The Best Debut Books of 2021 (So Far)

We’re (check’s calendar) halfway through 2021?!

The pandemic that changed so much of our day to day lives is waning. Like the rest of us, bookstores, publishing, and authors are slowly figuring out how to return to normal. The one constant from the last 18 months has been literature. Especially debut writers who watched their dream of publishing be overshadowed and sometimes forgotten entirely.

Debutiful’s mission of helping readers discover debut authors became even more important and your support has meant the world. Thank you for reading and listening to Debutiful. More importantly, thank you for discovering debut authors. They’re the reason this site exists and their words drive everything Debutiful does.

Here are the best debuts of 2021 (so far):

The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy

In their darkly funny debut, McElroy takes modern social media culture, mixes in shitty men, and everyone’s not-so-secret favorite topic: cults! The result is a searing satire on current affairs with hilarious prose drizzled on top. Listen to a podcast with the author here.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa

Prepare yourself for tragedy. Figeroa isn’t leaning into tragedy for tragedy sake. Instead, she wrote about the types of people she sees in the southwest, struggle through cycles of tragedy. Her writing explores human nature extraordinarily well. Every page is perfect. Read an interview with the author here.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

When 2021 started, Debutiful said this was the perfect novel for the year. It’s melodramatic, messy, and complicated. How Peters writes her characters is astounding. The love triangle between trans and cisgender people could never have been told before. But now is the perfect time. This book marks the beginning of the next era in literary fiction. Listen to an interview with the author here.

The Divines by Ellie Eaton

This book by Eaton is utterly enjoyable. Imagine Mean Girls in 1990s Britain. The book is pitch perfect from start to finish as layers of these characters are peeled back slowly. It’s fun, but it’s also a reminder of the dark sides of our teenage years. Read an interview with the author here.

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

It feels like everything’s been done. Then Santhian comes out with this magical realism work of art and everything shifts again. It is completely refreshing and so unique that trying to compare it to other books is impossible. Check back next week for an interview with the author!

Low Country by J. Nicole Jones

In a year where there have been countless of standout memoirs, this one lingers due to how Jones presents her life. Every memoir released this year is incredibly touching with moving prose. Low Country feels raw. In a good way. As beautiful as it is, it feels as if nothing was covered up with language. It’s all there, the beautiful and the ugly.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz

You can feel the Florida heat oozing off these pages. Moniz brings girls and women to life of her home state to life in a myriad of ways. She’s a master of finding new ways to tell stories by mixing familiarity with a unique perspective.  Listen to a podcast with the author here.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Unputdownable. That’s the word to describe Nelson’s debut. It’s utterly riveting and the perfect reflection of the world today. Nearly every book on this list has beautiful writing, but Nelson might be in a class of his own. Word for word, this book is breathtaking.

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

Usually, plot isn’t what drives a Debutiful pick. This book, however, is a story everyone must read. Yes, Mendez knocks it out of the park in many literary ways, but readers will be grabbed from start to finish with how he allows this story to unfold.

The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado

A good story collections blends multiple genres and lets readers view the world from multiple angles. Peynado’s book breaks genres and reinvents what a story can be. Every single story here could very well be the best story in the collection. There is no down note. 

Yes, Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage

If there is a book that leaps off the page, it’s this one. Parks-Ramage’s writing is so vivid and his characters are so alive. While the content gets dark, it never feels like too much. There’s a balance that this book natural has so that readers can read it in any mood. Listen to a podcast with the author here.

Walking on the Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti

Nkweti keeps a tight focus in every story. She gets in and gets out. Every story allows the reader to understand Cameroon and Cameroonian-Americans with such grace. Every story is completely fulfilling while simultaneously leaves you wanting more of her writing.

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