Top Ten 2015 YA Debuts That Haven’t Been on Enough Top Ten 2015 Lists

As I'm sure you all know by now, I'm a huge advocate for debuts. I've read so many amazing ones this year and sadly some of those books haven't gotten all the attention they deserve. Jenn Marie Thorne (debut author of the AMAZING novel The Wrong Side of Right) felt similarly, so today Jenn's sharing her Top Ten 2015 YA Debuts That Haven’t Been on Enough Top Ten 2015 Lists

Guest Post - Jenn Marie Thorne

As a member of the Fearless Fifteeners, I was lucky enough to get an early read of many of my fellow debuts’ books this year—and I was absolutely blown away.  I remember flipping to the last page of quite a few of these ARCs, thinking, “This is going to be on all the ‘Best of’ lists this fall.”

I was right on quite a few counts, I’m pleased to say! It’s been so thrilling to see books like Mosquitoland, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Red Queen, More Happy Than Not, My Heart and Other Black Holes, Everything, Everything, and An Ember in the Ashes lighting up the 2015 recaps. But there were other books that absolutely knocked my socks off that I feel deserve wider recognition than they’ve gotten so far.

So here’s my very incomplete list of 2015 YA debuts that deserve a greater share of the world’s attention.

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A gripping mystery and family drama told by a searching, broken and deeply unreliable narrator, this debut knocked the wind out of me on nearly every page. There is so much unique truth in this novel—from the moral weight of a baseball game to the truths about our families we refuse to acknowledge until it’s (almost) too late. My heart bled for Braden, and by the end of this debut, both of us were changed.

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"Skyscraping," Cordelia Jensen
A powerful novel in verse, Skyscraping tells the story of a teen living in New York during the height of the AIDS crisis whose world is shattered when she learns of her own father’s diagnosis. It’s a rich, humane and moving book, bursting with immediacy, set in a time and place that needs to be remembered.

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Sky and Phee are sisters living in Manhattan in the future, now a lethal minefield of POW camps, cults, cannibals and more. Alternating between their very different perspectives, along with the diary their mother wrote during the invasion and the months to follow, City of Savages is relentlessly paced, ridiculously inventive, and one hundred percent unputdownable.

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There are two alternate lives lived in this novel—Fi, who wasn’t scarred in an accident as a child, and Fiona, who was. What follows is powerfully life affirming, intricately plotted, and both fun and heartbreaking, sometimes at the exact same time. Fi’s story and Fiona’s are quite different, but both made me swoon and cheer and cry.

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Raised in a notorious cult, seventeen-year-old Minnow adjusts to life—not just in the outside world, but in the juvenile detention center where she awaits trial for a seemingly random assault. As Minnow comes to terms with the present, more and more details emerge about her past—along with resonant truths about blind faith, trust, female agency, and what it takes to survive unspeakable trauma. And the writing is the kind of gorgeous that matters most—I had to stop and reread several passages, jaw agape at how perfectly true they were.

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Phoebe is a street-racer on a planet called Castra, wholly controlled by powerful, string-pulling corporations. You read this right…car racing. In space. If that’s not enough to sell you on this book, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but as a capper, Tracked has extremely hot romance, intricate, gritty sci-fi worldbuilding, and more twists and turns than a grand prix course. In short—this book kicks serious ass.

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Rubin takes a high concept premise in this debut—it’s our world, except everybody knows exactly what day they will die—and makes it not only completely believable but hilarious as well. My one sentence review of this book would be, “It’s funny because it’s true.” Denton is a completely real, living, breathing, huge-mistake-making teenage boy, which makes his last day on earth (or is it?) all the more riveting.

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Yes, there’s a magical ability, a hidden community, an impossible-to-resist-but-she-really-should-resist-him boy, but let me tell you—Blood and Salt is one of a kind. Its details and rich language are totally idiosyncratic. I’ve never read another town like Quivara. Not sure it would be a great idea to go there in real life, especially since most people, you know, never make it back out, but I’m very glad I was able to visit it along with Ash Larkin through the pages of this unforgettable and ridiculously fun debut.

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And speaking of ridiculously fun…this debut takes the cake. Set in an alternate sixteenth century England in which the practice of magic is punishable by death, the Witch Hunter is like a hybrid of The Tudors and Buffy, with a whole lot of extra fun thrown in that’s all its own. An incredible balance of heart-stopping action, romance, betrayal and heroism, this debut is also an incredibly smart historical mash-up. When I didn’t spot it on the Goodreads Fantasy nominations list this year, I was royally pissed. (See what I did there?)

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[Brief disclaimer: Katelyn is my agent, whom I adore. But her debut stands on its own merits. So there.]

What happens when an ordinary teenaged girl—a virgin—finds out she’s expecting a child? No…seriously. An ordinary girl. Smart, brave, kind, but otherwise just like someone you’d know from school. And…what really happens? What would happen in real life to a girl like this? Immaculate is strikingly bold in its quietness, allowing you to see how a girl’s decision to be honest rolls through her family and her small town community in a way that feels completely authentic and plausible, and therefore stays with the reader for a good, long while.

About Jenn Marie Thorne:

Jenn Marie Thorne writes YA fiction from her home in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her dashing husband, her two daring toddlers, and her trusty hound Molly. An NYU-Tisch grad with a BFA in Drama, Jenn still enjoys making a fool of herself on at least a weekly basis. Other hobbies include writing about herself in the third-person, studying classical voice, learning languages, and traveling the world with her family. Her debut novel, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, is coming March 17, 2015 from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin).

What are some of your favorite 2015 debuts? Which ones do you think were under-hyped?

