Best 2020 Debuts

  • A Knock at Midnight by Brittany K. Barnett
    • Similar to Bryan Stevenson who wrote Just Mercy, Barnett has dedicated her life to social justice. When she was a child, her mother was in prison on a stiff drug sentence, so when she came across a similar story online, she immediately became invested. Since then, she has helped free a multitude of women that were serving life sentences for small drug offenses. Barnett’s writing is incredibly powerful and this book is, without a doubt, one of my top reads of the year!
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
    • Despite being an incredibly difficult topic, I couldn’t put this book down. Russell presented a believable relationship between a teacher and his student. For me, what was most important about this book was the subtle manipulation and grooming that this person of trust slowly and incrimentally introduced into their relationship until the girl thought their interactions were truly love. It really was an eye-opening book as I now have a teenaged daughter!
  • Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
    • From the very first page, I had to know how this story turned out! Wetmore hits the ground running as a young teenage girl is assaulted in the dry, dusty desertland of Odessa, Texas. The sense of place is strong – everything about this story stands off the page. The reviews are all over the place and its rating is fairly low on Goodreads, but I loved this book and look forward to what Wetmore has in store in the future!
  • Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
    • I loved, loved, loved everything about West’s novel – the writing, the characters, the story and its satisfying ending. If you love a multi-generational drama/mystery, this is one of the best of the year!
  • The Comeback by Ella Berman
    • Thick with Daisy Jones vibes, I was sucked into this story of Hollywood stardom and one star’s fall from grace. It was a great fictional supplement to the #metoo movement and how out of touch the Hollywood elite are from everyday life and people. I cheered for Grace throughout the book and hoped she came out on the other side in better touch with reality. I had a hard time putting this one down.
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor
    • This was one of those books that slowly wrapped its tentacles around me and has refused to let me go ever since I finished it. Initially I gave it a lower rating, but have since revised that rating because of its staying power. Taylor’s writing is out of this world and he created a character, Wallace, that broke my heart. Trying to navigate the world as a Black, queer man, Taylor emphasizes the nuances of our current racial, social, and political climates.
  • The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna
    • Lauren Cress is a teacher at a small community college. She develops an inappropriately close friendship with one of her students, and when Lauren is invited to travel to Siri’s home in Sweden over the summer, this all-consuming friendship comes to a head. With themes of female frienship, grief, and loneliness, I appreicated Zinna’s ability to tell a compelling story. This is a slow burn, but for me, the payoff was well-worth the effort!
  • Shiner by Amy Jo Burns
    • This is an atmospheric novel that has totally flown under the radar in my opinion. Besides being set in one of my favorite settings – the Appalacians of West Virginia – Burns writes an engaging story rich with details and characters that grab ahold of you quite quickly. This is definitely a standout debut this year!
  • A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers
    • Helen is part of a recurring curse – one that repeats itself every thirty-four years. When she goes on a blind date, there is something oddly familiar about the man she meets. After that meeting, Helen begins dreaming of anothr life from 1890s Paris. After you get your footing about the dueling timelines and the characters, this story quickly becomes all-consuming. Sayers demands her readers to trust her and the unfolding story, and by the time it is all revealed, a nostalgic and beautiful tale has transpired. I will definitely be keeping tabs on Sayers next project!

While there are several more debuts that I truly enjoyed, these are the standouts for me! I’d love to hear what debuts captured your heart this year! What do I need to add to my TBR?

Also, if you’re interested, read the rest of the “Best of…” lists for 2020 and 2019!

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