First Novels: Hot Debuts for Summer | June 1, 2013

It’s always exciting to discover new voices in fiction, and if you have been following Prepub Alert and LJ’s reviews, you’ll have a good sense of the first novels coming out this summer. But which are the best? Here’s a list of 61 titles that are already earning attention—and raves. From Anton DiSclafani’s affecting coming-of-age tale, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, to Danie Ware’s gripping sf/fantasy mashup, Ecko Rising, these works introduce us to authors we’ll cherish.

Pop fiction

Bruni, Sarah. The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780547898162. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780547898391.

“Part tangled love story and part love affair with comics…this beautifully written book will appeal to fans of Spider-Man comics as well as coming-of-age fiction.” Great prepub reviews. (LJ 6/1/13)

Casey, Anne-Marie. No One Could Have Guessed the Weather. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Jun. 2013. ISBN 9780399160219. $25.95.

Forced by financial crisis to move with her family to a cramped East Village apartment, Lucy falls in love with New York (as the author did). Big prepub summer tour; Adriana Trigiani is helping promote.

Ebel, Kathy. Claudia Silver to the Rescue. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2013. 256p.
ISBN 9780547985572. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780547985602.

Claudia Silver lives by her wits in New York, and the result is “witty” (Kirkus), “satisfying,” (PW), “crackling” (Booklist), and “smart and savvy chick lit,” said the starred LJ review. (LJ 4/15/13)

Evanovich, Stephanie. Big Girl Panties. Morrow. Jul. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780062224842. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062224866.

LJ’s reviewer saw this slimming-down romance as “slighter than it could have been,” but note the starred PW review and the promotion in Time as one of the summer’s hot books. (LJ 6/1/13)

Graham, Lauren. Someday, Someday, Maybe. Ballantine. May 2013. 354p. ISBN 9780345532749. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345532756.

Actress Graham (Gilmore Girls) proves that she can write a “winning, entertaining read [that succeeds] largely because of [her] confidence and ceaselessly observant wit” (Washington Post). (LJ 4/15/13)

Irwin, Ron. Flat Water Tuesday. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250030030. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030023.

This “affecting” tale of a working-class rower at a New England prep school is such an in-house hit that Macmillan Audio made advance listening copies—grabbed by the hundreds at the Texas Library Association. (LJ 6/1/13)

Kiernan, Stephen. The Curiosity. Morrow. Jul. 2013. 488p. ISBN 9780062221063 $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062221087.

An Indie Next Pick in July, a Good Housekeeping featured title in August, but what’s really cool: Kiernan is touring with Chris Bohjalian, who “absolutely loved” this tale of a frozen man revived decades later.

Kwan, Kevin. Crazy Rich Asians. Doubleday. Jun. 2013. 416p.
ISBN 9780385536974. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 978085536981.

This truly uproarious tale of Asia’s ultrarich is getting a first serial in Vogue, an NPR/On Point airing, and coverage in Elle; Vanity Fair; Entertainment Weekly; O, the Oprah Magazine; and more.

Lovett, Charlie. The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession. Viking. Jun. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780670026470. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101622803.

Widower Peter Byerly’s discovery of a Victorian miniature resembling his wife sets off a “gripping literary mystery” that has achieved Best Book of the Month status at Barnes & Noble. (LJ 4/15/13)

Simone, Alina. Note to Self. Faber & Faber. Jun. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780865478992. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780374710132.

Brooklyn-based singer Simone (“hypnotic,” Spin) can also write, as evidenced by this “forceful, scabrous satire–cum–morality tale” (Kirkus) about Internet obsession.

Zambrano, Mario Alberto. Lotería. Harper: HarperCollins. Jul. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780062268549. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062268563.

An 11-year-old named Luz relates her life story through a Mexican card game, which might enchant you; LJ’s reviewer found the characters off-putting, but PW and Booklist saw stars. (LJ 5/15/13)

Literary fiction

Bauerdick, Rolf. The Madonna on the Moon. Knopf. Jul. 2013. 416p. tr. from German by David Dollenmayer. ISBN 9780307594129. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307962232.

Smart readers will grab this European Book Prize winner, which details events in a Carpathian village as communism descends and the young narrator enlists a gypsy friend to help solve a mystery: a sacred statue is missing, and the priest has been murdered.

Brkic, Courtney Angela. The First Rule of Swimming. Little, Brown. May 2013. 321p.
ISBN 9780316217385. $26.

