First Contact: Ten Recent Debut Novels

Here are ten recent debut novels to incorporate into your summer reading plans!

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Ada’s life has been a tumultuous one, filled with her erratic and difficult behavior. Things do not improve when she leaves her native Nigeria to attend college in the U.S., as the spirits who live inside her come forward — some to guide and protect her, others to lead her astray.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Halliday combines two narratives — one involving a young editor in a relationship with an older writer, the other centering on an Iraqi-American man detained at Heathrow on his way to visit his brother.

Severance by Ling Ma. This satirical debut novel follows Candance, the recently orphaned child of Chinese-American immigrants, as she weathers the apocalypse — and navigates the post-apocalypse — in New York City.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Sheltered by her gated community, seven-year-old Chula Santiago has no idea how Pablo Escobar’s Colombia looks. The family’s new, live-in maid, 13-year-old Petrona, is familiar with Bogotá’s slums, and she fascinates Chula. As the conflict outside the gates edges closer, the two girls become linked in an inextricable plot that will push them both toward impossible decisions.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang. This romance centers on Stella, a 30-year-old, autistic mathematician, who hires an escort to help her practice kissing — her aversion to which has hampered her dating life in the past. But what happens when Stella starts to fall for her kisser-for-hire?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Set on the North Carolina coast, Where the Crawdads Sing centers on the orphaned Kya, or “Marsh Girl,” failed by both her family and community, as she comes under suspicion for the death of an ex-lover.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder. Burned out by a failed relationship and a stalled dissertation, Lucy finds refuge housesitting for her sister in Venice Beach. While there, she spies a swimmer out on the deserted beach, and begins a life-changing love affair on the rebound.

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan. Recently returned to Shanghai after years spent in the U.S., the Zhen family is thrown into an uproar when a bracelet belonging to the young matriarch, Lina, goes missing.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. The lyrical debut novel from the author of the poetry collection ‘Night Sky with Exit Wounds’ is written in the form of a letter from a son to a mother who can’t read, about their family’s history and his own life.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos. Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-off’s women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

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