Jill Andreasen, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian
Ah, debuts. I absolutely LOVE them. Lots of people are a bit apprehensive in taking a gamble on an unknown talent, especially if budgets are tight (and really, when are they not?), because Sarah Dessen, John Green, and Maggie Stiefvater are just flat-out going to circulate, and you know you’ll get your bang for your buck.
But for teens and teen librarians whose thirst for new perspectives and new voices that cannot be quenched, debuts are the most exciting game in town. The problem, of course, is that by their very nature, they can be tough to predict. Never fear, I’ve combed through dozens and dozens of ARCs to bring you the authors you should really be taking a chance on.
It’s a diverse list featuring titles from smaller, boutique houses to the big players, with wide-ranging perspectives from Indian-American to Muslim-American to LGBTQ points of view, and it runs the gamut of genres, too.
One book I’d like to focus on more in-depth is Marisha Pessl’s Neverworld Wake. In it, our narrator, college freshman Beatrice, has just come home from exams and is apprehensive about meeting up with her crew from boarding school, to whom she’s not spoken since the center of their clique, Bee’s boyfriend, tragically died at the end of senior year. His death ruled a suicide, doubtful Bee goes to Whitley’s parents’ mansion on the shore of Rhode Island, where the crew is gathered, to find out once and for all what each of her friends knows about Jim’s death. Thus ensues an awkward reunion, an alcohol-infused night at a club, a devastating road accident in the rain, and the creation of an idiosyncratic time bubble for the five friends.
The Groundhog Day-like time loop, called "Neverworld Wake," is governed by one rule only, as a mysterious figure introduced as The Keeper informs them: During the last three minutes of every “wake” or day, they must all vote for exactly one of them to live, and the rest will go onto their true death. And the vote must be unanimous, save one dissent.
What follows is Pressl’s sinuous and surprising narrative at every turn, a genre-bending blend of boarding-school narrative, mystery, sci-fi, and psychological horror. Her language pulses with a palpable sense of hopelessness, determination, rage, and pure platonic love. The ending is magnificent in its restraint, and in so doing delivers true pathos. Rarely have I been so satisfied by the closing of a novel.
While Pessl has won wide acclaim for her adult novels Night Film and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, this is the first time we’ve seen her on the YA scene, and I’m so glad she’s here. I’ve been doing and loving this gig for 10 years now, so I have a pretty good handle on spotting those elements that make a narrative shine, that seize the reader’s attention until the back cover is closed with a contented sigh. I hope after reading this you’ll feel confident to find a place in your collection for these great titles!
Need specific collection development assistance in YA or any other category? Our librarians will be glad to help out.
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