21 Debut Novels to Have on Your 2021 TBR

2021 is finally here, which means readers are hard at work preparing their TBR lists for the upcoming months. To help you discover your next favorite author, here are 21 debut novels hitting shelves this year that you won’t want to miss.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Hazel is hired at Wagner Books, until threatening notes begin appearing on her desk telling her to quit. Could her new friend truly be the one writing them?

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

This first installment in a new mystery series follows Lila Macapagal as she takes over her Tita Rosie’s struggling restaurant and finds herself suspected of committing murder after her ex, a local food critic, dies.

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Genevieve Gornichec reimagines Norse mythology in this tale of a witch exiled by Odin. After escaping Odin’s wrath, Angrboda falls in love with trickster Loki and must decide what she’ll do when she has a vision of their ultimate fate.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

High schooler Charlie Vega finds her confidence shaken when she learns that the guy she’s dating asked out her best friend first in Crystal Maldonado’s coming-of-age YA novel about loving yourself.

A Rogue to Remember by Emily Sullivan

When Alec Gresham learns of the scandal surrounding Lottie Carlisle, his childhood best friend, he decides to save her reputation, only to learn that it was Lottie herself who started the rumors to gain her freedom.

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

This debut novel follows the search for identity and family that a mother and her sons experience after immigrating to America and try to find a home in New Orleans while the family’s patriarch remains in Vietnam.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Included in our fall roundup of 21 highly-anticipated books of 2021, this book deserves another mention now that its stunning cover has been revealed! “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles” in this historical fantasy.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

Secrets hidden for a decade come to light over the course of a deadly college reunion. Six friends come together, only to discover that one of them is determined to revisit their past to find who killed their friend Heather ten years ago.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Niveus Private Academy is the setting for this YA thriller where an anonymous texter known as Aces is sharing students’ secrets with their classmates. Head girl Chiamaka and musician Devon team up to take Aces down.

The Checklist by Addie Woolridge

When Dylan Delacroix’s job sends her to her hometown of Seattle for work, she’s caught up in her parents’ feud with their neighbors, all while trying to deny the attraction she feels for the neighbor’s son.

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

A honeybee farm brings together three strangers in need of a fresh start. This novel about friendship and healing is said to be ideal for readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

This mystery transports readers to 1920s Harlem, where local Black girls have been murdered and Louise Lloyd has been pulled away from her nights at the speakeasy to find the serial killer targeting her neighborhood.

The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes

A group of Sentinels fight to save the universe in this space opera debut. They’ve each been exiled and their punishment is to guard the Divide, but when the Divide begins collapsing they’re the only hope humanity has.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

Tess Matheson is spending the summer shelving books in her boarding school’s library and when Eliot Birch requests she retrieves an ancient tome for him, she accidentally unleashes a demon bound within the book’s pages.

I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander

Sparks fly between a makeup artist and a movie star on the set of a sci-fi feature in this romance debut. Lilah longs to be taken seriously as an actress, and realizes too late that the persona she hides behind is alienating her from her new crush, Noa.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Alternating between present-day Miami and 19th century Cuba, Gabriela Garcia’s debut tracks an immigrant daughter’s search to learn more about her family history as she travels to see her grandmother.

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter

Photographer Delta Dawn views New York City’s wealthy families through the lens of her camera. But when she’s invited to capture the perfect life of the Straub family on film, she sets out to insert herself into their lives permanently.

For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten

Fans of fairytale-inspired fantasy will want this debut on their TBRs. Red is born the second daughter in a kingdom where her role is to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wood. But once she’s in the Wilderwood, she discovers the truth behind the legends.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

In this YA fantasy, Rue discovers her magical heritage when she’s taken to a hidden island by the father she’s never met. Soon it becomes clear that the evil presence she senses on the island is also plaguing Houston, where her sister lives.

Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam

Andre once dumped Trixie on a Post-it note, but now he needs her help to save his Washington DC soul food restaurant and suggests collaborating on a pop-up shop that brings together his food and her sex toy business.

Girls With Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier, Wendy Katzman

When Stanford University announces they’re only accepting one student from Seattle’s Elliott Bay Academy into their incoming class, three mothers go to deadly lengths to ensure their daughters are selected.

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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