With spring already underway, it’s time to take a look at the
most anticipated debut books of 2021's second quarter. The next three months promise plenty of great memoirs, novels, and collections for your reading pleasure — so get out your TBRs and prepare to add some titles, folks.
Whether it’s a previously unpublished writer releasing their first-ever book, or a novelist trying their hand at a memoir, there are plenty of debuts to look forward to. Nonfiction fans can look forward to three standout LGBTQ+ memoirs — Lauren Hough’s
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, Akwaeke Emezi’s Dear Senthuran, and Krys Malcolm Belc’s The Natural Mother of the Child — landing in stores in the coming weeks. And speculative fiction readers are sure to love Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades and Laura Brooke Robson’s Girls at the Edge of the World, while rom-com lovers would do well to pick up copies of ZR Ellor’s May the Best Man Win and Emery Lee’s Meet Cute Diary.
Here are the most anticipated debut books hitting stores in the second quarter of 2021:
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 March 30
Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut novel follows one family through a single, tumultuous year in New Mexico. When Amadeo’s 15-year-old runaway daughter returns home pregnant, he has no choice but to take her in. The birth of his grandson ripples through Amadeo’s family, as five generations try, fail, and try again to do what’s best for one another.
2 April 6
After his prom-posal plans are leaked online, high school senior Sky expects blowback. (Being gay in small-town America isn’t easy, after all.) With 30 days to go until he asks his crush out, Sky finds himself caught up in a school-wide search for the homophobic leaker
. 3 Apr. 6 This Will Be My Undoing author Morgan Jerkins publishes her debut novel this April. Caul Baby centers on the Melancon family, who sell pieces of their magical cauls to those in need of miracles… and willing to pay for them. But when the Melancons choose to raise a child born outside their family — but with a caul — their decision sends ripples through the community, forever changing the lives of their new daughter and her birth mother. 4 April 6
As the Roaring Twenties play out in New York City, three orphaned children — Charles, Patrick, and Opal — leave the Big Apple behind and light out for Montana. Charles throws a wrench in their plans, convincing his younger compatriots to jump off the orphan train and find a home for themselves — but their new life on the ranch is hard. It grows harder still when Charles is accused of a crime, and his long history in New York comes back to haunt him.
5 April 6
In Sanjena Sathian’s riveting first novel, a boy struggling to live up to his immigrant parents’ expectations teams up with his neighbor, a fellow second-generation American, to harvest ambition through alchemical means. Years later, he’s reunited with Anita, and forced into a new and more dangerous gold heist.
6 April 6
A college student born into a well-off family in Pyongyang goes searching for her missing boyfriend in Ann Shin’s heartfelt debut. As famine ravages rural North Korea, Jin makes a trip home to his family’s small village, only to find them in dire straits. When he fails to return to Pyongyang, Suja goes looking for him, totally unprepared for what she’ll find.
7 April 13 All the Birds in the Sky author Charlie Jane Anders makes her YA debut this April with Victories Greater Than Death. The clone of a famed alien military leader, Tina knows that one day her beacon will summon her to meet her destiny among the stars. But when she’s finally called up, Anders’ heroine realizes that she’s woefully unprepared for her big moment. 8 April 13 Bolu Babalola brings classic stories from West Africa, Greece, and the Middle East into the modern day in her debut collection, Love in Color. If you’re looking for sweeping love stories to read this spring and summer, you’re going to want to pick this one up. 9 April 13
In her memoir-in-essays, Lauren Hough recalls her childhood in the Family — that is, the cult known as the Children of God — and how she and her mother finally left. Hough’s also held myriad odd jobs, had brushes with the law, and started over more than once. Now she’s telling her story, in
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing. 10 April 13
Two Black British creatives have their love tried and tested in Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novel. The photographer at the heart of
Open Water is enamored with his dancer girlfriend, but can’t bring himself to open up to her fully, which may spell the end of their relationship. 11 April 20
Fed up with searching for their respective Mr. Rights, two BFFs decide to move in together, pool their resources, and keep men at a distance. When a crush turns more serious, though, the strength of their friendship will be tested
. 12 April 20
When her twin vanishes without a trace, a woman must return to their childhood home and confront the darkness that still haunts the gothic mansion — specifically, “Mirrorland,” a dark fantasy world that El and Cat dreamed up as children. Now, Cat’s going back to Mirrorland, but will she find El… or something else entirely?
13 April 20
Michelle Zauner’s debut memoir is already one of the most-talked-about books of the year.
Crying in H Mart takes readers through Zauner’s childhood in Eugene, Oregon, her time in Seoul with her mother and grandmother, her lauded musical career, and her mother’s untimely death. 14 April 27
Another of the year’s hottest memoirs, Gina Frangello’s
Blow Your House Down lays out the story of her cataclysmic affair. Thrown by the sudden death of her best friend, Frangello took on a double life: keeping up appearances as a wife and mother, while engaging in a passionate, extramarital affair. 15 April 27
When self-centered Grace Welles accidentally lands a boyfriend by rescuing him from a group of bullies, she finds an escape from her boring life at boarding school. But after her devil-may-care attitude leads to the demise of her relationship, Grace realizes she has some soul-searching to do.
