Debuts to Read in the Second Half of 2021

A collage of the covers included in this article

Is there anything more fun than discovering a brand new author? To help you discover your next favorite, here are 20 debut novels from across a variety of genres coming out in the second half of 2021.

At Summer’s End by Courtney Ellis

Historical fiction fans, prepare for a trip to 1922 England with this debut. Bertie Preston is thrilled to accept an invitation from Julian, the Earl of Wakeford, to paint his estate—knowing that the exposure could help her budding career as an artist. Once she arrives, she finds herself drawn not only to the landscape but to the reclusive Julian.

Her Name is Knight by Yasmin Angoe

Nena Knight, alias Echo, is a skilled assassin working for a group known as the Tribe. She’s single-minded in her missions until one night a turn of events leads her to save someone’s life. The switch sends Nena reeling and unsure of what her future holds, especially when she learns of a traitor in the Tribe’s midst.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Set in Edwardian England, this queer romantic fantasy follows Robin Blyth, who learns of the existence of magic and is placed under a curse over the course of one life-changing evening. Edwin Courcey steps in to whisk Robin away to a private estate where they can work together to break the spell.

The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane by Jeannie Chin

In this small-town romance, Clay Hawthorne plans to be in Blue Cedar Falls, North Carolina just long enough to fulfill his late friend’s wish of opening a bar there. But that’s before he meets June Wu, who runs the Sweetbriar Inn across the street. Though they get off on the wrong foot, they soon realize just how much they can help each other.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Have a box of tissues on hand, YA readers, Dustin Thao’s debut is certain to tug at your heart. After her boyfriend Sam’s sudden death, Julie calls his cell just to hear his voice. She’s shocked when he picks up, unsure of how they’re able to speak. At first, the connection felt like a chance to properly say goodbye, but with each call, it becomes harder and harder to let Sam go.

Out of Love by Hazel Hayes

Hazel Hayes’ debut opens on a breakup between an unnamed narrator and her now-ex, Theo. The narrator wonders where things went wrong, and from there the book takes readers on a journey backward through their relationship from their final fight all the way to their first kiss to explore how they came together and how they fell apart.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Shea Ernshaw’s adult debut takes readers to Pastoral, a commune founded in the 1970s. Theo has been a member his entire life, but he starts to wonder if there are secrets about Pastoral that he doesn’t know when he discovers an abandoned truck on the border. His search for answers unravels the mystery of what happened to two outsiders who found their way to Pastoral.

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

Readers looking for a fast but impactful sci-fi read will want S. Qiouyi Lu’s futurist debut novella at the top of their TBR. The story is set in the city-state of Ora, which is using a living network known as the Gleaming to protect (and surveil) its citizens. Anima’s ability to harness the Gleaming kicks off this speculative tale.

A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King

Vanessa King’s contemporary romance debut blends Pride and Prejudice with burlesque. Liz Bennet left behind her interior designer dreams in Los Angeles and is pleasantly surprised to find a love of performing at Meryton in New York City. She’s equally intrigued by Will Darcy when their eyes meet across the club, at least until she overhears him calling her “tolerable.”

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

In this YA novel, Simi serves the gods as Mami Wata, a mermaid who saves the souls of those who perished at sea and helps guide them on their journey. But when she witnesses a boy—who is very much alive—thrown overboard, she decides to save his life. Her actions set off a chain reaction that sends her on a dangerous journey to the Supreme Creator.

In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s first novel explores race, class, and Black womanhood. Kemi, Brittany, and Muna are all tied to Jonny von Lundin, a white CEO at Sweden’s biggest marketing firm. As they all move to Stockholm, their lives intersect in surprising ways that will leave them forever changed.

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari

Readers who love mysteries with a focus on vengeance should check out Katie Lattari’s thriller debut. Art professor Max Durant is invited to Maine by Audra to look over her graduate thesis. He never expects that a secret he’s held for decades will finally come back to haunt him, or that Audra has been plotting to uncover the truth of what happened on that fateful and deadly night 30 years ago.

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng

Sarah Zachrich Jeng’s debut blends science fiction and thrills. One moment aspiring artist Kelly Holter is in the bathroom at an art gallery in Chicago, and the next she finds herself transported to a different reality where she’s married in Michigan. As she adjusts to her new life, Kelly struggles to uncover what happened and how she can get home.

A Delicious Dilemma by Sera Taíno

After a bad breakup, chef Val Navarro takes a night off from her family’s Puerto Rican restaurant to go dancing. Hitting it off with a stranger feels like a cherry on top of a needed night out. But that’s before she learns he’s Philip Wagner, the son of the man whose company is threatening to shut her family restaurant down.

The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland

When Jasmine Yap discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, she swears off relationships. However, her meddling family is determined to prove that she simply hasn’t met someone worthy of her and they set out to turn her high school graduation party into a Bachelorette-esque affair!

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

Fall is around the corner, and readers looking to embrace the spooky season with a psychological thriller should plan on picking up Vera Kurian’s debut. Chloe Sevre is participating in a clinical study for psychopaths and plotting to murder someone who wronged her when she realizes someone is targeting her.

For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes

Penny Aimes’ debut romance novel follows a trans heroine learning to open her heart and trust another. April French is a regular at Frankie’s kink club, where she watches other people’s romances play out from the sidelines. The sparks flying between her and Dennis Martin are enough to make her want to risk everything for a shot at happily ever after.

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

This cyberpunk novel is set in a near-future world devastated by climate change and where Big Pharma controls baseball leagues, and everyone with money can genetically edit themselves. Kobo doesn’t care about any of that though. He’s got bigger problems: His best friend Zunz, a rising star hitter, was murdered and Kobo is determined to uncover who did it.

The Archer by Shruti Swamy

Readers who enjoyed the short story collection A House is a Body won’t want to miss Shruti Swamy’s first full-length novel. This coming-of-age tale takes readers to Bombay in the 1960s and ’70s and follows Vidya in her attempts to live life on her own terms while devoting herself to Kathak, a demanding and stunning form of dance.

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Half British Reaper and half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has never been fully accepted by the Reapers of London, despite the fact that she’s been collecting souls alongside them for centuries. She travels to Japan in the hopes of finding acceptance, only to face her greatest challenge yet when she’s tasked with serving the Goddess of Death.

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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