The only thing more exciting than your favorite author coming out with a new book is discovering your next favorite author. What’s better than finding the next addition to your must-read list? These debut YA books are just some of the books coming from first-time authors in the second half of this year, but they all look absolutely amazing—and maybe they’ll land the author on your must-read list.
Looking for more? Check out the 2019 fantasy list, which includes titles like Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells, Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron, A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy and more! Or check out the 2019 LGBTQIA+ list, which includes titles like Crier’s War by Nina Varela, Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor and more!
The Beckoning Shadow,by Katharyn Blair (July 2)
If you loved the video game Infamous: Second Son as much as I did, one glance at this stunning cover would let you know that Katharyn Blair’s The Beckoning Shadow a must-read. Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and make it real, but that power is addicting. Dangerous. Deadly. The Tournament of the Unraveling is the perfect place for such a power to be unleashed, and it would give Vesper the chance to fix the mistakes of her past. She could win the tournament with the help of former MMA fighter Sam Hardy—but it may come at the cost of breaking his heart, if her powers don’t destroy him first.
Wilder Girls, by Rory Power (July 9)
Looking for something that gives you the same creepy vibes as Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation or Claire LeGrand’s Sawkill Girls? Let me introduce you to Wilder Girls, the fast-paced and twisted YA fantasy thriller that you won’t be able to put down. The Tox struck the Raxter School for Girls eighteen months ago. Now, trapped on a quarantined island, their teachers dead and their bodies changing, the girls are just doing their best to survive. But when Hetty’s best friend goes missing, she’ll do anything to find her, even if it means breaking the quarantine and putting the whole school in danger.
The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen (July 30)
You might know Margaret Owen from the YA community due to her absolutely stunning artwork. Good news: she’s just as excellent of a writer. Margaret splashes onto the fantasy YA scene this year with her debut novel The Merciful Crow. Fie is a Crow who protects her own, one of the many undertakers and mercy-killers who think collecting the royal dead could deliver the payout of a lifetime. When she discovers the crown prince Jasimir faked his own death, she’s ready to slit his throat; but he offers protection for the Crows from the queen. But Fie isn’t the only one out for both survival and vengeance.
Ziggy, Stardust and Me, by James Brandon (August 6)
If you’re looking for a dose of historical queer romance, James Brandon’s debut Ziggy, Stardust and Me will hit your sweet spots. In 1973, Jonathan is just trying to survive a lonely life amidst the Watergate hearings and the Vietnam war. In his imagination, though, where David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and his mother guide him through his tumultuous life, Jonathan can be anything—including a “normal” boy. But when brooding, confident Web comes into his life, Jonathan suddenly sees another option in his own reality, one where he can accept his gayness despite what the world thinks.
A Dress for the Wicked, by Autumn Krause (August 6)
If you like the hybrid of fashion and fantasy delivered in books like The Luxe, you’re going to want to grab Autumn Krause’s A Dress for the Wicked. Nothing happens in Avon-upon-Kynt… at least, until the head of the most admired fashioned house in the country opens up her design competition, and Emmaline Watkins decides to compete. As the first “country girl” to enter the competition, she has even more to fear from her competitors. But she knows she could win… so long as she survives the hurtles and corruption thrown her way.
Color Me In, by Natasha Díaz (August 20)
Looking for a story that explores the intersections of identity? Color Me In is here to help. When Neveah Levitz’s Black mom and Jewish dad split, she’s forced to move to Harlem and figure out exactly what her identity means: seemingly too white and privileged to really be an African American, while a belated bat mitzvah alienates her from everybody else at her school. But as Neveah discovers a secret from her mother’s past and begins to fall in love, she realizes that staying silent and letting other people set her path may not be an option anymore. Debut author Natasha Díaz pulls from her real life to shape this debut contemporary novel.
Unpregnant, by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (September 10)
Who doesn’t love a feminist, funny road trip adventure?Unpregnant, the debut novel from Jenni Hendricks (a writer for How I Met Your Mother) and Ted Caplan (the music editor for The Greatest Showman), is exactly that. When Veronica Clarke gets pregnant, she knows her college-bound future could disappear, unless she gets an abortion. But with the nearest clinic over nine hundred miles away, and with conservative parents and a less-than-ideal boyfriend, Veronica seeks help from the only person she can trust: her ex-best-friend Bailey Butler. Together, they set off on the 14-hour drive to the clinic. What could go wrong? (Only everything.)
