In Lori Goldstein’s debut novel Becoming Jinn, teenaged Azra wakes on her 16th birthday to a life of servitude: she’s come into her birthright as a beautiful, powerful jinn, destined to grant wishes and obey her Afrit overlords. In between coming to terms with her destiny, she works at the beach, juggles two love interests, and clashes with her fellow jinn “sisters”…then starts to explore the more intriguing corners of her world, realizing her powers extend beyond her imagining. It’s a perfect summer read—and here’s Goldstein to recommend 5 more YA debuts to add to your beach bag.
Whoever coined the term “beach read” is a reader after my own heart. For me, nothing goes together better than beach, blanket, and book. Because while I may be a writer, I’m also a reader, and 2015 is bringing the YA hard, especially my fellow debuts (*fist bump*). The talent and depth in this stash of new writers continues to astound me, book after book.
As a debut author, I’ve been fortunate to read some of these books in advance reader copy form (and sometimes even earlier than that—definite author perk!). Picking just five is like picking the five Game of Thrones characters I want to survive to the end. Yet I’m always up for a challenge. Pool or beach, rain or shine, these YA debuts deserve room in your beach bag.
The Tearjerker: In a World just Right, by Jen Brooks
Jonathan is a boy with the power to create alternate worlds, and not just ones in his mind, but real worlds with real people—ones he can live and lose himself in. Lonely, physically and emotionally scarred, with a family who died when he was just a child, Jonathan creates a world where he’s loved. And in this world, Kylie Simms, the girl he loves who doesn’t give him the time of day in the real world, not only knows who he is but loves him right back. But when Jonathan confuses his two worlds and goes to kiss the real Kylie Simms, things begin to unravel. With elements of fantasy and romance, this book tugs on your mind and your heart long after you turn the last page.
The Scandal: The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne
What’s it like to hit the campaign trail as the daughter of the presidential nominee? What’s it like to hit the campaign trail as the illegitimate daughter of the presidential nominee? Um, awkward. Still reeling from the death of her mother, Kate is shocked to discover the father she’s never met is currently running for president. And soon, Kate becomes part of the spin. As damage control, she joins her father and his family—his wife and the siblings she never knew she had—on the campaign trail. Along the way, she finds herself crossing enemy lines by flirting with the son of the current president and straddling the one between public and private life. Against the backdrop of the political landscape, Kate’s struggles with first love, friendship, and discovering who she is versus who she’s told to be are told with a skilled hand and a wry sense of humor.
The Family Drama: Conviction, by Kelly Loy Gilbert
The prose in this debut makes my writer’s heart ache. Beautifully written and incredibly real and relatable, this is the story of a boy whose faith and beliefs are tested. Braden and baseball go hand in hand. The sport is core to his life and his relationship with his father, a well-known Christian radio host. But when his father is arrested for the hit-and-run death of a police officer, all Braden has, including his beloved sport, threatens to be stripped away. Right and wrong blur as Braden is tapped to be the key witness in his father’s upcoming trial. When his estranged older brother returns home to care for him, the past and the present converge and Braden faces an impossible choice that pulls at the reader’s heart with every page.
The Thrills: Duplicity, by N.K. Traver
If Breaking Bad meets the Matrix sounds like your antihero cup of tea, then Duplicity is the perfect pick. Bad boy Brandon hacks into bank accounts not for the cash but for the thrill. Relationships, like the one he has with the kind, stubborn Emma, confound him. He’s more comfortable with things that run on gears and wires. A skill, it turns out, he’s going to need. The day Brandon looks in the mirror and sees his reflection moving by itself, he’s sucked into a world where he’ll need every hacking trick he has in order to get out. Until then, he can only sit by, watching the “Other Brandon” who’s taken his place in the real world not only live his life—with his parents, with his friends, with Emma—but live it better.
The Chills: Alive, by Chandler Baker
This is the YA debut I’m reading right now. It’s my in-progress beach read and one I’ll be sure to read in the bright sun as the scare factor promises to be high (and I’m a total wuss). After years of waiting for a new heart, Stella finally receives the transplant that will keep her alive. But her recovery comes with side effects: nightmares and hallucinations and a recurring pain at the same time every day. As the new boy in school, Levi, enters Stella’s world, her heart aches for him, literally. I get chills as I turn each page, and I can’t wait to spend the July 4 weekend finishing this one!
Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn is on sale now.