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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.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | Falling in love, riding out change, figuring out what you want to do with your life – Ciara Smyth’s pitch perfect debut simmers with romance and deep-rooted dilemmas, delivered through witty dialogue and affecting emotional detail. Seventeen-year-old Saoirse (pronounced ‘Seer-sha’- be sure to get it right) is on the cusp of crossing the Irish Sea to read history at Oxford. Except she’s not sure she wants to go. She has more than enough on her plate dealing with her dad’s remarriage, getting over breaking-up with her girlfriend, and coming to terms with her mum’s debilitating illness. She just wants to spend her summer watching horror movies and kissing girls – no strings attached. To that end, Saoirse goes to a mate’s end-of-exams party and gets it on with his cousin Ruby. Irresistibly drawn to Ruby’s good looks and good heart, Saoirse accepts her challenge to embark on a summer romance with all the serious bits left out, in finest romcom tradition. But, as Ruby sagely points out, “the thing about the falling in love montage…is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love”. Super smart and funny (“If you are a girl inclined to deface school property, may I suggest the classic penis and balls, as you will avoid suspicion due to stereotyping”), Saoirse is lead fans of contemporary YA will love and root for - flaws and all - and her journey is a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking rollercoaster ride.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | Telling the affecting story of sixteen-year-old Cal’s battles with homophobic bullies, family upheavals, mental health and heartbreak, this hard-hitting page-turner pulls no punches from the opening coming-out scene that results in Cal’s mum needing medical attention and an almighty clash with his dad. Reeling from strife at home and school, along with a series of ill-advised one-night stands, Cal’s life seems to take an upward turn when he falls for handsome, wealthy Matt. But since the course of passion and romance rarely runs smooth, thank goodness Cal’s best friend Em and her joyous Scotch-drinking, straight-talking nan are there when he needs them. Exploring themes of homophobia, self-harm, complex family dynamics, friendship, and intergenerational bonds with clarity and sensitivity, Fall Out is underpinned by a warm message of hope and the possibilities of starting afresh. As Cal says, “You can’t pave over the faults; you can’t wash away the past but sometimes, when you make mistakes, you get a second chance.”
June 2020 Debut of the Month | At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met. On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch. Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty. Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | At once amusing and affectionate, this early Middle Grade novel combines real-world alienation with actual aliens! Harriet feels terribly out of sorts when she moves in with Gran while her dad works away, but before she’s even had chance to say goodbye to him, she learns that her hearing aid enables her to understand alien languages, such as that spoken by the Sock Muncha she finds beneath her new bed. What’s more, Harriet discovers that Gran is part of a secret intergalactic organisation that’s working to protect Planet Earth from an invasion of Sock Munchas. Harriet runs into conflict when she’s taken on as Gran’s apprentice: how can she possibly banish her new alien friend, given that he was bullied by other Sock Muncha’s and isn’t at all like them? Alongside the action-packed alien adventure, there’s much sensitivity around making friends and making everyone feel welcome. For example, Harriet’s unquestioning acceptance of new friend Robin’s non-binary identity, which she describes as “kind of awesome.” What a sweetly empowering debut this is from a hearing aid-wearing comedian, actor and Ambassador for Action on Hearing Loss and the British Tinnitus Association.
Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 | | Kate Read uses bold colours, composition and collage to tell the story of one famished fox’s encounter with some angry hens, making this counting book a real thriller. The Klaus Flugge judges said: ‘Visually stunning. There’s real drama here and the way the story is told is joyous. She’s done a very clever thing and created a counting book while keeping within the beats of a story.’
July 2012 Debut of the Month. A hero with a difference! Fizzlebert Stump wants to make changes to his life. Bored with life in the circus, he is determined to run away and join…the Library! How Fizzlebert sets out to achieve his goal and gets kidnapped by some unlikely villains for his audacity is a riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum! In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who ran away from the Circus (and joined the Library) a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Scroll down to read their reviews...
Inspired by Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, this stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner (Alice Liddell is an ancester) hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. A series of clues leads her through a cracked mirror into the real Wonderland, a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There she must decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy-but-suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland who may have dark motives all of his own.
June 2015 Debut of the Month An enthralling and profoundly exciting dystopian novel; set aside plenty of reading time, as once you start you just won’t want to stop. It’s fascinating when an author explores a possible future, this particular future feels as though it could be just around the corner. The concerns of mental trauma, violence and social unrest exist today; ‘Mindwalker' is set after a war involving internal terrorism and the state has intimate and invasive access to peoples minds in order to stop violence from occurring. Lain is sensitive, strongly principled and becomes involved in a thrilling race for the truth, she has a captivating romantic interest, and rather than detracting from the storyline, it cleverly adds an intensity. The novel roars towards the ending, quietens then settles, as you turn the final page you can’t help but feel that a ferocious storm is gathering and waiting for release. This absorbing and thought provoking read is a gloriously impressive debut. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Waterstone's Book Award 2010 An action-packed science fiction adventure unfolds at a cracking pace following the crashing of a plane after a meteor strike. Robert and Sarah survive the alien virus which strikes thousands of others but find themselves imbued with special scientific powers instead. Now they are in danger of being recruited by a rogue international agency who wants to use their special skills to their own ruthless ends. This is the first in a proposed series. Click here to find out more and watch exclusive vidoes.
