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These debuts - written by authors we believe are destined to have a great future as children's writers -have struck a real chord with us. We can't guarantee to find authors of this calibre every month but our scouts are out sourcing the best as often as we can. Here are the best first-time authors you need to know about.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | This gripping thriller with a high octane plot and full-on characters takes its readers on an amazing journey across two time frames and in and out of real science and maths while also vividly capturing contemporary teenage life. Esso and Rhia, from different times and, in reality, from different generations, are brought together by chance and, from then on, must work out how best to understand the Upper World and all its secrets. Femi Fadugba’s debut novel will delight and challenge readers.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | Vibrant world-building, hilarious horror happenings, and splendidly quirky characters - Alex Foulkes’ debut, Rules for Vampires (the first in a series), has plenty for adventure-loving 9+ year-olds to sink their teeth into, a devour-in-one-bloodthirsty-sitting story that’s made even more engaging by Sara Ogilvie’s cleverly comic illustrations. “Slow as creeping nuns, stealthy as a stalking cat, the girl slunk closer to the door.” Thus we’re introduced to Leo on the eve of her one hundred and eleventh birthnight, as she must embark on her first solo mission as a vampire - The Hunt of the Waxing Moon, no less. Trouble is, following Vampiric Laws and negotiating that ghoulish line between the Living and the Undead sure ain’t no stroll in the cemetery, and all this while feeling the pressure to live up to the high and spiky expectations of the Great and Terrible Sieglinde. The writing is slick as blood, with smart turns of phrase that Lemony Snicket aficionados will adore, and cracking whip-smart dialogue that drives the story at bat-out-of-hell pace. Oh, and it’s divinely packed with a cast of top quality, quirky characters readers will want to get under the skin of (though not literally, of course…)
September 2021 Debut of the Month | Refreshing, funny and packed with essential feminist themes, not to mention an authentic, engaging protagonist in Eliza Quan (a no-nonsense teenager who doesn’t give two hoots about what people think of her), Michelle Quach’s Not Here To Be Liked is at once deliciously entertaining and empowering. With pithy observations like “Girls get judged for their past; guys get judged for their potential”, it’s also a thought-provoking reminder (if one were needed) that there’s some way to go before patriarchal structures are disassembled - thanks goodness, then, that Eliza is on hand to speed up the process. Oh, and the novel features a whole lot of cute kissing to boot. Eliza is set to be the new editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. Firstly, she’s the most qualified candidate. Secondly, she’s the only candidate…until former baseball player Len joins the paper for want of something better to do and winds up winning the vote. Justifiably angry that he - male, handsome, popular and utterly inexperienced - was picked over her - Eliza’s venting inspires a feminist movement that exposes the gulf between those who want - and recognise the need for - gender equality, and those who think she’s just annoyed about being overlooked. Alongside exploring such pertinent themes in slick style, the novel also sees Eliza face the ultimate conflict when she finds herself falling for Len. Fast and furious, Not Here To Be Liked flies in the face of anyone dumb enough to think that books about feminism (and feminists themselves) can’t be smart and funny.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | In this murky world Lester and Rita become detectives for hire. Their first case involves two vampires, a stolen jade mask and a baron mysteriously drowned in vat of lemonade. Rita and Lester will need to learn fast if they want to survive in a world where appearances are endlessly deceptive.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | There are lots of orphans in children’s books, but few have as sad or dangerous a story to tell as Bastien Bonlivre. After his writer parents die tragically in a hotel fire, Bastien must live in the Orphanage for Gentils Garçons in Paris. Under the rule of the tyrannical Xavier Odieux, the orphanage is a miserable place, though Bastien’s secret night-time storytelling sessions always give the boys a boost. Life is particularly bad for Bastien thanks to Xavier’s apparent obsession with the notebook his parents left him; and could this somehow be linked to the strange disappearances of other successful authors? The adventure that develops is as exciting as those invented by Bastien’s parents’ favourite, Alexandre Dumas, culminating in a terrifying chase through the Paris catacombs. Set during the 1920s, scattered with French phrases and verbal flourishes, with its fast-paced plot and unforced emphasis on the power of stories to shape lives, this is a very bon livre indeed.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | Alston is a debut author who looked in vain for a hero or heroine who looked like him in fantasy novels – and this delivers and so much more too. Amari is a child who attends a posh school on a scholarship – but really finds it hard to fit in and avoid the bullies. Her mother is a hard-working health worker, and her brother Quinton is missing – his disappearance seems be the root of Amari’s difficulties. As the holidays approach Amari receives an invitation via a mysterious messenger to be considered for something (at this stage unexplained) – by attending an interview. From here on the story becomes a hugely imaginative, funny and compelling adventure. Magic and mystery flow thick and fast from this point on – as Amari takes her chances to prove herself and to start finding out what happened to her brother. The story takes you through the development of some close and lasting friendships, against some awful magical bullies and monsters, to an exciting and nail-biting adventurous conclusion, though it leaves a possible opening for more books about Amari in future. A wonderful fun adventure addition to every child's bookshelf and any school library looking for more representation across all it’s genres.
