The Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2021

By Jessica Dukes
A collection of modern novels arranged in a scattered pattern on a pink background, showcasing a variety of book cover designs and titles.

Historical dramas, family tensions, and fearless acts of love fill the pages of these amazing debut novels.

A tranquil book cover for "we are the brennans" by tracey lange, featuring a minimalist design with sprigs of green clover laid out against a textured off-white background.

We Are the Brennans

By Tracey Lange

Sunday Brennan moves home to the east coast after surviving a terrible car accident. But rebuilding her life amidst the secrets she left behind — and the secrets harbored by her big, Irish Catholic family — isn't as easy as she hoped. Fans of Mary Beth Keane and Ann Patchett won't be able to put this down.

A book cover with layered abstract shapes in earthy colors, showcasing the title "the prophets" and the author "robert jones, jr.", with a commendation from marlon james at the top.

The Prophets

By Robert Jones Jr.

Isaiah and Samuel have carved out a space for themselves amid the dangers and horrors of the plantation where they are enslaved. Their relationship goes largely ignored until another slave realizes that he can improve his own conditions by preaching the master’s religion. With their delicate peace abruptly and violently destroyed, Isaiah and Samuel must fight their own friends and family to survive.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Burnt Sugar

By Avni Doshi

Antara spent much of her childhood towed around by her mother, Tara, a woman flailing as she tries to find herself. From an ashram, through homelessness and a string of failed relationships, Antara was an afterthought to Tara’s obsessions. Years later, as Tara’s memory fades and Antara becomes her caretaker, time is running out for them to find forgiveness.

A solitary figure walks away into a snowy, winter forest on the cover of victoria gosling's novel "before the ruins.

Before the Ruins

By Victoria Gosling

The apocalypse is coming — or maybe not — but Andy, Marcus, Peter, and Em use it as an excuse to embark on a summer adventure anyway. When they decide to celebrate Armageddon at a deserted mansion, they don’t expect to meet David there, and they definitely don’t expect to be ensnared in a search for stolen jewels. Both the treasure hunt and David’s eerie influence will change them all.

Cover art for "detransition, baby: a novel" by torrey peters featuring an abstract design with vivid colors and face-like shapes.

Detransition, Baby

By Torrey Peters

Reese and Amy, two trans women, have built a beautiful life together. That is, until Amy decides to detransition. Reese spirals into depression and harmful behavior. Amy, now Ames, mourns life with Reese, and is stunned when he accidentally gets a woman pregnant. But could it be a blessing in disguise? Could this baby be the thing that reunites them as a family?

Cover of the novel "the lost apothecary" by sarah penner, featuring an ornate bottle with a diamond on top, surrounded by vividly colored flowers and butterflies against a dark background.

The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner

London, 1700s: In the crowded squalor of its city streets, an apothecary shop owner, Nella, helps women escape abusive situations. When one of her poisons makes it into the wrong hands, it kicks off a murder mystery that lasts for centuries. London, today: Caroline is a historian who uncovers a clue to the apothecary murders, and finds herself the target of an age-old threat. Despite the years between them, Caroline and Nella may save each other after all.

The image features the cover of a novel titled "the kindest lie" by nancy johnson, which displays bold, colorful artwork consisting of a house and stylized typeface.

The Kindest Lie

By Nancy Johnson

Years ago, Ruth relinquished custody of the baby she had as a teenager. Now she’s a successful black businesswoman in a strong marriage, but reluctant to have children. Looking for closure, Ruth returns to her struggling Indiana hometown just as racial tensions explode. Complicating issues for Ruth is Midnight, a white young man and a friend with possible connections to her past.

Elegance and mystery: a woman in a sumptuous green dress with pearl strands draped over her shoulder evokes the roaring twenties, embodying the spirit of jazz and the allure of an untold story.

Wild Women and the Blues

By Denny S. Bryce

Chicago Jazz-Age socialite, Honoree Dalcour, is the star of the Dreamland Café. Her life is a swirl of pirated booze, mobsters, and the hottest celebrities of the day, including filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Ninety years later, film student, Sawyer Hayes, stakes everything important in his life on an interview with Honoree seeking her stories about Oscar. What Sawyer doesn’t know: Honoree has dangerous secrets and she’s going to take this final chance to tell them.