Guest Post by Jenn Marie Thorne


  1. I haven't read any of those... it's amazing how important hype can be in picking up books.

  2. I have Conviction at the top of my TBR list (well, somewhere near the top XD). That cover is so gorgeous. I may be the only one who's in love with the typography. Not enough people are talking about this book, and it kind of makes me sad.

    Becky Albertalli's book is a wonderfullllllll debut book.

  3. I have The Witch Hunter on my shelf that I haven't read yet! I hope I can get to it soon! A few of these are also ones that I really want to read, I'll have to go out and buy them soon!

  4. I haven't been in the book world much at all since March, so thank you for introducing these to me! Lots of them made my TBR. :)

  5. There are a few on here that are on my TBR. I actually just picked up Denton Little's Deathdate and can't wait to get to it. It's great to share some of the less hyped books from this year!

  6. I have not read any of the books on your list!! I do have a copy of Denton Little's Death Date, which I have to read though.

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week:

  7. I haven't heard of most of these and they all sound so good! Definitely will check if my local library has this! :)

  8. Oh nice list! I liked The Witch Hunter! I still need to read Blood & Salt! Great picks!

    Here's my Tuesday Post

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    Old Follower :)

  9. Oh wow. I'm always looking for new books to read. Have you read any of Courtney C. Stevens' books? She wrote Faking Normal and she has a new one now. She's in my SCBWI chapter and her books seem to win awards and such.

  10. I have to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly sometime because I have heard nothing but good things about it.

  11. Awesome list!! Both Skyscraping and Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly will be going on my best of 2015 list. I loved those books so much. I believe I cried for about half of Skyscraping.

  12. Yesssss more CONVICTION and THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY everywhere!! Those are unquestionably in my top 10, and it hurts my heart not to see them all over the place. (I actually own but haven't yet read every single other book on this list. God, I am so behind.) Other ones I would love to see get more attention - WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT (yes, genuinely - not only did I love it but I find myself rec-ing it for the stepmother-daughter relationship alllll the time), MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia, PLAY ON by Michelle Smith, and THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh and THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT by Melissa Grey, which are my favorite debut fantasies of the year.

    1. Ack! How could I forget THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT???? WRATH AND THE DAWN was on the Amazon best-of and nominated for Goodreads, I believe, but yes - LOVED it. I'll have to check out the others! Lots of reading to do. :)

  13. Most of these are new to me, Skyscraping has a BEAUTIFUL cover and sounds really heavy.

  14. Most of these I haven't heard of, which really speaks to the importance of popularity in convincing readers to pick up a particular book. Great list - I'm definitely going to give some of these a try!

  15. I haven't read any of those. :x I own Tracked, I really need to read it. I'm going to go check out the others on here that I haven't heard of. :)

  16. I'm reading Immaculate right now and it's really good! I really enjoyed this list, it's always nice to hear about under the radar books.
    My blog is:

  17. I loved The Witch Hunter so much!!! Tracked is on my tbr, it sounds really exciting. Glad you're highlighting other debuts!

  18. There were quite a few of these that I had no clue about at all, but others that I did know quite well! I actually have The Witch Hunter so I am looking forward to when I will get to read that one. Also, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly has caught my eye and I have seen some outstanding reviews so I really want to read that one at some point soon as well!

  19. YES TO DENTON LITTLE! OMG that book is sooo hilarious, but it's also thought-provoking and beautiful. I love the family dynamics! And the friendship! I LOL'ed way too many times when I read that book. :D

    I haven't read the others, but I would like to add THE ONE THING by Marci Lyn Curtis to that list. Loved that book immensely. There's music and romance and diversity and the most adorable and sassiest 10-year-old. :)

    Julie @ Books and Insomnia

  20. Thanks so much for sharing! I really do want to read Skyscraping and The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. I do love hearing about books that don't get as much attention. Makes me want to read them more!


  21. This is an awesome list! I've never heard of Conviction (but glad I have now) and I really still want to read Minnow Bly. Books like these need more press!

  22. I kind of liked The witch hunter, but wasn't completely blown away. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is really high on my wish list. Skyscraping has flown under my radar, but it sounds great.

  23. Ooh, I absolutely adore your topic choice! Shame on me, but I've only read one book from your list: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. That book was such a pleasant surprise because it was so much more than a gory novel - it was an emotional, gorgeously written story with complex and relatable characters. Definitely between my favorites of 2015.
    Your list reminded me of all these wonderful debuts that I didn't buy for one reason or another, so I'm off to do some shopping now. Wonderful list, Rachel! <33

  24. I have read only one book on your list (The Witch Hunter) and that too didn't sit too well with me. I almost read Conviction, but it kind of just flew out of my mind when I fell into a book slump. I should definitely go through this list before the year ends! Gahhh I love your list, Rachel <3

    Rhea @ Rhea's Neon Journal

  25. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is definitely on one of my favourites of the year! It was such an incredibly haunting and unique book that featured diversity. Thanks for the awesome list Rachel!

  26. Okay, don't be mad but....I've only read Everything That Makes You and The Witch Hunter. *Hides*

  27. Completely agree with you about The Witch Hunter! It was such an amazing book and I'm so excited for the sequel! I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz about it! I think there was pre-publication, but not as much since. Makes me sad panda!

    I have Blood and Salt and City of Savages on my TBR! I'm rally excited for them! I've heard Blood and Salt is SUPER creepy, but I'm not easily scared (I LOVE horror) so I'm trying not to let my expectations get TOO high, just in case, but it still looks amazing!


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