A debut author is always a new experience to read – and this new fantasy-type novel aimed at middle grade readers does not disappoint. Maggie is a child, isolated from her family (Dad left, Mum recovering from a breakdown of some sort) whilst she is nominally looked after by her somewhat odd Aunt Esme. She befriends a rather battered old cat with torn ears and one eye – whom she is convinced hums tunes to her. But that is only the start of rather strange occurrences – Maggie sees her enemy from school apparently disappeared into a parallel reality by the new, odd, threatening careers mistress. What can she do – no one will believe her if she tells the truth… So, Maggie is left with only one course of action – she must rescue Ida from whatever has made her disappear. The characters are so well drawn and delightfully eccentric that one can become totally engaged in this well-developed story. Hoagy, the cat, proves to be a firm friend, and courageous – helping Maggie not only rescue her enemy Ida, but by doing so rediscover some of the happiness she has lost in her oddly disconnected life. An author worth watching – and a good read for fans of fantasy-based adventures.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
Farr is a master storyteller as evidenced by his phenomenally successful screenwriting and directing for the stage. This is evident in the confidence with which he controls all the elements in this complex, engrossing fantasy thriller – his first novel for a child audience. Rachel and Robert live in a dictatorship in Brava that makes life very drab and humdrum – as well as very dangerous. Their father is a librarian – and on Rachel’s birthday he involves them in the theft of an important and forbidden book from the precious books room in the city library. For that theft he is captured – leaving the siblings with their ailing mother. When she dies it is planned that they will be separated into different parts of the grim orphanage that exists. Can they escape that fate, find out the secret of the book they keep hidden and keep it out of evil dictator Malstain’s hands? Meeting a wonderful cast of characters along the way – some good, some bad – they set off on individual journeys across the land to escape Malstain’s reach. This is a rich story, full of adventure, peril, and huge bravery from the children and many of the other characters, as well as awful evil. It will keep readers engaged and probably reading long after bedtime and lights out! Inspired by Farr’s great Aunt and Uncle’s escape from Nazi Germany this adventure is set in a timeless world that could be anywhere so that it will chime with children the world over. I hope Farr goes on to write more for children if this, his debut, is anything to go by.
Twelve is a Huntling, in training to become a Hunter and pledged to serve the seven clans as a warrior. Full of rage and guilt following the massacre of her family and neighbours, she is determined to remain friendless and dedicate herself to revenge. But when the Hunting Lodge is attacked by goblins, and other creatures even worse, and Seven, the only person she has any connection with, is kidnapped, Twelve sets out to rescue the little girl. She’s joined on the quest by Dog, the Lodge’s huge, living stone guardian, and by the two boys she likes least. Together they face multiple dangers and an array of terrifying and tricky monsters. As in the best of these sorts of adventures – and this is definitely an example of the best of these kind of adventures – throughout their trials they learn more about each other and themselves. Aisling Fowling’s debut is a thrilling fantasy full of battles and creatures the like of which you’ve never seen before, and stars characters you’ll regard as friends by the book’s end. There will be more adventures for Twelve and co to come, and readers will be counting down the days to the next. One to recommend to fans of A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons and Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray.