A young person in contemplative pose leaning over a table, seemingly immersed in deep thought, set against a dark, enigmatic background that evokes a sense of mystery and introspection.

The Portrait of a Mirror

By A. Natasha Joukovsky

Wes and Diana of Manhattan are married, wealthy, and well-connected to their community of influential people. Dale and Vivien of Philadelphia are planning their wedding. When Vivien gets hired for a project at the Met in NYC and Diana is sent to Philadelphia for work, the paths of the two couples cross in uncontrollable ways. Over the course of one summer, passions take over, right and wrong are ignored, and the consequences are ruthless.

A book titled "burn it all down" by nicolas didomizio, featuring a vibrant pink house with playful typography engulfed in illustrated flames against a bold turquoise background.

Burn It All Down

By Nicolas DiDomizio

Gia and Joey Rossi — mother and son — are in a rage. Both of their boyfriends have betrayed them, and now they’re reveling in revenge fantasies. It doesn’t take long for those fantasies to become a reality, and before they know it, they’re on the run. Seeking refuge with one of Gia’s ex-boyfriends, she and Joey are finally forced to confront how bad decisions of the past led them to this point.

A historical novel cover presenting 'a tip for the hangman' by allison epstein, featuring a montage of elizabethan era imagery, including an ornate portrait, a skeleton, and figures in period clothing.

A Tip for the Hangman

By Allison Epstein

Playwright Christopher Marlowe is excited when he’s tapped to become a spy for Queen Elizabeth’s court. His target: the house of Mary, Queen of Scots, where she is held under arrest. As a servant, he’s to report any chatter about plans to restore her to the throne, but what he learns will change the course of history — his own, and the country’s.

A book cover featuring a profile view of a woman with contemplative expression against a backdrop of vibrant, swirling colors, titled "the other me" by sarah zachrich jeng.

The Other Me

By Sarah Zachrich Jeng

We all wonder how our lives would look if we made different choices in the past, but Kelly is about to find out. She didn’t mean to open a portal to a parallel universe, but now that she’s through it she can’t get back. Her memories aren’t her own, she’s in a crappy marriage with some guy she barely knew back in the day, and her family members are being awkward. Time’s running out, and Kelly has to pinpoint which decision was the fateful one that put her on the path to her real life.

A person in a blue coat walking towards the entrance of an old-fashioned amusement park, as depicted on the cover of "the light of luna park" by addison armstrong—a novel about a nurse's poignant search for answers.

The Light of Luna Park

By Addison Armstrong

Nurse Althea is troubled by her inability to help premature babies at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, until she learns about a new invention on display at Coney Island — the incubator. Doctors aren’t convinced that incubators work, but Althea can’t ignore the amazing results being reported in the news. Risking it all, she kidnaps a baby to save its life. Years later, a mysterious letter reveals Althea’s story and the family secret she fought so hard to hide.

Book cover of 'things we lost to the water' by eric nguyen, depicting a young man submerged in water with air bubbles surrounding his face, conveying themes of submersion, loss, and reflection.

Things We Lost to the Water

By Eric Nguyen

Huong and her sons, Tuan and Binh, are immigrants from Vietnam struggling to build a life in New Orleans. A relationship of convenience grows between Huong and a more established, recent immigrant. Tuan and Binh try assimilating in their own ways — Tuan joins a gang and Binh becomes “Ben.” But then a hurricane bears down on the Crescent City, and whatever fragile security they have is in danger of washing away.

Book cover of 'the comfort of monsters' by willa c. richards featuring a haunting double-exposure portrait blending a face with a shadowy forest.

The Comfort of Monsters

By Willa C. Richards

In the summer of 1991, Milwaukee is on edge. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is on his gruesome mission when Dee vanishes. Decades later, Peg feels out of options in her sister’s investigation. Consulting a psychic, Peg revisits her relationship with Dee and her hazy role in her disappearance. With any mercy, Peg’s memories will be able to heal her family once and for all.

A novel cover depicting a child holding the tail of an elephant, walking side by side – 'the elephant of belfast' by s. kirk walsh.

The Elephant of Belfast

By S. Kirk Walsh

When Belfast comes under German attack in WWII, Hettie does the only thing she can: protect the animals of her zoo, especially Violet, an orphaned, three-year-old elephant. Based on real events, this is more than just a story of survival. It’s about the relationship that endures between Hettie and Violet, a love that saves them both.

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