Already a Discover Great New Writers honoree for 2003’s Stillness: And Other Stories, Brkic goes full-length in this “moving” story (Kirkus) of a Croatian woman’s hunt for her missing sister.

Bulawayo, NoViolet. We Need New Names. Little, Brown. May 2013. 296p.
ISBN 9780316230810. $25.

This Discover Great New Writers pick about a Zimbabwean girl’s encounter with America features “the freshest voice yet to spring from the fertile imaginations of wonderful young writers…who explore the African diaspora.” (LJ 5/15/13)

Butler, Sarah. Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781594205330. $26.95.

About a homeless man and a young woman estranged from her family, this novel has been sold to 15 countries and is already in great demand on NetGalley.

Byers, Sam. Idiopathy. Faber & Faber. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780865477643. $26;
ebk. ISBN 9780374709877.

In this “witty and engaging first novel, [which] recognizes the…genuine need for connection that underlies [contemporary] narcissism,” cows in England are succumbing to Bovine Idiopathic Entrancement—and the characters are pretty idiopathic, too. (LJ 6/1/13)

Carpenter, Lea. Eleven Days. Knopf. Jun. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780307960702. $24.95.

There’s already big media interest in this novel, written by a founding editor of Zoetrope, about a woman whose son has gone missing after a SEAL mission.

Crain, Caleb. Necessary Errors. Penguin. Aug. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780143122418. pap. $16.

“This fully realized debut novel, which delights and surprises with every paragraph,” features a young American living in Prague after the Velvet Revolution and trying to find himself. (LJ 5/1/13)

Delijani, Sahar. Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2013. 282p. ISBN 9781476709093. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476709116.

This “moving novel about survival, exile, and hope” in postrevolutionary Iran is receiving attention from both NPR (Weekend Edition, Diane Rehm) and the consumer press (Glamour, Marie Claire). (LJ 4/15/13)

Dominczyk, Dagmara. The Lullaby of Polish Girls. Spiegel & Grau: Random. Jun. 2013. 216p. ISBN 9780812993554. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780679645993.

Featuring three girlfriends from Poland, one of whom has made it to America, this work by Polish American actress Dominczyk is “compelling and richly imagined.” (LJ 3/1/13)

Engel, Patricia. It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris. Grove. Aug. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780802121516. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802193278.

From an author whose story collection, Vida, was a New York Times Notable Book, this tale of a young American woman in Paris is “perfect for fans of foreign-set contemporary fiction and classic literature alike.” (LJ 5/1/13)

Forbes, Michèle. Ghost Moth. Bellevue Literary. Apr. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781934137604. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781934137611.

“Luminescent” (LJ) and “eloquent” (Boston Globe), this study of love, marriage, and sectarian violence in 1950s–1960s Belfast comes from a Belfast-born actress who’s also worked as literary reviewer for the Irish Times. (LJ 6/1/13)

Fagan, Jenni. The Panopticon. Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780385347860. $22.

From one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013: “James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late meets Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Not to be missed.” (Forthcoming LJ review)

Guzeman, Tracy. The Gravity of Birds. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781451689761. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781451689785.

About the relationship between a talented young painter and two sisters who sit for him, this book was picked for the Celebrate with Indies Fall Debut Author Promotion by the American Booksellers Association and featured at BookExpo America. (LJ 5/15/13)

Guinn, Matthew. The Resurrectionist. Norton. Jul. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780393239317. $25.95.

Renovations at a South Carolina medical school reveal a dark past, and the African American community is outraged. “Strong pacing, interesting lead characters, well-framed moral questions, and clever resolutions…are the hallmarks of this winning debut.” (LJ 5/15/13)

Holt, Elliott. You Are One of Them. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781594205286. $25.95.

This “satisfying and mature narrative” about friendship, betrayal, and the Cold War is getting huge media coverage, from the New York Times Book Review to Slate to Vogue. (LJ 6/1/13)

Kushner, Dale M. The Conditions of Love. Grand Central. May 2013. 372p. ISBN 9781455519750. $25.

Written by a poet who’s been a finalist for some major prizes (e.g., Prairie Schooner Book Competition), this coming-of-age tale is “a fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over” (Kirkus).

Maher, Kevin. The Fields. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Aug. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780316223560. $25.99; ebk. ISBN9780316223577/9780316249027.