August 2021 Debut of the Month | Winner of the Everything with Words’ YA Competition 2019, Rebecca Henry’s The Sound of Everything is an authentically gritty, involving coming-of-age novel that speaks to young people who struggle with feeling unseen, unheard and unloved. Shipped from foster home to foster home, frequently betrayed, and having “never had a dad that I could call Daddy”, it’s no wonder Kadie (aka Goldilocks) has trust issues. The only thing she’s sure of in this world is music - listening to it, and creating it. It’s the “only thing that keeps my head straight.” To protect herself, she’s set out three rules: “1. Don’t count on anyone. 2. Act. Always act. 3. Be prepared to lose everything.” Constantly in trouble at school, though told she has potential, Kadie bonds with a boy called Lips, aka Dayan, the name he reserves for use by special people, of which Kadie is one. Dayan records with his AMD mandem (Amalgamandem) and she’s happy to be invited to hang out with them, while remaining ever-mindful of the fickleness of group dynamics: “one day you’re in the group, the next you’re invisible.” But, just as things start to take an upturn, everything explodes in the aftermath of hideous online trolling and trouble with her foster sister. What’s unique about this novel is the author’s considered, long-game exposition of Kadie’s complex character - it’s not rushed, not forced too soon to serve the plot. And, true to life, her problems aren’t easily solved either - it really is powerfully authentic all round, from Kadie’s voice and interactions, to its portrayal of mental health problems, among them self-harm. At times Kadie will have you pulling your hair out at her own-worst-enemy outbursts, but mainly, though, you’ll warm to her. You’ll will her to find her way. Appropriately enough for a girl named Goldilocks, there is - ultimately - a glint of gold among the grit. I don’t want to spoil it, so let’s just say she finds what might turn out to be her “just right” and begins to learn to open up to people she can trust.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Opening with the arresting scene of a body being discovered, the third in a month, Chris Whitaker’s The Forevers is a thought-provoking page-turner founded on a killer concept - if you could get away with anything without consequence, if the world was about to end, what would you do? “The dead girl lay face down, ashen hair fanned out like she’d been posed. Some kind of terrible masterpiece Mae knew she’d never forget”. This is the grim reality of Mae’s present. At seventeen, she thinks back to ten years earlier, when news of the asteroid first broke - a ticking timebomb that’s set to explode. There’s no avoiding the terrible truth - “She was seventeen years old. She would die in one month”, for the Earth was “so broken not a thing would survive.” Amidst increasing rumbles and tremors, amidst people’s preparations for death, the discovery of the body of Mae’s popular peer Abi provokes questions - Did she jump? Was she pushed? The sense of time running out, and the brutal psychological impact of knowing that the end is nigh, is masterfully evoked in all its heart-stopping starkness, while the dynamics between the young adult characters are authentically realised. All in all, this near-dystopian thriller has thought-provoking bite.
August 2021 Debut of the Month | Two friends, one of Indian descent and one of African descent, have weddings to celebrate in their families. As the families gather for the occasion Amrita is exposed to old fashioned attitudes of colourism from older relatives. The idea that eating or drinking certain foods may make your skin darker is treated with a sure touch by Gangrota – but the strong message that people should celebrate their own skin colour and be happy with who they are comes across loud and clear. This is explored by the way Amrita wants to dress in a bright sunflower yellow dress (a colour thought to emphasize darkness of skin) but Mum is there to support Amrita in her choices and feel safe within herself. The title derives from both girls dressing brightly and beautifully for their family weddings. They then go on to promise each other they will live as ‘Sunflower Sisters’ always – with the joyful outcome that they open a shop selling colourful clothes for everyone. The deftness of touch in this story means no-one is belittled for their ideas, though the message comes through very clearly that colourism is not acceptable. Dias-Hayes background in fashion and textile design shines through the wonderful illustrations of clothes. Beautifully executed with a very sunny palette of colours this book is beautiful to look at, as well as powerful to read. Author, Monika Singh Gangotra shares the inspiration behind her debut picture book.
August 2021 Book of the Month | “Elizabeth North was one of the bravest and strongest women in the entire world. And I am going to tell you why”. Thus readers are introduced to How to Be Brave’s captivating story world in a manner that’s typical of its whimsical all-knowing narrative style. Adding to this, footnotes written in the amusing authorial voice are used to entertaining effect throughout the rip-roaring ride. To begin at the beginning, we are matter-of-factly informed that Elizabeth lived a charmed childhood that left to her muse “how much she loved her life. It was a strange thing for a child to think, but Elizabeth North was a strange child who lived a strange life.” Tragically, Elizabeth’s idyllic days are darkened by the unthinkable - both her parents die and she’s sent to The School of the Good Sisters, where an encounter with a rare duck - the Mallardus Amazonica - sets her on a path she will follow through her life. Skipping forward, we are introduced to Elizabeth’s daughter, Calla. Poor due to Elizabeth’s struggle to make ends meet as a scientist (and her lackadaisical approach to adulting), mother and daughter are dealt an unexpected hand when Elizabeth is invited to the Amazon to find the Mallardus Amazonica, resulting in Calla being sent to The School of the Good Sisters. The school’s old-fashioned quirks and cast of nuns and pupils are a delight. Edie is an especially fabulous creation - in her French-accented words, she’s “excellent at subterfuge and skulduggery”. When Calla uncovers shocking secrets, the adventure swells like the Amazon in rainy season. Given that “if there was a problem in Elizabeth’s life, Calla solved it,” that’s exactly what she sets out to do, in this case enlisting the help of her new friends and a Blessing of Nuns. What a marvellously rollicking story of a resourceful togetherness this is.