Best Debut Authors 2021

Best Debut Authors 2021

This list features the best up and coming new authors of 2021 and the books every reader is going to want to read. If you are fed up of reading the same old thing check out some of this great debut authors.

1

Body of Stars

By Laura Maylene Walter

Preface: A bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies.

Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period - when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.

The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste's excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.

Celeste's marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste's marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother's future that she must keep to herself - and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.

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2

The Push

By Ashley Audrain

Preface: What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for - but everything you always feared?

'The women in this family, we're different . . .'

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life.

It was meant to be a fresh start.

But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn't right. I have always known that the women in my family aren't meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I'm imagining it. He tells me I'm nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she's different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me?

Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is a heart-pounding exploration of motherhood, obsession and the terrible price of unconditional love.

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3

Last One at the Party

By Bethany Clift

Preface: It's December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.

The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM ('Six Days Maximum' - the longest you've got before your body destroys itself).

But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.

Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.

And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she's completely alone?

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4

The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner

Preface: With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

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5

The Other Black Girl

By Zakiya Dalila Harris

Preface: Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she's thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They've only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella's desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It's hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.

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6

Raft of Stars

By Andrew J. Graff

Preface: One summer night in Wisconsin, the lives of two ten-year-old boys are changed forever…

Tired of seeing his best friend Dale Breadwin abused by his alcoholic father, Fischer Branson takes action. A gunshot rings out, and Bread and Fish flee into the woods. They build a raft, but the river quickly leads them into even greater danger.

In their wake travel a group of adults – each determined to save the boys from the terrors of Ironsford Gorge.

The further they go, the more the wilderness starts to change them in profound and unexpected ways. And when they reach the edge of the Gorge itself, they begin to understand the true violence and beauty of the natural world, and its ability to heal.

No matter where you run danger will always follow…

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7

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

By Marianne Cronin

Preface: An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

Life is short - no one knows that better than seventeen year-old Lenni Petterssen. On the Terminal Ward, the nurses are offering their condolences already, but Lenni still has plenty of living to do.

When she meets 83-year-old Margot Macrae, a fellow patient offering new friendship and enviable artistic skills, Lenni's life begins to soar in ways she'd never imagined.

As their bond deepens, a world of stories opens up: of wartime love and loss, of misunderstanding and reconciliation, of courage, kindness and joy.

Stories that have led Lenni and Margot to the end of their days.

The One Hundred Years is a celebration of life, hope and kindness. The perfect read to shine a light on dark days.

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8

All Girls

By Emily Layden

Preface: An all-girls boarding school in a hilly corner of Connecticut, Atwater is a haven for progressive thinking and feminist intellectuals. The students are smart, driven and worldly; they are also teenagers, learning to find their way. But when they arrive on campus for the start of the Fall term, they're confronted with startling news: an Atwater alumna has made a troubling allegation of sexual misconduct against an unidentified teacher. As the weeks wear on and the administration's efforts to manage the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary young women come to realise that the adults in their lives may not be the protectors they previously believed.

All Girls unfolds over the course of one tumultuous academic year and is told from the point of view of a small cast of diverse, interconnected characters as they navigate the social mores of prep school life and the broader, more universal challenges of growing up. The trials of adolescent girlhood are pitched against the backdrop of sexual assault, consent, anxiety and the ways that our culture looks to young women as trendsetters, but otherwise silences their voices and discounts their opinions. The story that emerges is a richly detailed, impeccably layered, and emotionally nuanced depiction of what it means to come of age in a female body today.

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9

Of Women and Salt

By Gabriela Garcia

Preface: 1866, Cuba: María Isabel is the only woman employed at a cigar factory, where each day the workers find strength in daily readings of Victor Hugo. But these are dangerous political times, and as María begins to see marriage and motherhood as her only options, the sounds of war are approaching.

1959, Cuba: Dolores watches her husband make for the mountains in answer to Fidel Castro’s call to arms. What Dolores knows, though, is that to survive, she must win her own war, and commit an act of violence that threatens to destroy her daughter Carmen’s world.

2016, Miami: Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, is shocked when her daughter Jeanette announces her plans to travel to Cuba to see her grandmother Dolores. In the walls of her crumbling home lies a secret, one that will link Jeanette to her past, and to this fearless line of women.

From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centres, from Cuba to the United States to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt follows Latina women of fierce pride, bound by the stories passed between them. It is a haunting meditation on the choices of mothers and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their truth despite those who wish to silence them.

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10

We Are All Birds of Uganda

By Hafsa Zayyan

Preface: ‘You can’t stop birds from flying, can you, Sameer? They go where they will…’

1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.

Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew.

____________________________________

Moving between two continents and several generations over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a multi-layered, moving and immensely resonant novel of love, loss, and what it means to find home.

It is the first work of fiction by Hafsa Zayyan, co-winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, and one of the most exciting young novelists of today.

