15 of Our Most Anticipated Debut Novels of the Second Half of 2017

We have unlimited room in our hearts for new (and new to us) books, but there’s a special place reserved for debuts, which are like mysterious black boxes full of awesome (well…black boxes full of awesome with gorgeous covers and flap copy). Diving into debuts offers the chance, again and again, to discover your new favorite voices in fiction, people whose minds and stories work and unfold in fresh ways. We welcome these 15 forthcoming debuts, arriving between July and December, to our shelves, all books we’ve loved or can’t wait to read that need to get on your list.

See all 2017 previews here.

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, by Lauren Karcz (July 25)
This debut explores the magical realistic journey a blocked artist takes back to her creative self. Mercedes’ abuela lies in a coma, her mother is in Puerto Rico tending to her, and her best friend, Victoria, doesn’t know Mercedes is in love with her. Mercedes can’t seem to commit anything to canvas, but a series of strange arrivals—first a piano of mysterious origins, beached on the front lawn, then an odd new neighbor—heralds Mercedes’ entrance into a mystical artists’ enclave at the abandoned Red Mangrove Estate, where suddenly she’s creating more than ever before.

The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash, by Candace Ganger (July 25)
Birdie’s a high achiever dealing with a family who’s not on the same page, and Bash is just barely keeping it together, watching his mother go through chemo while trying to keep his grades above failing and his kinda-sorta best friend, Wild Kyle, from doing anything too stupid. The two meet at a party and share an instant connection, then are torn away from each other before they can exchange information. But fate isn’t done with them: days later, they become embroiled in the same hit-and-run tragedy, from opposite sides. As they cross paths again and grow closer, Bash puts off sharing his part in what happened, until it may be too late for them…

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, by F.C. Yee (August 8)
Holy elevator pitch: A student striving for entrance to a top university must revise her plans when she discovers she’s a spirit so powerful she can punch her way into Heaven. A cute Chinese transfer student helps Genie along in her transition from college-bound teen to boundary-smashing heroine, just in time to counteract a hellish invasion. The epic mix of elements of Chinese folklore and a high-school heroine sounds impossible to resist.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass, by Melissa Bashardoust (September 5)
This lovely feminist retelling of Snow White humanizes the two women at its heart, adding context to the tropes of the evil stepmother and the fairy-tale innocent. The true evil in this story is stepmother Mina’s cruel sorcerer father, who gave his own daughter a heart of glass and created for a grieving king Lynet, a daughter made of snow in the image of his dead queen. Longing for her first taste of real love, Mina captures the attention of the king, but finds that, even after marriage, she can’t keep his heart, which is saved for his buried wife and stifled daughter. Mina and Lynet are set up to hate each other, not just by circumstance but by the rules of one of the oldest stories in the book. Fate and fairy-tale logic would say they’re heading for a showdown that will end in somebody’s death—but together, they may have the power to rewrite that tale.

The Grave Keepers, by Elizabeth Byrne (September 12)
In a tiny town in upstate New York, in a slightly altered world, the living have a very different relationship with death, tending to and spending time in their graves long before they’re committed to them. Athena and Laurel are the children of cemetery owners, whose loss of their eldest daughter left them scarred and fiercely overprotective: the girls are raised in near isolation, with only their graves and the ceremonies surrounding grave-keeping as solace. But in one life-changing season, older sister Athena navigates the alien agonies—and unexpected joys—of public school, while Laurel forges a bond with a mysterious boy who shows up on their property. An odd and lovely story with magical realistic touches.

Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen (September 12)
In Reintgen’s high-stakes sci-fi thriller, Emmett Atwater is trading in a hardscrabble life in Detroit for a mystery-shrouded new existence among the stars, recruited for unknown ends by the Babel Corporation. But it’s Emmett’s best chance at supporting his family, so he takes it, finding himself one of a team of ten who all have an unsettling thing in common: troubles back on earth, that money may or may not solve. Emmett learns they’re headed to a mining expedition on a secret planet, but there’s far more to Babel and the mission than they’re being told…

Speak Easy, Speak Love, by McKelle George (September 19)
George’s Shakespearean retelling transplants Much Ado About Nothing to a ramshackle Long Island estate, where acid-tongued Beatrice has become a boarding-school dropout and virginal Hero is now the proprietress of a speakeasy run out of her father’s basement. They’re joined by a quartet of other teens in their efforts to stage a party to save the speakeasy, including rich kid and wannabe writer Benedick, who just can’t seem to stay out of Beatrice’s way. This promises to be a summery, sparkling delight, all wrapped up in one of the year’s most irresistible covers.

Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman (September 26)
Kiko Himura is half-Japanese but feels disconnected from from her heritage; she’s an artist but has recently been rejected by her dream art school; and she’s the daughter of a woman who makes no effort to make her feel like somebody. When an abusive uncle returns to the family home, Kiko needs an excuse to escape more than ever, and finds it in the invitation of a friend to come tour west coast art schools. Without the dangerous, restrictive influence of her family, Kiko is free to stretch her wings, and to figure out who she is when she’s the one doing the defining. This is being tipped for its gorgeous prose and resonant emotional landscape, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door, by Jared Reck (September 26)
Matt has loved Tabby, the “girl next door,” for as long as he can remember, since they were babies being raised side by side. But he’s only been in love with her since one long, lovely, grade-school summer day, when all his feelings fell into place over baseball and Star Wars. Fast forward to freshman year, and he may have missed his shot, as Tabby starts falling for the school’s most popular senior. In prose that’s insightful, funny, and realistically profane, Reck charts Matt’s unfolding heartbreak—then blows up his life with a tragedy that throws the book onto a new course midway through. Present, clearly drawn parent and grandparent characters round out this bittersweet heartbreaker.

An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson (September 26)
One of the best fantasies you’ll read this year, Rogerson’s debut follows a young portrait artist specializing in painting the dangerous Fair Folk deep into the fairy-tale woods. Isobel lives in the enchanted town of Whimsy, at the edge of fairyland. There, she practices her Craft alongside other artisans, all of whom trade their creations for fey enchantments, ranging from the foolish (bright eyes at the cost of an early death) to the practical (in Isobel’s case, inexhaustible eggs and firewood). When she makes the mistake of painting human sorrow into the eyes of Rook, the Autumn Prince, he drags her away to stand trial for the crime. But on the way to his court they encounter even more deadly threats, from faerie beasts to the threat of immortality promised by the Green Well, where the fey’s most favored craftspeople drink. The most dangerous threat of all? The risk of falling in love, which will put both Rook and Isobel’s lives at risk. This book is gorgeously written and bracingly smart, and feels like a newly discovered classic.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao (October 10)
Who can resist a villainous origin story, especially one laced with elements of East Asian myth? Xifeng is the abused niece of the monstrous Guma, a village woman with enough magic at her disposal to read a glittering future for herself and Xifeng: the girl is meant to become empress, to rise into her power by any means necessary. But claiming her destiny would mean spurning the boy she loves, and giving into the quicksand pull of dark magic that runs in her blood. When Xifeng attempts to claim a different fate for herself, she may instead be moving closer to the dark destiny she both fears and can’t ignore.

Gray Wolf Island, by Tracey Neithercott (October 10)
Just beyond Ruby’s small town is the mysterious Gray Wolf Island, a place awash with legend and rumor. And when her vibrant, life-seizing sister dies, she leaves Ruby with just one request: to find the treasure alleged to be buried there. But Ruby was never the brave one, and what nerve she had dies along with her beloved sister—until the fortuitous discovery of a treasure map, in the form of a poem hidden in a book, proves irresistible. Also irresistible: the trio of boys and insomniac girl who invite themselves along for the search, to a journey to the heart of the mysteries cloaking both the island and their own lives.

Dear Martin, by Nic Stone (October 17)
Justyce McAllister, an Ivy League–bound African American prep school student, begins to tap into and interrogate the weight and history of being black in America following his arrest on zero grounds. While he escapes the incident without injury or charges, it inspires him to begin a one-sided correspondence with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looking at his words through the lens of his own experience straddling the worlds of the neighborhood he left behind and his mostly white prep school. Then the worst-nightmare chain of events occurs: detainment on the road by a white cop, an escalation of tensions, fired shots. Suddenly Justyce is living in a before and after world.

Beasts Made of Night, by Tochi Onyebuchi (October 31)
In this Nigerian-influenced debut fantasy Taj is a gifted young aki, or sin-eater, who serves a crucial function in the walled city of Kos: he can destroy the sin-beasts drawn forth by dark mages from the minds of those weighted with guilt. But the wages of his work are imprinted on both his skin, in the shape of tattoos of each beast, and his mind, as he takes on others’ guilt as his own. But this dangerous livelihood is Taj’s best chance at supporting his family, and he’s sure he can handle it—until a job eating the sin-beast of a royal draws him to the heart of a deadly conspiracy.

The Wicker King, by K. Ancrum (October 31)
Jack and August are two very different boys—Jack a varsity athlete with the world ahead of him, August a loner who’s no stranger to property damage—who share an intensely loyal friendship. But now it’s Jack who needs his misfit friend more than ever, as he’s possessed by expanding hallucinations that impose a fairy-tale kingdom over the real world. The only way August can think to help him is by following him down into delusion, sealing them into an insular world of two. But as Jack’s created reality coaxes them into a dangerous quest, their senses of what’s real may ultimately diverge.

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