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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.’
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Julia Eccleshare's Debut of the Month, February 2016 When Vince turns eight years old he discovers he has the most amazing secret. Although he has always hated animals, which is embarrassing because his father is a zoo keeper, Vince suddenly discovers that he can talk to them. And hear what they say back! After getting some fish fingers for a penguin, Vince finds himself with a long list of food requests from all the other animals. And he is enjoying the best birthday of his whole life! ~ Julia Eccleshare
Join the fantastical flying carpet race in this magical adventure novel from a debut author. Pacy, exciting and full of humour, it’s a timeless story combining good versus evil, a breathless race against time and two protagonists who must overcome their differences to succeed. The colourful, vivid setting of the mythical Arabian city of Azamed captures the true spirit of the classic One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
Addictive, scandalous and glamorous fiction from a brand new author writing for sophisticated teens! As its title implies this is not for the faint-hearted. If you're up for a wild read where clubbing or holidaying in St Tropez is the order of the day when not at school, where meeting up off school grounds with the biggest heart-throb from the nearby boys school is seriously cool and where girls get together and 'B' about others particularly when an American beauty arrives at the school and threatens to ruin everything. It's page-turning stuff.
Boundlessly energetic Layla is over the moon when she’s offered a scholarship to a fancy school, but this exciting new chapter of her life gets off to the worst possible start when she stands up to a bully, who happens to be the son of a Very Important Person. Since Layla’s wise parents “had taught her to yell in the face of injustice,” she won’t remain silent when subjected to racism and islamophobia (“Get your towelhead face out of our school. In fact, get out of our COUNTRY. You’re not welcome here”), but it’s Layla who ends up being suspended. Never one to quit, cut loose or bow out, Layla bounces back by throwing herself into a high profile inter-school robotics invention competition, with many hilarious and moving true-to-life moments along the way. Throughout I adored Layla’s openness, her aptitude for shrugging off set-backs, taking suggestions on board and embracing change. As the You Must Be Layla title suggests, she’s a one-of-a-kind heroine, and this funny, thought-provoking novel - the first children’s book from inspirational Sudanese-born broadcaster, social advocate and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied - is a one-of-a-kind bundle of comedy and compassion.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | Set in a world that’s become “a walking graveyard”, this edge-of-your-seat thriller teems with cinematic chills and the tender love between two teenage boys. Indeed, author Darren Charlton has hit the nail on the head in describing his debut as The Walking Dead meets Brokeback Mountain. “Clock it. Kill it. Rid the world of it” - this is how encounters with the zombie Restless Ones must be handled, a mantra soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Peter struggles to follow. Too trusting, and infinitely better with a darning needle than an axe or gun, he’s something of a liability to the community, especially as another winter sets in, for “winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than an eagle’s gaze. But because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.” When the community comes under serious threat during their annual First Fall party, Peter winds up as zombie bait with his at-one-with-the-wilds boyfriend Connor responsible for wrangling the Restless Ones like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. On the mainland, the young lovers uncover an earth-shattering secret and it’s not long before Connor’s situation is seriously comprised, leading to Peter stepping-up and standing tall. Gripping and graphically gory, this dynamic debut is dystopian horror with a difference, for it pulsates not only with terror and visceral violence, but also with love, affection and emotional atmosphere.
October 2014 Debut of the Month A simple and witty rhyming text tells how Woozy the Wizard sets about trying to make the villagers of Snottington Sneeze better after they have all gone down with a very severe kind of sneezing sickness! There are lots of jokes which are easily spotted in the illustrations too!
Winner of the 'Best of the Best' children's category at the Independent Bookshop Week Awards 2016. Chosen by Stylist magazine as one of the Cult Books of 2012. Frank, powerful, warm and often heart-breaking, Wonder is a book you'll read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. This is a wonderful debut from a storyteller with a great future if this book is anything to go by and her characters are intensely likeable. You can discuss what you think of this book on Twitter - #thewonderofwonder.
July 2017 Debut of the Month Wolfie is no ordinary wolf, he has a secret: Wolfie likes baking. Because everyone knows wolves are meant to be growly, fierce and mean, he keeps his baking a secret, or tries to. But when his new neighbours, a trio of pigs, spot what’s going on they let the world know. Wolfie thinks everyone will laugh at him, or worse, but instead he becomes something of a celebrity, and everyone wants more of his recipes. Sweetly told, and full of good things, this is a gentle story about daring to accept who you are, and has a lovely positive message for all. Wolfie’s scone recipe is pretty yummy too! ~ Andrea Reece
Refreshingly free of vampires and werewolves this is a stunning dystopian debut novel written for teenage readers. Genetic engineering gone wrong has lead to a radically different population structure and teenage girls are forced to breed to keep the human race alive. The first in a trilogy and this edition contains a sneak preview of the sequel, Fever, and a brand new short story by Lauren DeStefano: The First Bride. Click here for the Chemical Garden fan site.
March 2015 Debut of the Month Witch Wars is the first in a charming new series: with the help of a fairy called Fran, nine year old Tiga Whicabim discovers there’s a world of witches, down below the sink pipes. Even more surprising is the news that Tiga is a witch herself (the clue is in her name for those good at anagrams), and lined up to take part in the nine-yearly Witch Wars to find the next Top Witch who will rule over all Sinkville. With crazy situations, a cast of irresistible characters, jokes, wordplay and just the right amount of dress and shopping detail this is an original and hugely enjoyable read. Laura Ellen Anderson’s illustrations match the text perfectly for flair and panache. ~ Andrea Reece
September 2014 Debut of the Month This is such a gloriously different and delightful read. The storyline sucks you in whole and clamours to be read as quickly as possible, while the beautifully bewitching writing encourages you to savour every word. Emmeline and her people rely on their fortified settlement and the virtues of honesty, bravery and discovery for survival. Every fibre in Emmeline longs for for the wilderness of the woods, her dreams hold knowledge, a promise, a future; can Emmeline walk her dreams in reality? Boorman has the wonderful ability to spirit you away to an imaginative creation that feels so very real; you experience the pain of Emmeline’s crushed foot and can literally taste the fear of the settlement when the warning alarm sounds. There may be a wait ahead for the second book in the trilogy but that gives you plenty of time to re-read this wonderful book again and again. ~ Liz Robinson
A wonderful story, both for animal lovers and young adventurers. It’s the story of a little girl who finds an abandoned wolf cub and how they become inseparable as they grow up together. Slowly the fear that the local village people have of wolves begins to dissipate, until one day Maria awakes to find Shadow has disappeared... It’s a story of happiness, sadness and an appreciation of the wonders of the world around her, but in the end it’s a little 12 year old girl’s realisation that life must go on and that there’s a reason for his departure. As with all Barefoot Books it is absolutely beautifully packaged. Winter Shadow is 80 pages of integrated text and beautiful thought-provoking illustrations – it’s the perfect gift for any child or adult for that matter of 8+.
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.