February 2015 Debut of the Month Captive starts with a bang and keeps the tension high. Robyn, the prime minister’s daughter, is kidnapped by eco-terrorists, the same group who recently tried to assassinate her father. These are ruthless, scary people – but Robyn suspects that her father too might be involved in something murky and the longer she spends in captivity, the harder it is for her to know who she can trust. This is a taut, cleverly-constructed and very contemporary YA thriller, which puts family relationships as well as issues such as corporate corruption and moral responsibility into the spotlight. Ideal for fans of Sophie McKenzie, it’s a book that respects its target readership. ~ Andrea Reece
The hilarious adventures of earthling Tommy Storm as he is suddenly transported to join a training school in the Milky Way. Is Tommy, a well-known loser on earth, about to become the saviour of earth and the universe? Not if evil mastermind A-Sad-Bin-Liner succeeds in unleashing his plot of mass destruction. The intergalactic adventures are action packed and totally compelling. It's funny, fast-paced science fiction for fans of Star Wars, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Space Balls and Red Dwarf.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 - A Staff Pick of the Year 2015 - March 2015 Debut of the Month Abi Elphinstone’s debut novel plunges the reader into a world of magic and adventure. Twelve-year-old Moll lives in a gypsy camp in the Ancientwood. She has no parents but the gypsies’ extended family take care of her. There’s something special about Moll - her very best friend is a wildcat, Gryff, and the strange nightmares that plague her seem to prophesy dark and scary battles in the future. This is a wonderful book with all the elements that go to make classic children’s fantasy – a good versus evil battle in which a young child is pitched against a powerful enemy, the band of close friends who will help Moll, a wild forest setting. And a magical wildcat! It’s perfect for fans of Harry Potter, and there are more adventures to come. ~ Andrea Reece
Winner of the Awesome Book Award 2020 | June 2018 Debut of the Month | Boy Underwater is one of those rare books that manages to be both very funny and heartbreakingly sad. Being pulled to safety from the bottom of Lewisham Pool by classmate Veronique (losing his trunks in the process) is a terrible experience for Cymbeline Igloo, as it would be for any 9 year old, but it leads his mum to have a breakdown. Cym has never understood her determination to keep him away from water, but now it’s only by uncovering the family secrets that he can give her the help she needs. Cymbeline carries the story brilliantly, confiding in readers all his confusion (the adult world really is incomprehensible), his concerns and his hopes, so that we live it as he does. What he finds out is horribly sad, but leads to a new beginning, and a kind of healing. This beautifully told story is one to recommend to fans of Susin Nielsen, Ross Welford and Christopher Edge.
Full of a zest, this captures how a newcomer to Prefect Academy learns to enjoy the boarding school environment she thought she would hate. Viola provides a hugely entertaining account of Perfect and the people in it initially using her video camera as a way of recording it all. As the school year plays out, Viola find she has come to love her new way of life! Adriana Trigiani is a bestselling novelist for adults but this is her first foray into writing for a teen audience. It’s got the thumbs up from all our Lovereading teens around the office.
February 2016 Debut of the Month Like Harry Potter, Aimée Carter’s twisty, original thriller stars a gang of kids with special abilities up against a cast of powerful adults, some of whom are decidedly untrustworthy. Instead of being trainee wizards however, these young people are at shapeshifter school learning to turn themselves into animals. Simon can talk to animals, but had no idea he could be the heir to a shapeshifting dynasty until suddenly he’s at the centre of a decades-old intrigue, with a new set of friends, and even a brother he never knew he had. As strife between the shapeshifters and the different factions of the animal kingdom grows, this is a great opener to a new series that will satisfy readers who like their adventures action- and animal-packed. ~ Andrea Reece Imaginative and vivid with themes of bravery, loyalty, and finding one's true self, this exciting, five-book adventure series is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Beast Quest.
December 2019 YA Debut of the Month | This compelling, nuanced tale is set in the town of Lucille in a future society where evil, the ‘monsters’, have been eliminated in an epic struggle by the ‘angels’ to create a better world for their children to grow up in. Jam, our selectively-nonverbal, black, trans heroine, is one of those children. When she accidentally spills her blood onto her mother’s painting, a creature called Pet emerges. Looking like a monster but here to hunt a monster preying on the family of her best friend, a boy named Redemption. But the identities of the victim and the predator are still unknown and Jam and Redemption have to face what their society fails to acknowledge: that monsters exist and hide in plain sight- that evil still resides in humanity. One of the huge strengths of this book is that Jam’s trans status is not there to score diversity points. The story does not centre around gender identity, but also does not ignore the impact upon the character and plot in a very natural, unforced way. Dialogue is used extremely creatively too. Emezi Jam speaks aloud in quotation marks and sign language is indicated with italics and when Jam and Pet speak telepathically, Emezi uses no punctuation marks whatsoever. On top of that, dialects, phrases, and cultural traditions from across African American communities appear throughout, giving a real flavour and authenticity to the narrative. Emezi has spoken of her inspiration being teenagers discomforted by the monsters in plain sight in our current society. This is a thought-provoking reading experience that could inspire valuable discussion in a lot of classroom contexts.
July 2019 Debut of the Month | A trip to the natural history museum with Grandad fills George with a passion for bugs. He determines to build up a collection and though it’s not easy at first slowly learns the best ways to catch them, filling jars with butterflies, beetles, worms, moths and spiders. It’s satisfying, but something’s not right. Grandad notices it too: with no bugs, everywhere is too quiet, dull and sad. Together they release the bugs and transform their garden into an insect sanctuary. The story is filled with action and movement and the pages are packed with detail. I love the way George chases after his bugs with such a loping stride and the relationship between him and his grandfather is tender and convincing.
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.