Best debut novels

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today I’m back with another post inspired by Top 5 Tuesday, which is a weekly meme created by the lovely Shanah at the Bionic Bookworm. You can visit here for the upcoming topics!

This week, the topic is top five debut novels. Tbh, I never know whether a book is a debut or not. But I went through Goodreads (come say hi!) and realised that I’ve actually read quite a few debuts. So instead of doing a top five, I thought I’d just talk about some of my favourite debuts!

There are three categories. “Yep, that’s a debut” includes those books that are still great and that I love, but are still a little unrefined and feel like debuts. Next, we have “good but no cigar” for those debuts that are near perfect, they just lack a little something to make it perfect. Finally, we have “writing a weak debut? we don’t know her” for debuts that are perfect in every way.

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Yep, that’s a debut

Legend by Marie Lu: this is (IMO), the definition of “yep, that’s a debut”. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s just a little unrefined. However, I think Lu wrote this when she was 15 or something? So we’ll let it slide. Legend is still one of my favourite YA dystopians, and it has a lot of my favourite elements (namely a corrupt government).

The Lost Girls by Heather Young: this is a thriller/mystery, and I love it a lot even though I rarely talk about it. The setting is fantastic: it’s so descriptive and you really feel like you’re at the house in the summer and winter. I really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend it. It’s a bit slower-paced than you’d expect from a thriller, so just know that going in.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: I just recently read Evelyn Hardcastle, and I think it’s a really strong debut. It’s super complex, but all comes together seamlessly in the end.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: this is another book that is good, but not amazing, and is definitely a little unrefined. It’s one of my all-time favourites, but I can see the flaws.

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Good but no cigar

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: I think the strongest thing about this book was the timeliness of it. Honestly, the BLM aspects aside, it was just a “good” debut. The characters, the pacing, the relationships, the setting were all good, but not great. However, this book is super emotional and super topical, which I think makes it stand out.

The Martian by Andy Weir: this is another book that is good but not great, but has some aspect that pushes it closer to the “great” side, namely the humor. I never laugh when reading books (not because I’m heartless, just because I don’t really laugh when reading things), but this book made me literally laugh out loud. It’s so funny, and the main character is great.

Looking for Alaska by John Green: listen. I know John Green is hit or miss, but no matter how many times I read this book, I still love it. I definitely think Looking for Alaska is Green’s best novel, and if you only read one of his books, it should be this one.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: this is the book that really started the YA dystopian trend, and I still think it’s the best one. I recently re-watched the movie and was reminded of how brilliant it actually is? Like, there’s so much good in this book, and the whole series works as a cohesive series.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: my biggest complaint with this book is it was long. But honestly, I don’t think that it could’ve been edited down, either. Maybe the first half could have a little, but everything was necessary to build the characters and the setting and everything, so it made sense. But, because it was so long, it’s going in the good category.

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Writing a weak debut? We don’t know her

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: possibly the best debut I have ever read in my life. I am not even joking when I say this is a perfect book in my eyes. I don’t have much to say about this book other than I love it a ton.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I think this book is another near-perfect book. The writing is amazing, the plot is fantastic, the settings are so great. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: this book is easy to forget that it’s a debut. It’s just so beautifully written. Like, yes, the character development could be a bit better. But the writing, the settings, the atmosphere, and the pacing make up for it (for me, at least). It’s hands down the most magical book I’ve ever read.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: I didn’t know that Fight Club was his debut, tbh! The character development, plot twists, message, and ending are all amazing. If you haven’t read Fight Club yet, I highly highly recommend it.

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyI didn’t know this was his debut either. I know this is a somewhat controversial book, but I fall into the “loving it” category. I think it’s one of those books everyone should read, and that it will be relevant for a long time.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: by now we probably all know that Red Rising is one of my favourite books. My biggest criticism of it is that it uses the “harm a woman to advance a man’s storyline” trope, which is shitty. However, Mustang is one of my favourite characters ever, the action is fantastic, the side characters are brilliant, and everything else about this book is perfect.

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So those are some of my favourite debuts! Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? Are there any debuts you think I should try? Let me know!

Thanks for reading! xx


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34 thoughts on “Best debut novels

  1. Love perks and the night circus! Also I think HG is pretty great! Like a lot of people hate on it and lump it in with Twilight but I think it’s a lot better than that! It has its flaws, but overall it’s pretty good!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First WHAT, Lu was 15 years old when she wrote Legend??? I don’t like her writing very much, but the plot and book overall, from what I remember as a teen, was really great.

    I really want to read ‘fight club’ this summer, I haven’t even watched the movie and now I’m at the point where I’d rather just read the book first? And I keep putting off both? I have the same problem with ‘gone girl’ and ‘the girl on the train’, so want to watch the movie, but not before reading the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know???? Like, I’ll forgive all the issues because I wasn’t that talented at 15.

      Yes, Eline, definitely read it!!! Both the book and the movie are amazing and I highly recommend both. Honestly, I watched the movie before I read the book, and I don’t think it made the reading experience any worse. I’d definitely recommend rereading it after you’ve watched the movie, though, and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great discussion. I agree with you, The Hate U Give was okay and relevant but not amazing. I look forward to reading her second book.
    It’s also interesting that Donna Tartt’s debut is The Secret History – I would’ve thought it’s The Little Friend, because The Secret History was personally my favourite book by her!
    I loved Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere but haven’t read her debut but I really have to!
    The Night Circus for me actually felt like a debut, also considering that until today she has never published anything else. The writing was great, but the plot and characters weren’t spectacular for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And same, I’m super excited for On the Come Up.
      I know, The Secret History didn’t feel like a debut at all! And I definitely recommend Ng’s debut, it was perfect.
      That’s totally fair! I love good writing, so if something has good writing, I tend to overlook poorer plot and characters lol but I totally agree that they were weaker

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read some but sadly not all on your list. I particularly enjoyed The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (what a complex book to have as your debut eh?), The Night Circus (such good fun) and THUG. I haven’t posted my list yet but it’s got THUG and The Night Circus on too as I think they’re such popular choices.

    I’m always really surprised at what turns out to be someone’s debut but I always like to take a look at their history and am secretly relieved when it turns out they are a journalist or writing teacher or something because I always wonder how they could be *that* good first go.

    Or there’s the other option as I’m pretty sure The Night Circus took a looong time to write!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh so glad you agree on all those! I know, Evelyn Hardcastle was so complex, I was so impressed with how it all came together in the end. And I think THUG and The Night Circus were on like 90% of lists today lol.

      Very true! There are so many authors who were some type of writer beforehand, which makes me feel a bit better about their amazing debuts lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m looking forward to seeing what the writer of Evelyn Hardcastle will do next, I think he’s got another book coming out in 2020 or 2021 (I need to recheck). I’m hoping it’s just as suitably bizarre and fascinating!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfect 5 star reads are the hardest!! Like YES I read a perfect book but like….there’s really no other way to tell people that than to physically shove the book under their noses and make them read it 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree with you on The Hate U Give and The Martian, though I don’t think The Hunger Games was a debut (I think Collins published The Underland Chronicles first). And I really need to read The Night Circus already! I’m so late to the game on that one.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I haven’t read them, but I’ve heard good things! I really need to check them out one day. Maybe I’ll read her whole backlist in anticipation of the new Hunger Games prequel!

        And I hope so, too! I really do need to pick it up soon!

        Liked by 1 person

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