Already receiving raves in Britain, this tale of Dublin teenagers and a dangerous priest offers “a breakthrough voice in contemporary fiction.” (Forthcoming LJ review)

Ruge, Eugen. In Times of Fading Light. Graywolf. Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781555976439. $26.

This German Book Prize winner, which has sold to 20 countries, “[combines] dense, full-bodied storytelling with an enlightening sense of modern history” (PW).

Shah, Saira. The Mouse-Proof Kitchen. Emily Bestler: Atria. Jul. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781476705644. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476705682.

From three-time Emmy winner Shah, this story of a young mother grappling with a severely disabled child is getting attention, with a New York Times review likely.

Yanagihara, Hanya. The People in the Trees. Doubleday. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780385536776. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536783.

In a “fast-moving and intriguing” tale that reads like silk, an ambitious doctor pays the price after thinking he’s discovered the key to longevity on a trip to Micronesia. (LJ 5/1/13)

Yoon, Paul. Snow Hunters. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781476714813. $22;
ebk. ISBN 9781476714837.

Featuring a North Korean war refugee who remakes his life in Brazil, this debut novel from a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree is “that rare, precious gem, every word to be cherished…. One of this year’s best reads.” (LJ 6/1/13)


Ahmad, A.X. The Caretaker. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250016843. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250016836.

A caretaker on Martha’s Vineyard, once a captain in the Indian army, gets involved in a complex political game when he starts tending the house of a U.S. senator. A starred LJ review (“broad appeal”) and lot of other prepub love. (LJ 4/1/13)

Beaumont, Maegan. Carved in Darkness. Midnight Ink. May 2013. 408p. ISBN 9780738736891. pap. $14.99.

Once kidnapped, raped, and left for dead, Sabrina is now a homicide officer, and she’s about to serve as bait for her former tormentor. “Prepare to be overwhelmed by the tension and moodiness,” said the starred LJ review. (LJ 5/1/13)

Dymott, Elanor. Every Contact Leaves a Trace. Norton. May 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780393239775. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393240351.

The great news for Dymott is that her debut thriller, which opens with the murder of a lawyer’s wife at Oxford, got NPR attention for its “layer upon layer of intrigue.” (LJ 4/1/13)

Galbraith, Robert. The Cuckoo’s Calling. Mulholland: Little, Brown. May 2013. 464p.
ISBN 9780316206846. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316206860.

Det. Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s reputed suicide, and the result is a “stellar” debut (PW) that reads like “a mashup of Charles Dickens and Penny Vincenzi.” (LJ 4/1/13)

Harrison, A.S.A. The Silent Wife. Penguin. Jul. 2013. 326p. ISBN 9780143123231. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101608067.

This “heartbreakingly accurate” psychological thriller (Harrison’s first and last book, alas, as she died this spring) features an understanding wife who reaches her limit. (LJ 4/15/13)

Holt, Jonathan. The Abomination. Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780062264336. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062267023.

Set in Venice (both the real city and a 3-D virtual re-creation) and propelled by the murder of woman in priest’s garb, this is “highly recommended for readers who enjoy intelligent thrillers.” (LJ 5/15/13)

Patrick, Seth. Reviver. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781250021700. $24.99; ebk ISBN 9781250021694.

“Supernatural thrillers don’t get much better than British author Patrick’s assured debut” (PW) about “revivers” of the dead; already optioned by the producers of The Dark Knight Returns.

Spann, Susan. Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2013. 276p. ISBN 9781250027023. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250027030.

Master ninja Hiro investigates when a samurai is murdered in a teahouse in 1500s Kyoto. “Admirable attention to detail,” plus “a contemporary tone that makes this…so accessible,” said the starred LJ review. (LJ 6/1/13)

Thoft, Ingrid. Loyalty. Putnam. Jun. 2013. 416p. ISBN 978039916212. $25.95.

“Compelling suspense [and] smooth prose” mark this debut, but its real talking point is harder-than-hardboiled Fina Ludlow, an investigator for her Boston family’s personal injury firm. (LJ 6/1/13)

Zan, Koethi. The Never List. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780670026517. $27.95.

Sarah survived a brutal abduction that her best friend did not, and now their abductor is up for parole. “A fast-paced, disturbing thriller…full of shocking twists and turns.” (LJ 6/1/13)


Baker, Lori. The Glass Ocean. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 352p.
ISBN 9781594205361. $25.95.

