I’m finding it a little hard to believe, but October is almost over. Time to take a peek at the debut YA novels of October 2021.
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 October 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.
DEBUT YA NOVELS: October 2021
Never trust a pirate.
The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials—a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.
Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.
Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning—yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.
Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.
Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.
Seventeen-year-old Anna is running for her life. She barely escaped the massacre that killed her family, and now a relentless Red commander is after her to finish the job. If she can just reach the Tsarist army, she’ll be safe. But first she must convince a peasant girl to smuggle her across communist territory. And when the peasant turns out to be a communist herself, Anna must hide her true identity at all costs.
Sixteen-year-old Evgenia is poor and pissed off about it. Her Red soldier brother badly needs a doctor. Evgenia will do anything to raise the money – even selling a wagon ride to a spoiled bourgeois girl. Only it’s the worst mistake Evgenia’s ever made. A rogue commander is following them, and he’s out to kill the wealthy girl and anyone who helps her.
As the girls flee across the war-torn Russian countryside, they find that they have more in common than their prejudices led them to expect. To survive, Anna must trust a revolutionary who wants to destroy her world. And Evgenia must decide whether the life of her new friend is worth more than the change she so passionately believes in.
In an empire on the brink of war…
Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.
Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.
When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.
But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.
Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.
Ashley “Ash” Bishop has always known who he is: a guy who loves soccer, has a crush on his friend Michelle, and is fascinated by the gruesome history of his hometown―Salem, Massachusetts. He’s also always known that he’s intersex, born with both male and female genitalia. But it’s never felt like a big deal until his junior year of high school, when Ash gets his first period in front of the entire boys’ soccer team. Now his friends and teachers see him differently, and his own mother thinks he should “try being a girl.”
As tensions mount with his parents and Ash feels more and more like an outcast, he can’t help feeling a deeper kinship with his ancestor Bridget Bishop, who was executed for witchcraft. She didn’t conform to her community’s expectations either; she was different, and her neighbors felt threatened by her. And she paid the ultimate price. Ash is haunted by her last recorded words: You will keep silent.
Ash realizes that he needs to find a way to stand up for who he really is, or the cost of his silence might destroy his life, too.
Death is her destiny.
Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.
When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.
Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. Nova doesn’t mind—mostly. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift.
But Kade says Nova doesn’t know the costs of this technology that’s taken the world by storm. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and is strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling that there’s something she’s forgotten…
An insightful memoir from a figure skating champion about her life as a bisexual professional athlete, perfect for readers of Fierce by Aly Raisman and Forward by Abby Wambach.
Karina Manta has had a busy few years: Not only did she capture the hearts of many with her fan-favorite performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she also became the first female figure skater on Team USA to come out as queer. Her Modern Love essay I Can’t Hate My Body if I Love Hers was published in the New York Times, and then she joined the circus–Cirque du Soleil’s on-ice show, AXEL.
Karina’s memoir covers these experiences and much more. Attending a high school with 4,000 students, you’d expect to know more than two openly gay students, but Karina didn’t meet an out-lesbian until she was nearly seventeen–let alone any other kind of queer woman. But this isn’t just a story about her queerness. It’s also a story about her struggle with body image in a sport that prizes delicate femininity. It’s a story about panic attacks, and first crushes, and all the crushes that followed, and it’s a story about growing up, feeling different than everybody around her and then realizing that everyone else felt different too.
Words have the power to heal
“We’re not friends. We’re just volunteer partners.
Once our shift is over, we don’t know each other.”
“I hate you sometimes.”
“What about the rest of the time?”
” . . . the opposite, I guess.”
Heartsick from the death of his mother and heartsore from breaking up with his girlfriend, Dee Warrington is barely getting by.
Eccentric with mad style, Naya’s had straight As since the seventh grade, and when she makes a pinky promise, she means it.
Both find themselves at Salvation Hill Nursing Home, volunteering during their summer break. There they meet Marie Delden—a former aspiring poet with a mysterious backstory. As Dee and Naya read through Marie’s poems, they begin to unravel Marie’s past . . . and discover their own future.
Inspired by a true story, Warona Jolomba shares a tale of love and loss, and a bond that forms in the unlikeliest of places.
What the heart desires, the house destroys…
Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.