Rebel Girls, by Elizabeth Keenan (September 10)
I love a riot grrrl story. If you dug Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, you might want to snatch up Keenan’s Rebel Girls, a feminist historical that tackles school life in 1992 Baton Rouge. Athena’s punk-rock, feminist attitude doesn’t endear her to the folks at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school. When gossip starts to spread that her sister got an abortion over the summer—a rumor that could get her sister expelled—Athena and her friends set out to convince both the student body and the administration that what her sister may have done doesn’t matter… even if their riot grrrl protests get them all expelled.
SLAY, by Brittney Morris (September 24)
Novels about video games are becoming increasingly popular, and Brittney Morris’s SLAY looks like one of the best we’ve seen in a while. Kiera is an honors student, a math tutor, one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy—and the secret game developer of SLAY, played by hundreds of thousands of Black gamers every day. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the game, SLAY is labeled a violent, racist hub. Can Kiera preserve her secret identity, save her game and the community built around it, and figure out what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world that seems to despise it?
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (October 1)
If you’re looking for a lyrical contemporary novel whose characters will linger with you long after you shut the book, you need to pick up Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. Violet and her family consider themselves lucky, able to survive everything—but in order to persevere, tragedy needs to strike. Violet keeps surrounding herself with the wrong people, and when her little brother tries to take his own life, she finds herself stuck in the small Maine town of Lyric, which her great-great-great-grandmother founded, while he’s in treatment. If Violet can find the lost shipwreck from the town’s founding, the one she and her brother dreamed of finding as children, maybe it can fix her relationship with her brother. But the real journey and survival might come in the quest to find it.
Scars Like Wings, by Erin Stewart (October 1)
What happens when you survive a fire? When the scars of your past still mark your body? Erin Stewart discusses burn victims, survival, and finding where you belong in her debut novel Scars Like Wings. Ava Lee lost everything in the flames: her parents, her best friend, her home, and her face. Her aunt and uncle want Ava to go back to school, but she knows nobody wants to look at her or be near her. She’s The Burned Girl. But fellow survivor Piper makes her feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. If she can help Piper fight her battles, maybe other people can help her, too.
Fireborne, by Rosaria Munda (October 15)
Give me all the dragon books, please. The revolution has happened, and now anybody can be a dragonrider. Yes, the new regime is brutal, but Annie and Lee are both rising stars, growing up and training together despite their wildly different backgrounds. But when survivors from the old regime rise up to reclaim the city, Lee has to decide whether to turn on his aristocratic family in favor of his beliefs—and Annie must decide whether Lee’s life is more valuable than protecting her city.Rosaria Munda’s fantasy debut tackles born family vs. found family, which is my soft spot in fantasy stories, so I can’t wait to read this one.
Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters, by Emily Roberson (October 22)
It’s been a while since YA has had a solid pop-culture take on Greek gods, and Emily Roberson’s debut novel Lifestyle of Gods and Monsters looks to fill in the gap. Ariadne’s life is all over social media and television. Her royal family is the biggest entertainment empire in the world, and the biggest ratings spike comes during the Labyrinth Contest. In ten seasons, nobody has won; in ten seasons, Ariadne has led fourteen teens into a maze; in ten seasons, they’ve all died. When Theseus enlists in the competition and asks Ariadne to help him win, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. But his winning would end the show, endangering her family’s empire and breaking her from her destiny. Can she save the people she loves and find her own path?
The Light at the Bottom of the World, by London Shah (October 29)
An undersea society? Yes, please. In this Bioshock-esque apocalypse, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Humankind hopes to find a way back to the surface, but to pass the time, they host annual submersible races. Leyla McQueen sees the race as an opportunity to save her father, arrested on false charges. But when the race takes a deadly turn, she’s forced into deeper waters with a hotheaded companion to defy the corrupt government and save her world—and her father.
Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance, by Jennieke Cohen (December 3)
In the spirit of Cindy Anstey’s Love, Lies and Spies comes Jennieke Cohen’s debut novel. Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want—but if she doesn’t wed, her family will end up destitute. As she enters society’s season, her only experience with romance comes from Austen novels, but Austen doesn’t have much feedback for Vicky: whether her former best friend wants her dowry or her heart; whether Mr. Carmichael is a scoundrel; or how to stave off the foppish Mr. Silby. She’s even quieter on the mysterious accidents cropping up around Vicky, which she’ll have to solve if she wants to survive until her wedding day. This Austentacious mystery looks like a delight romantic romp and will be perfect for those cold December nights.