This story of a Victorian glassmaker’s marriage and his beautiful creations, inspired by sea creatures, has been called “an adventure of dreamlike momentum and romantic intensity” by no less than Thomas Pynchon.

Clark, Janice. The Rathbones. Doubleday. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780385536936. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536943.

Featured at Random House’s Breakfast with the Authors at BookExpo America and the United for Libraries panel “First Author, First Book” at the American Library Association conference this month, Clark’s account of a New England seafaring family must be good.

Fremantle, Elizabeth. Queen’s Gambit. S. & S. Jun. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9781476703060. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476703084.

Fremantle’s vivid, finely detailed reconstruction of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Henry VIII is “a guaranteed best seller [that] fills the void just when historical fiction fans were beginning to feel the dearth of new works.” (LJ 5/1/13)

Rindell, Suzanne. The Other Typist. Amy Einhorn: Penguin Group (USA). May 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399161469. $25.95.

Jazz-age police stenographer Rose gets into trouble when she becomes enchanted with glamorous but shady new coworker Odalie. Paris Review editor Sadie Stein “was absorbed from the first page.” (LJ Xpress Review, 5/3/13)

Schanbacher, Gary. Crossing Purgatory. Pegasus. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781605984438. $25.

Just before the Civil War, Thomas Grey buries his family and abandons his Indiana farm, escaping west in this “deeply human portrait of a man battling for both soul and sanity.” (LJ 6/1/13)

Tekulve, Susan. In the Garden of Stone. Hub City. May 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781891885211. pap. $17.95.

This multigenerational saga of a Southern family, which opens in 1924, won the South Carolina First Novel Prize and was an Editors’ Spring Pick (see LJ 2/15/13). (LJ 4/15/13)

Wascom, Kent. The Blood of Heaven. Grove. Jun. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780802121189. $25;
ebk. ISBN 9780802193506.

“Brilliant” (PW), “gorgeous” (Booklist), and “highly readable” (LJ), this novel follows Angel Woolsack as he traverses the early 1800s Southern frontier. Winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize. (LJ 4/15/13)


Gafla, Ofir Touché. The World of the End. Tor. Jun. 2013. 368p. tr. from Hebrew by Mitch Ginsberg. ISBN 9780765333568. $24.99.

Published in Israel in 2004, this story of Ben Mendelssohn’s determination to reunite with his dead wife by crossing over to the Other World won the Geffen award and a bunch of prepublication raves. (LJ 5/15/13)

Hough, Jason M. The Darwin Elevator. Del Rey: Ballantine.(Dire Earth Cycle, Bk. 1).
Aug. 2013. 473p. ISBN 9780345537126. pap. $9.99.

“Rapid-fire action and memorable characters” won Hough a starred LJ review for his story of an alien plague that has dehumanized 23rd-century Earth’s populace—except in Darwin, Australia, where a mysterious space elevator left by the aliens holds sway. (LJ 5/15/13)

Martinez, Michael J. The Daedalus Incident. Night Shade. Jun. 2013. 394p. ISBN 9781597804721. pap. $15.99.

In this “triumph of genre-blending,” said the starred LJ review, a 22nd-century earthquake uncovers a journal writing itself, relating Lt. Thomas Weatherby’s voyage across the Void aboard the HMS Daedalus. (LJ 5/15/13)

Riopelle, Robin. Dead Roads. Night Shade. May 2013. 312p. ISBN 9781597804639. pap. $15.99.

Their father once liberated ghosts trapped in this world, and now the Sarrazin children must investigate murders of possibly ghostly origin. “Not only an intriguing paranormal story…but…a compelling psychological portrait.” (LJ 4/15/13)

Ware, Danie. Ecko Rising. Titan. Jun. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780857687623. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781162835.

When rebellious Ecko wakes up in a world without technology and determines to get out alive, the result is an “sf/fantasy mashup is a thrilling, genre-defying roller-coaster ride.” (LJ 4/15/13)

Wheeler, S.M. Sea Change. Tor. Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765333148. $24.95;
ebk. ISBN 9781429967334.

Lonely young Lilly has quite an adventure while hunting for the lost kraken she had befriended, which results in a “unique, fanciful, and transformative story…for fantasy lovers of all types.” (Forthcoming LJ review)

Barbara Hoffert is Prepub Alert Editor, LJ

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.