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11

Fragile Monsters

By Catherine Menon

Preface: A SPELLBINDING DEBUT NOVEL SET BETWEEN WW2 AND CONTEMPORARY MALAYSIA

Mary is a difficult grandmother for Durga to love. She is sharp-tongued and ferocious, with more demons than there are lines on her palms. When Durga visits her in rural Malaysia, she only wants to endure Mary, and the dark memories home brings, for as long as it takes to escape.

But a reckoning is coming. Stuck together in in the rising heat, both women must untangle the truth from the myth of their family's past.What happened to Durga's mother after she gave birth? Why did so many of their family members disappear during the war? And who is to blame for the childhood tragedy that haunts her to this day?

In her stunning debut novel Catherine Menon traces one family's story from 1920 to the present, unravelling a thrilling tale of love, betrayal and redemption against the backdrop of natural disasters and fallen empires. Written in vivid technicolour, with an electric daughter-grandmother relationship at its heart, Fragile Monsters explores what happens when secrets fester through the generations.

As they will learn, in a place ravaged by floods, it is only a matter of time before the bones of the past emerge.

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12

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

By Cherie Jones

Preface: In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.

For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.

When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.

And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.

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13

Open Water

By Caleb Azumah Nelson

Preface: Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential debut of recent years.

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14

The Mismatch

By Sara Jafari

Preface: Soraya knows she could never fall for someone like Magnus. He's her complete opposite in every way.

Popular and confident, Magnus seems to have his life figured out, while Soraya has got to twenty-one and has somehow never been kissed.

Soraya's mother Neda also knows what it's like to feel mismatched. She left Iran with her husband in the wake of revolution, and the aftershocks of that decision are still being felt decades later.

When Soraya sets her sights on Magnus for her first kiss, the last thing she expects to find is first love.

But sometimes the person you least expect might turn out to be the perfect fit . . .

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15

Tall Bones

By Anna Bailey

Preface: When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi's disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi's family, there are questions to be asked - of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father - both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark - the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones....

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16

The Witch's Heart

By Genevieve Gornichec

Preface: Angrboda's story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him—and any of his kind—grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin's all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

Angrboda must choose whether she'll accept the fate that she's foreseen for her beloved family—or rise to remake it.

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17

The End of Men

By Christina Sweeney-Baird

Preface: Glasgow, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a patient with flu-like symptoms. Within three hours he is dead. This is how it begins.

The unknown virus sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed.

The victims are all men.

Dr Maclean raises the alarm. But by the time the authorities listen to her, the virus has spread to every corner of the world. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.

Can they find a cure before it’s too late?

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18

Becoming Leidah

By Michelle Grierson

Preface: The sky opens up... I hear them laugh.

They don't feel the sadness in the air.

They don't feel the danger coming, riding in on the wind.

In the hinterlands of old Norway, Leidah Pietersdatter is born blue-skinned, with webbed hands and feet. Upon every turn of season, her mother, Maeva, worries as her daughter's peculiarities blossom-inside the root of the tiny child, a strange power is taking hold.

Maeva tries to hide the girl from the suspicious townsfolk of the austere village of Orken, just as she conceals her own magical ancestry from her daughter. And Maeva's adoring husband, Pieter, wants nothing more than for his new family to be accepted by all. But unlike Pieter, who is blinded by love, Maeva is aware that the villagers, who profess a rigid faith to the new God and claim to have abandoned the old ways, are watching for any sign of transgression-and are eager to pounce and punish.

Following both mother and daughter from the shadows and through time, an inquisitive shapeshifter waits for the Fates to spin their web, and for Maeva to finally reclaim who she once was. And as Maeva's elusive past begins to beckon, she realizes that she must help her daughter navigate and control her own singular birthright if the child is to survive the human world.

But the protective love Pieter has for his family is threatening the secure life they have slowly built and increasingly becoming a tragic obstacle. Witnessing this, Maeva comes to a drastic conclusion: she must make Leidah promise to keep a secret from Pieter-a perilous one that may eventually free them all.

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19

Highway Blue

By Ailsa McFarlane

Preface: Anne Marie is adrift San Padua, living a precarious life of shift-work and shared apartments. Her husband Cal left her on their first anniversary and two years later, she can't move on.

When he shows up suddenly on her doorstep, clearly in some kind of trouble, she reluctantly agrees to a drink. But later that night a gun goes off in an alley near the shore and the young couple flee together, crammed into a beat up car with their broken past. Their ill-at-ease odyssey takes them across a shimmering American landscape and through the darker seams of the country, towards a city that may or may not represent salvation.

Highway Blue is a story of being lost and found; of love, in all its forms; and of how the pursuit of love is, in its turn, a kind of redemption.

In front of me the long length of the road wound out, wound out and wound on under hot sky. And I drove...

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20

Learwife

By J. R. Thorp

Preface: The untold story of King Lear’s wife, written out of history yet with a mesmerising tale to tell, lyrically imagined by a hugely exciting new literary voice.

"I am the queen of two crowns, banished fifteen years, the famed and gilded woman, bad-luck baleful girl, mother of three small animals, now gone. I am fifty-five years old. I am Lear's wife. I am here."

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear's queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice - one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalising mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.

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