Ready to round out this year’s slate of debut YA novels? Let’s dive in!
This round-up includes debut novels, where “debut” is in its purest definition. These are first-time books by first-time authors. I’m not including books by authors who are using or have used a pseudonym in the past or those who have written in other categories (adult, middle grade, etc.) in the past. Authors who have self-published are not included here either.
All descriptions are from Goodreads, unless otherwise noted. If I’m missing any debuts that came out in November and December from traditional publishers — and I should clarify that indie/small presses are okay — let me know in the comments.
As always, not all noted titles included here are necessarily endorsements for those titles. List is arranged alphabetically by title and publication month. Starred titles are the beginning of a new series.
November and December 2021 Debut YA Books
Lydia has been creating her AI, Henry, for years – since before her little brother died in the accident that haunts her nightmares; since before her Dad walked out, leaving her and her mom painfully alone, since before her best friend turned into her worst enemy.
Now, Henry is strong, clever, loving, and scarily capable: Lydia’s built herself the perfect boyfriend in a hard drive filled with lines of code. But what is Henry really? And how far is he willing to go to be everything that Lydia desires?
*Nonfiction, so not technically a novel, but a book nonetheless!
I am ugly. There’s a mathematical equation to prove it.
At only eight months old, identical twin sisters Ariel and Zan were diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome — a rare condition where the bones in the head fuse prematurely. They were the first twins known to survive the disease.
Growing up, Ariel and her sister endured numerous appearance-altering procedures. Surgeons would break the bones in their heads and faces to make room for their growing organs. While the physical aspect of their condition was painful, it was nothing compared to the emotional toll of navigating life with a facial disfigurement.
Ariel explores beauty and identity in her young-adult memoir about resilience, sisterhood, and the strength it takes to put your life, and yourself, back together time and time again.
Blackmail lures Ava to the abandoned amusement park on Portgrave Pier. She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost. When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group finds themselves cut off from the real world. As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive. The teenagers have only their secrets to protect and each other to betray.
Margot Mertz is a secret sleuth–okay, not really, but she does run an internet cleanup business helping students and teachers alike clear their internet presence of anything they don’t want anyone else to see. From secret embarrassing DM’s to viral videos and more, Margot cleans it all. After her parents foolishly lost her college fund, this is the only way she can make it to Stanford.
But when a fellow student comes to her asking her to take down a website that’s gathering nude pics of fellow Roosevelt High girls, things get personal. Margot must delve into the depths of her school to take down the culprit. The seedy underbelly of Roosevelt High is not unfamiliar to Margot–but somehow this case is stumping her at every turn–until she figures out that the only way to reach her suspects is to get close to perfect boy Avery Green. His access to every club, volunteer opportunity, sports team, and popular party is the key to solving her case.
When the case takes a shocking turn, Margot’s ready to burn the whole world down. No one targets the Roosevelt High girls on Margot’s watch. Mertz Clean Your Filth is on the case.
It’s Norway 1904, and Asta Hedstrom doesn’t want to marry her odious betrothed, Nils—even though a domestic future is all her mother believes she’s suited for, on account of her single-sided deafness, unconventional appearance, and even stranger notions. Asta would rather spend her life performing in the village theater with her friends and fellow outcasts: her best friend Gunnar Fuglestad and his secret boyfriend, wealthy Erlend Fournier.
But the situation takes a dire turn when Nils lashes out in jealousy—gravely injuring Gunnar. Shunning marriage for good, Asta moves with Gunnar and Erlend to their secluded cabin above town. With few ties left with their families, they have one shot at gaining enough kroner to secure their way of life: win the village’s annual horse race.
A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.
Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.
But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.
To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But something is amiss. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .
Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
Strange things have always happened in the small town of Darling…Yet Delta Wilding and her sister Bee are familiar with the peculiar. Raised by an eccentric father always on the hunt for the spectacular, they’re used to following weather patterns that twirl onto strange paths, a car that refuses to play any artist but one, and living in a sentient house with whims of its own. But when a mysterious boy falls from the stars into the woods behind the Wilding sisters’ farmhouse, nothing can prepare them for the extraordinary turn their lives are about to take.
Extraordinary, and dangerous.
Starling Rust is not from this world and his presence in the Wilding home brings attention. As the terrified locals, Delta’s ex-boyfriend, and the unscrupulous mayor descend onto the Wilding’s home, both Delta and her sister go to incredible lengths to protect their mystical visitor–especially as Delta’s growing feelings for Starling could prove the greatest risk of all.
Filled with atmospheric prose and lush and vivid descriptions, Starling has the spectacular waiting with every flip of the page.
Perfect for fans of Neal Shusterman and Jason Reynolds, this powerhouse, mind-bending YA debut follows two teens, a generation apart, whose fates collide across time–and outside of it.
During arguably the worst week of Esso’s life, an accident knocks him into an incredible world–a place beyond space or time, where he can see glimpses of the past and future. But if what he sees there is true, he might not have much longer to live, unless he can use his new gift to change the course of history.
Rhia’s past is filled with questions, none of which she expects a new physics tutor to answer. But Dr. Esso’s not here to help Rhia. He’s here because he needs her help–to unravel a tragedy that happened fifteen years ago. One that holds the key not only to Rhia’s past, but to a future worth fighting for.
Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.
Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.
And Sam picks up the phone.
In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.