gleaned from YouTube survival videos. Author Mick Kitson gives narrator Sal an endearing, unique voice.
The Ensemble, by Aja Gabel (May 15)
Some of the best novels offer an immersion in an intense subculture, and Aja Gabel’s debut about the young members of a string quartet promises to offer such an insider’s view. Gabel played the cello for two decades, and in this novel she follows the members of a string quartet as their relationships evolve, their careers take off, and the drama between them intensifies as they rely on each other yet are pulled in different directions.
What 2018 debut novels are you excited about?