Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from the Broke and the Bookish.
So I’m not up to date on the current debut novels, mostly because I check everything out from the library and I love old books and recently published books just as much as new ones. So instead, I’m sharing five of my favorite debut novels of all time, as well as five debut books published in 2015 that I’ve got on my TBR list. In keeping with the theme of the year, they’re all written by women, but my favorites would be the same, even if that wasn’t the case.
- White Teeth by Zadie Smith–this is actually one of my favorites of all time, forget debuts. There is so much wit and the novel is so finely crafted.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath–there is just something about this book. It’s so sad and beautiful.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt–it’s hard to believe this is a debut. It’s so smart, the writing is so tight, the subject matter is so dark, mature and immature all at once. Brilliant, even if it took me a while to get through.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee–if you only got to publish one book in your lifetime, this one wouldn’t suck.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling–obviously this one was going to be on here.
Five I’m Excited For (synopses from Goodreads):
The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell (sic-fi): Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.
When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.
With a stylish voice influenced by years of music writing, The Only Onesis a time-old story, tender and iconic, about how much we love our children, however they come, as well as a sly commentary on class, politics, and the complexities of reproductive technology.
The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman (historical fiction): For fans of Sarah Waters and The Crimson Petal and the White, a vibrant tale of female boxers and their scheming patrons in 18th-century Bristol.
Some call the prize ring a nursery for vice . . .
Born into a brothel, Ruth’s future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr. Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.
Dryer’s wife Charlotte lives in the shadows. A grieving orphan, she hides away, scarred by smallpox, ignored by Dryer, and engaged in dangerous mind games with her brother.
When Dryer sidelines Ruth after a disastrous fight, and focuses on training her husband Tom, Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition. As the tension mounts before Tom’s Championship fight, two worlds collide with electrifying consequences.
The Fair Fight will take you from a filthy brothel to the finest houses in the town, from the world of street-fighters to the world of champions. Alive with the smells and the sounds of the streets, it is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention and fighting your way to the top.
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (historical fiction): A ravishing first novel, set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all.
New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.
Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.
A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum—sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.
As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York—a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments-a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless).
The Shore by Sara Taylor (fiction): Welcome to The Shore: a collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean. Where clumps of evergreens meet wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, storm-making and dark magic in the marshes. . .
Situated off the coast of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, the group of islands known as the Shore has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian’s bold choice to flee an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her to a brave young girl’s determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.
Together their stories form a deeply affecting legacy of two barrier island families, illuminating 150 years of their many freedoms and constraints, heartbreaks, and pleasures. Conjuring a wisdom and beauty all its own, The Shore is a richly unique, stunning novel that will resonate with readers long after turning its final pages, establishing Sara Taylor as a promising new voice in fiction.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
From those of you that read debuts when they actually debut, did I miss any of your favorites from this year? Do you have a favorite debut novel? Let me know in the comments!