April 4, 2014

Casual Friday: Five April Debuts to Watch

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)

 An empty mind is a safe mind.

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"].

FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe (April 8)

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

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?

Why so awesome: This is one of my absolute favorite examples of LGBTQ literature done right, and one I always recommend to people looking for a great bisexual character in a category that seems to fundamentally misunderstand them. Sharpe also does an excellent job with both the often-tricky non-linear structure and the crafting of a character with a rarely seen yet all-too-common-in-real-life prescription drug addiction. Enough reasons to pick it up for you?
POINTE by Brandy Colbert (April 10)

Theo is better now.

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: This book was just so many things I wasn't expecting, and all of them made me so, so happy. (Including the racial diversity.) Paramount above all was that this book felt so true. It isn't moralistic, but it isn't romantic, either. The fact is that people screw up, and make bad decisions, and sometimes we pay for them, and sometimes we don't, and sometimes we learn, and sometimes we don't, and sometimes we realize how troublesome our actions are, and sometimes we don't, and all of that is truth I was thrilled to find sharply and boldly reflected in Colbert's debut. This isn't a Dance book or a Kidnapping book or an Eating Disorder book, although I see how the cover and blurb could give expectations of any of the three. It is a real, at times gritty, examination of the way past decisions inform the future, and the different ways people change and grow and cope.

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

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.
THE BREAK-UP ARTIST by Philip Siegel

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 

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.

Why so awesome: I loooove YA, but man, it's gotten crazy serious in recent years. Sometimes, you just wanna have fun, and laugh, and read a story that's a little less romantic and a little more depraved. Obviously Becca's not your typical YA sweetheart, and it's such a refreshing change I could cry. Though I do have to confess that sappy as it may sound, it's the subplot of Becca and her sister that's actually my favorite part of the book, but, you know, read all of it ;)



tawney13 said...

These books sound amazing! I think I'll start with the break up artist! I need something fun right now! Thanks Dahlia! I can always count on you for suggestions for my TBR list!

J.A. Ward said...

I'm so ready to read Open Road Summer -- can't wait!!

Kathryn Holmes said...

So excited for all of these!! It's gonna be a great year. :D

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