Yes, it is the third month of 2022, but I realized that I never got a chance to share a list of my favorite 2021 debut authors. While making this list, I discovered that I didn’t read as many debuts last year as I thought I did. I think this partially had to do with how much I struggled at the beginning of 2021. Reading and blogging just felt really hard. And then during the latter part of the year, I suddenly could not stop reading, but I didn’t want to disrupt this by making myself read things I wasn’t in the mood for. This resulted in me reading a lot of backlist horror toward the end of the year and as a result I only picked up like three debuts in the latter part of the year. Still, I did pick up a few incredible debuts in 2021 and I cannot wait to see what comes next for these authors. Covers are linked to Goodreads.
1. Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
Why I Loved It: Great balance of lightheartedness and serious issues, deals with homophobia in Latinx community, about finding happiness despite coming from a topic environment, chaotic but loveable friend group, swoony romance
“A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.”
2. The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
Why I Loved It: Dynamic world-building, slow-burn romance, exploration of religion, power, and the dangers of ethnocentrism
“In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.“
3. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
Why I Loved It: Clear distinct voice, MC who is in love with love, learning to see your own value, messy but unshakable friendship, complicated mother-daughter relationship
“Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.
A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.”
4. Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
Why I Loved It: Mechas, found family trope, enemies to lovers, sapphic romance, non-stop action, reckless but loveable ensemble of characters
“Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose–and falling for each other–in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.
We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…”
7 thoughts on “Book Lists: Favorite 2021 Debut Authors”
I haven’t checked how many debut authors I read in 2021, but I don’t think I read that many either. I hope I can do better this year, now that I’m out of my reading slump.
I have heard nothing but great things about The Wolf and the Woodsman, especially about the slow-burn romance. I’m looking forward to getting to this soon.
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Yep, I have a lot of catching up to do with 2021 debut authors. The Wolf and the Woodsman is incredible. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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I’ve only read Gearbreakers so far – I’ve got to get on to the rest!
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They are all fantastic. Happy reading!
I feel like I don’t read as many debuts as I would like 🥺 Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is still on my TBR and it’s high up on my priority list because it sounds great 😊
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You must pick up Charlie Vega. I’m sure you’ll love it!