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Set in the world of gaming, Jamie Russell’s SkyWake Invasion is packed with peril, quips and gaming blips that turn out to have real-life repercussions. Fifteen-year-old gamer Casey is a whizz at the SkyWake computer game and leads an online team. When invited to play at a live tournament in London she’s forced to come clean being a girl. With her adorable younger brother Pete in tow (he’s also a keen gamer), she disproves prejudice against girl gamers in the most unlikely and terrifying of circumstances when it turns out that SkyWake is far more than a game. It is, in fact, a training scheme for evil aliens looking to recruit top gamers to fight in a war. Worse still, they’ve captured Pete, and Casey must muster all her leadership and gaming skills to save him. Interwoven to the action-packed alien adventure are themes of friendship, teamwork and proving prejudice wrong, and a narrative that skips back to scenes of Casey with her deceased dad, a bomb disposal expert who had a passion for arcade games. All of which means the funny, fast-paced tale has emotional resonance. Ending on a heart-pounding cliff-hanger, the stage is set for what promises to be an epic second instalment of the SkyWake trilogy.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | From the 2019 Macmillan prize-winner this is a powerful, dramatic and inspirational story about the difference even a child can make if they take action and get their voice heard. The delightfully curious Rosa needsa book but her library is closed for redevelopment but Rosa dn her sister decide to protest and not give up , gradually bringing everyone onboard. The vibrant richly coloured pages create a filmic sense of an inclusive community and very real people. It makes a powerful statement about the place that libraries have in a community and the vital necessity that all children can have access to the books that they need. Unfortunately, it is a book with a very current and timely message. Libraries have suffered greatly in the pandemic and the future looks bleak as more budget cutting looms. This book empowers young children to demand their rights and to recognise that they matter too. It should prompt some very interesting discussions and debate and naturally should be stocked in every library.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades is an explosively exceptional debut. An incisively subversive, edge-of-your-seat thriller that takes the genre to jaw-droppingly unexpected extremes as it exposes horrific, deep-rooted institutionalised racism. The action centres around an elite high school in the white part of town. It has an all-white student population, except for our two principle characters - musician and scholarship student Devon, and privileged aspiring Yale alumnus Chiamaka. Devon (Von to his proud, hardworking Ma) can’t wear his hair in twists or cornrows here, and Chiamaka, of Nigerian and Italian heritage, feels compelled to hide her natural hair, and has adopted a “kill or be killed” stance - to achieve the success she’s set on, Chiamaka knows she’ll have to be tougher than tough. Devon and Chiamaka are sent reeling when an anonymous texter, Aces, starts revealing their deepest, darkest secrets, and it doesn’t take much to realise why they’re being targeted - the colour of their skin. And so a cruel cat-and-mouse game unfolds - two mice trapped in a destructive nightmare and a malicious cat motivated by racism, with homophobia weaponised too. While there are shocks aplenty (of the rare, ingeniously interwoven variety), the story is compellingly complex, with finely considered character exposition, and no simplified, clear-cut dichotomies drawn between who we can trust, and who should be top of our suspect list. The mounting tension is powerfully palpable, as is the embedded racism Devon and Chiamaka are subjected to - it runs deeper and wider than they (or readers) can possibly anticipate. Turns out, no one can be trusted; that there’s more than one cat in this hideous game. Oh, and there are romantic entanglements too, all of which means Ace of Spades delivers on all fronts - mystery, romance and tackling important issues in explosive style. What more could a reader ask for? *** Find a must-read letter from Faridah to her readers, attached to the extract.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | New life, love, friendship and unexpected talents and dreams blossom in the wake of a teenage girl’s life-saving heart transplant. Everything I Thought I Knew, Shannon Takaoka’s enthralling debut, provokes thought and all the feels, and comes highly recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon and Sara Barnard. Seventeen-year-old Chloe was on track to attend a top US college - until she collapses and discovers she’s in urgent need of a heart transplant. Thankfully for her, she’s able to get one in time and makes a good recovery, though eight months on, things feel a bit weird. First up, Chloe’s developed a new desire to surf, which she does in secret from her worried parents in the company of attractive surf teacher, Kai. Then there’s the strange dreams that haunt her. Propelled by her new friend, Jane (a rebel to Chloe’s good girl), she begins to wonder if the source of all this weirdness might be connected to the person her new heart came from. Threaded with themes of identity (figuring out who you are, and who you might be), this is a moving and heartfelt read, with plenty of funny moments too.
LoveReading's debuts are titles that have struck a real chord with us here by a debut author who we believe has a real future as a children's writer.
We can't guarantee to find authors of this calibre every month but our scouts are out sourcing the best as often as we can.
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