2024 WRC: Debut novels

Banner with five book covers from the Debut Novels booklist 2024 Winter Reading Challenge
Here is a sampling of the many debut novels published last year – and a couple of older favorites and one from 2024…

Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova – Grieving mother Magos cuts out a piece of her deceased 11-year-old son’s lung, nurturing it until in gains sentience, and hides this carnivorous little Monstrilio in the walls of her family’s decaying Mexico City estate, but his innate impulses threaten to destroy this fragile second chance at life.

Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy – A chain-smoking, heavily tattooed, queer nun, Sister Holiday, when Saint Sebastian’s School becomes the target of a shocking arson spree, launches her own investigation, which turns her against colleagues, students and fellow Sisters as she pieces together the clues to solve this explosive mystery.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett – A Cambridge professor, scholar and researcher on the study of faeries visits the hardscrabble village of Hransvik where she gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones and resists her insufferably handsome academic rival.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – In the early 1960s, chemist and single mother Elizabeth Zott, the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show due to her revolutionary skills in the kitchen, uses this opportunity to dare women to change the status quo.

Maame by Jessica George – A young British Ghanaian woman navigates her 20s and finds her place in the world.

The Hurricane Wars by Thea Guanzon – Tasked with obliterating any threats to the Night Empire’s rule, Prince Alaric, the emperor’s only son and heir, tries to kill Talasyn, a girl burning brightly on the battlefield with the magic that ignited the Hurricane Wars, but instead, in a clash of light and dark, creates a force the likes of which has never been seen.

One Summer in Savannah by Terah Shelton Harris – Returning to the Georgia home she fled after she was raped eight years earlier, 26-year-old Sara, while caring for her ailing father and running his bookstore, hides her daughter from the Wylers, the powerful family of the man who assaulted her, until her world collides with her attacker’s identical twin brother.

Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein – After a young man from the poorest part of Trinidad goes missing during the end of British colonialism, a farmhand is offered a generous stipend to become a watchman and determine what happened to the missing man.

These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs – When she discovers a secret that could take down Kindom, the ruling power of the galaxy, occasional thief Jun Ironway is hunted by the two most brutal clerics of the Kindom while a ghost from their shared pasts, known only as Six, tracks all three.

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei – When a lethal bomb knocks the The Phoenix —a ship carrying humanity’s last hope— off course, Asuka, the only surviving witness, is an immediate suspect and with the crew turning on each other, she is determined to find the culprit before the bomber strikes again.

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell – When production for the tenth season of the hit cooking competition Bake Week begins at the gothic estate of the show’s host and founder, celebrity chef Betsy Martin, everything seems normal. The six contestants are eager to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy struggles for control of the show with her new co-host, the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition gets under way, things begin to go awry. At first it’s merely sabotage-sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high-but then someone shows up dead and suddenly everyone’s a suspect.

There, There by Tommy Orange – A novel—which grapples with the complex history of Native Americans; with an inheritance of profound spirituality; and with a plague of addiction, abuse and suicide—follows 12 characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.

The Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh – Hunkering down with her sister in her fancy house in Sugar Land, along with her brother-in-law’s family, as Hurricane Harvey bears down on Houston, single mom Jia Shah and her 12-year-old son, Ishaan, finds tensions escalating along with the storm, resulting in murder.

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul – After a silver screen icon dies and leaves her huge estate to three sisters, one of them discovers that the actress was really their grandmother, a black woman who had “passed” for white for over 60 years.

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett – A pregnant woman leaves her husband and moves to St. Elizabeth’s, a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Kentucky, to begin a new life.

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters – A four-year-old Mi’kmaq girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a tragic mystery that haunts the survivors, unravels a family, and will remain unsolved for nearly fifty years.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff – Considered a “self-made” widow after the disappearance of her husband, Geeta, when other women in the village ask her for help in getting rid of their own no-good husbands, must decide how far she is willing to go to protect her fearsome reputation and the life she’s built.

Beyond That, The Sea by Laura Spence-Ash – A young girl is sent from London to live in America during World War II and fits in so seamlessly with her new family that she is hesitant to return to post-war England when she is called home.

Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili – A devastating story of one family’s border-crossing adventure to rescue one another and make peace with the past, set in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, two years after the occupation of South Ossetia by Russia in 2008.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn – Henry Gaunt, a student at an idyllic boarding school in the English countryside is relieved to escape his feelings for Sidney Ellwood when he enlists to fight in World War I, but is horrified when all his classmates join him.