There are so many new authors to discover in 2021. Try something new by reading a debut novel this year!

A debut novel is the first novel a novelist publishes. The recommendations below fulfill the Waterloo 2021 Reading Challenge prompt: read an author’s debut novel published in 2021.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man–a fellow slave–seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

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The Push by Ashley Audrain

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do. Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

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Pickard County Atlas by Chris Harding Thornton

In a dusty town in Nebraska’s rugged sandhills, weary sheriff’s deputy Harley Jensen patrols the streets at night, on the lookout for something—anything—out of the ordinary. That and the Reddick family patriarch has decided, decades after authorities ended the search for his murdered boy’s body, to lay a headstone. Instead of bringing closure, this decision is the spark that threatens to set Pickard County ablaze.

Coming soon! | Read with Libby | Listen with Libby

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

The Kindest Lie examines the heartbreaking divide between black and white communities and plumbs the emotional depths of the struggles faced by ordinary Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. Capturing the profound racial injustices and class inequalities roiling society, Nancy Johnson’s debut novel offers an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

In Baxter Beach, Barbados, moneyed ex-pats clash with the locals who often end up serving them: braiding their hair, minding their children, and selling them drugs. Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the Baxter Beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom — and their lives.

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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.

Coming to your library in March 2021.
Coming to your library in March 2021.

The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson

Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn’t return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato–where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they’ve inherited. Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors.

Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff

When two hardscrabble young boys think they’ve committed a crime, they flee into the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Will the adults trying to find and protect them reach them before it’s too late? The adults track the boys toward the novel’s heart-pounding climax on the edge of the gorge and a conclusion that beautifully makes manifest the grace these characters find in the wilderness and one another. This timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure runs like the river itself amid the vividly rendered landscape of the Upper Midwest.

Coming to your library in March 2021.
Available at your library in April 2021.

Becoming Leidah by Michelle Grierson

In the hinterlands of old Norway, Leidah Pietersdatter is born blue-skinned, with webbed hands and feet. Upon every turn of season, her mother, Maeva, worries as her daughter’s peculiarities blossom—inside the root of the tiny child, a strange power is taking hold. Maeva tries to hide the girl from the suspicious townsfolk, just as she conceals her own magical ancestry from her daughter. Maeva’s adoring husband, Pieter, wants nothing more than for his new family to be accepted by all. But unlike Pieter, Maeva is aware that the villagers, who profess a rigid faith to the new God and claim to have abandoned the old ways, are watching for any sign of transgression—and are eager to pounce and punish.

What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins

After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys’ families–a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection. With a propulsive mystery at its core, What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.

Coming to your library in April 2021.

All book descriptions were borrowed from Goodreads.com.

Learn more about the 2021 Reading Challenge here.

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