We’ve all got our favourite authors, but there’s something extra special about turning the pages of a writer’s first novel. Luckily for us, 2012 is a hugely promising year for new literary talent. From self-published wunderkinds to the female Brian Cox, via moose hunters and an author who came back from the brink of death to write her novel, we give you the dazzling new literati. Read on for this year’s hottest debuts…
Words: Jessica Whiteley
We The Animals by Justin Torres, out now
Justin Torres’ punch-packing debut wrestled its way into the US bestseller chart last year, earning him a string of accolades from critics and authors alike. Out in the UK now, the semi-autobiographical We The Animals tells the story of three brothers growing up in a poor family with a white mother and a Puerto Rican father. Told from the perspective of the youngest brother, it’s a coming of age tale played out against a backdrop of a turbulent marriage, poverty and violence. Dubbeda young Jeffrey Eugenides, Torres crafts a narrative voice that’s exciting and unique and his powerful, lyrical prose gives even the darkest of scenes a sheen of brilliance.
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann, out 2 August
Hopes are high for the forthcoming Tigers in Red Weather, out in July. A dark, sparkling tale of a glamorous East Coast family plagued by secrets, it sweeps across '40s, '50s and '60s America and is already being compared to classic novels like Tender is the Night and Revolutionary Road. Think passion and betrayal masquerading behind a backdrop of jazz, cocktails and hazy sunshine. The subject of a huge bidding war amongst publishers – and already generating interest from LA film studios – it’s proof that our love affair with everything retro is long to continue.
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, out 1 March
First-time author McCleen draws on her experience of growing up in a fundamental religion to create this unforgettable novel narrated by ten-year-old Judith. Bullied at school for her Father’s religious beliefs, Judith retreats to the Land of Decoration, a replica of The Promised Land made from discarded rubbish. But when God gives her the power to create miracles, the consequences threaten to bring tragedy. Chosen by The Sunday Times as one of 2012’s must-reads, it’s surprisingly dark in places and tackles big issues like faith and bereavement. The perfect read for fans of Room and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
Tea at the Grand Tazi by Alexandra Singer, out 1 March
Writing a book is no mean feat for anyone, but Alexandra Singer’s debut is even more impressive given that four years ago she had completely forgotten starting it. The legal student was struck down with nerve condition cerebal lupus in the middle of writing Tea at the Grand Tazi, leaving her with long-term memory loss and unable to walk or write. After her brother found the manuscript in her flat, Singer set herself a daily writing target to complete the book. Finally released in March, her debut is an intensely colourful tale of a young ex-pat in Morocco who gets swept up in the seedy underworld of Marrakech.
Switched by Amanda Hocking, out now
She is the 27-year-old self-published author who joined the Kindle Million Club last year, with her hugely popular collection of paranormal novels putting her in the same league as Stephenie Meyer and Stieg Larsson. This year, Amanda Hocking has teamed up with Macmillan (thanks to a whopping seven figure deal) to release Switched, her first novel to be published in the traditional sense. The first of the Trylle trilogy, a paranormal romance as addictive as Twilight, all three books will be published before April. Is the hype deserved? There’s only one way to find out…
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, out 29 March
Dubbed ‘the most gripping debut of 2012’ by The Sunday Times, The Lifeboat is page-turning literary fiction at its best. Set in 1914, it introduces us to 22-year-old Grace Winter who is about to go on trial for her life. We know she survived a shipwreck and three weeks at sea on a lifeboat; we don’t know how. There follows a tale of survival told through an unreliable narrator who keeps you guessing throughout, making it fantastic fodder for book club debate. With fans including Emma Donoghue and Hilary Mantel, it’s the authors’ top choice for 2012.
Like a Virgin by Aarathi Prasad, out 16 August
Science journalist Aarathi Prasad is a leading voice in the genetics field and is fast popping up all over the media - think of her as the female equivalent of Brian Cox making science accessible for the masses. Her first book, out in August, probes into the world of reproductive science to look at the evolution of a potentially sexless future. From the creation of artificial eggs to silicone wombs for men and egg-fertilizing computer chips, Prasad asks whether a future of virgin pregnancies could be just around the corner, and if so, where will that leave men? Entertaining and provocative, it promises to change the way you think about sex.
The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall, out 1 March
One of only three authors to make this year’s Red List Hot 100, Hall’s debut novel is the story of Beth Lowe, a 30-year-old woman who is sent The Book of Summers, a scrapbook of holiday photos and mementos compiled by her long-estranged, and now deceased, mother. Over 7 summers spent in rural Hungary – with descriptions so vivid and beautiful that you will long to visit – Hall reveals the long-buried secret that changed everything the year Beth turned 16. Fantastically evocative and sun-drenched with a twist, it’s guaranteed a place on our summer holiday reading list.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, out now
Alaskan author Ivey spends her time hunting moose and raising chickens, so it’s no surprise that her first novel is inspired by the stark landscapes of her hometown. Set in 1920s Alaska, it introduces us to Jack and Mabel, a grieving childless couple who build a child out of snow and awake the next morning to see a little girl running through the forest. What follows is an enchanting tale of love, spirit and survival. One of Waterstones’ top debuts of 2012 and already an international success, it is completely deserving of the hype. Devour it and pass it on to your friends.