Obviously, I'm the tiniest bit biased when I say that 2014 is an absurdly fantastic year for debut authors, but not so much about the fact that of all the months within, April might be the best of the best for them. I know we're only four days in, but I've been lucky enough to read these five books in advance, and now I pass their awesome along to you:
SEKRET by Lindsay Smith (April 1)
Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Why so awesome: Major bonus points from the start for being set in a fascinating time and place, and being one of the rare YAs that's set in a foreign country with a foreign MC. Smith knows Russian culture and history, and it's glaringly apparent in every detail. Add that to some killer characters, a seriously cool premise, literal heart-pounding action, and skillful writing, and you can see why I think this book is...[insert the Russian word for "awesome"].
That's how long recovering addict Sophie's been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.
Forced into rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer - but can she track them down before they come for her?
She's eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.
Donovan isn't talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn't do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she's been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.
Why so awesome: Matt Finch is one of the best, sweetest book boyfriends to come along in a good, long while, but the major magic of Lord's debut is the wonderful friendship between Reagan and Lilah, aka Dee. As much as I love YA, too often I feel like the friendships between characters are secondary to the romances in every way, dissolving into some sort of frenemy-ship as soon as The Boy comes along, but not here. The bond between the two girls here is strong and palpable, and this was the rare book that made me wish I had my own teen girl so I could hand it off to her and say, "Here, this - this is what I want for you in life. Make a friend who treats you like this, and a partner who treats you like this. And if you have the misfortune to go through similar rough spots, let the people who love them help you through them, no matter how much your instinct is to fight it." This is the perfect book to buy for yourself...and all the great girlfriends in your life.
After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.
One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.
No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.