New Voices in Young Adult Literature

It’s always exciting to discover new books and authors and, as usual, some of the freshest voices can be found in young adult publishing.   Here are three debut titles that have quickly become librarian favorites around here.

Melissa Albert writes with an authority that belies her status as a first-time author in the deliciously creepy The Hazel Wood.  Bad luck has followed Alice every one of her 17 years and no matter how many times she and her mother, Ella, move to a new town, disaster always catches up.  When Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of the cult fairy-tale classic Tales of the Hinterland, dies it seems their luck has finally turned.  But bad things continue to lurk around the edges of their lives and it isn’t long before Ella goes missing.  All signs of the abduction point to the The Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s rundown impenetrable estate.  Dark, eerie, and deeply atmospheric, author Melissa Albert mines the darker side of fairy tales in this unsettling exploration of how stories are made and how deeply their roots are buried.  Alice is both world-weary and immature, and her rough edges are the perfect counterpart for the not-quite-human world tangled within the Hazel Wood.  Perfect for older teen and adult readers who like their fairy tales with a sharp edge.

Dana Davis has had a successful acting career but recently turned her hand to writing fiction.  In Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now  16-year-old Tiffany is devastated by the loss of her mother to cancer and her impending move across the country to live with the biological dad she’s never met. She intends to give it her best, but she is shocked to learn she has four half-sisters and that her father is not only incredibly wealthy but conservative and quite strict.  Trying to breath under the weight of a life she didn’t ask for and one that no longer seems to have a place for her, Tiffany’s only outlet is a tentative friendship with Marcus, the school’s social pariah, who lives across the street.  Marcus is definitely odd, with his face painted white and silent movement through school, but he is smart, kind, and offers Tiffany the support she needs to find footing in her new world.  With well-developed characters and explorations of race, wealth, and conformity, Tiffany’s voice is authentic and true.  For fans of realistic fiction.

While technically not a debut, Spinning is Tillie Walden’s first full-length book, in this case a graphic memoir, to be released by a large publisher.  For 10 years, Tillie woke before dawn every weekday, grabbed her skates, and hit the ice at the local rink before classes.   After school there was more practice and, on the weekends, long drives to competitions around the state.  Tillie was good at skating, and she loved it… didn’t she?  After a move to a new city, she found herself losing touch with her identity as a prize-winning skater.  Rather than feeling energized after a competition, she simply felt tired and empty.   Looking for new ways to express herself, Tillie became more involved in art and eventually fell in love with her first girlfriend.  But when your identity has always been tied to one thing, how do you let that go?  This quiet memoir perfectly captures the intense emotions of adolescence with all the gravity and possibility that exists in each moment.  With pitch-perfect pacing and simple but evocative drawings, this will resonate with teens and adults alike.

Looking for more young adult fiction suggestions?  You can find them on our Staff Picks page.

~posted by Summer H.

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