16 April 27
Written by the owner-operator of Preszler Woodshop, a company that builds custom canoes,
Little and Often tells the story of Trent Preszler’s woodcarving career, which began when he inherited a well-loved toolbox from his estranged father. This profoundly moving story is a must-read. 17 April 27
Thora and Santi’s relationship ends when an unexpected tragedy separates them — for a time, at least. The two souls find their way back to one another — not always as lovers, and sometimes not even as friends — again and again, in Catriona Silvey’s poignant debut.
18 May 4
Quinn hasn’t met a problem she can’t wrangle with a list. She tallies the negative, including her worst fears, to gain control over them. But when excerpts from her journal turn up online, she has to race to recover it before it’s too late.
19 May 4
The first book in
The View co-host Sunny Hostin’s debut series, Summer on the Bluffs takes place in Oak Bluffs: a 19th-century town on Martha’s Vineyard, where the wealthiest Black Americans — including the Obamas — enjoy their summers. The story centers on Perry, who grew up spending time on the Bluffs with her godmother and godsisters, and will now return for one last summer. 20 May 4
Noah Ramirez writes happily ever afters for an audience of dedicated readers, who his believe his trans romance stories are real — but when his Meet Cute Diary is revealed to be fictional, Noah’s blogging career lands in the toilet. He needs a real-life love story to get his fans back, and — as luck would have it — a boy named Drew agrees to fake-date Noah in order to help save his site. When their pretend relationship starts to feel real, things get complicated.
21 May 4
Mystery fans will find a lot to love in Mia P. Manansala’s debut,
Arsenic and Adobo, the first book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series. The novel centers on Lila, whose efforts to save her aunt’s restaurant from financial ruin are complicated by the suspicious death of her ex-boyfriend — a case in which Lila herself is the prime suspect. 22 May 4
Larissa Pham’s memoir-in-essays moves effortlessly between personal experiences and big-picture, philosophical discussions on life and love. With its ruminations on art, sex, and everything in between, Pham’s debut will have you hooked.
23 May 4
In Stacey Swann’s debut novel, a prodigal son’s return may spell disaster for his East Texas family. March Briscoe left town after he slept with his brother’s wife; now he’s back, and what begins with a chilly reception from his mother soon spirals out of control, as marriages are tested and lives are irrevocably changed.
24 May 11
Suzanne Dunn and Matt Dorff make their debut under the pen name L.R. Dorn with
The Anatomy of Desire: a reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy for the modern age. When a woman turns up dead and Cleo Ray — the fitness influencer last seen with her — goes missing, questions about Cleo begin to pile up. 25 May 18
Brian Broome’s memoir of growing up as a gay Black man in the midwest lands in stores this quarter. With conscious nods to Gwendolyn Brooks,
Punch Me Up to the Gods is a stunning introduction to a new literary star on the rise. 26 May 18
ZR Ellor’s YA debut centers on Lukas, a high-school football star whose cheer-captain ex, Jeremy, broke his heart and came out as trans. Now, Jeremy’s planning a campaign for homecoming king, and Lukas is determined to bring him down. As the competition heats up, so does the romance between the two seniors, even as they try to deny it.
27 May 18
Sasha was once a household name, but her career hit the skids after she was doxxed by an online troll. Luckily, her old friend Dyson has the perfect job for Sasha in his new business venture: a retreat designed to deprogram men from toxic masculinity. As she digs deep into her new gig, however, Sasha begins to question why she she was really hired.
28 May 18
Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s debut novel is a queer gothic thriller you can’t afford to miss. It centers on Jonah, who spends his days waiting tables and dreaming of making it in the theater world. His love affair with Richard, an award-winning playwright, may lead Jonah to the success he craves — but a summer spent in his lover’s eerie Hamptons mansion could change everything.
29 May 18
Twenty years ago, at the age of 8, Chrissie killed a boy. Now living under an assumed name with her young daughter, she’s just learned that someone from her past may be hot on their trail. Nancy Tucker’s
The First Day of Spring moves from past to present in Chrissie’s life, exploring the dreadful turns that led her to kill at such a tender age. 30 May 25
In Kate Bromley’s debut rom-com, a romance novelist has given up on finding her own happily ever after. But when she learns her old flame is a member of her best friend’s wedding party, things get messy. With a big writing deadline and the wedding date both creeping closer, can Kara let bygones be bygones with Ryan in order to ensure her own personal success?
31 June 1
An illustrious private school is rocked by scandal when an anonymous insider begins texting the details of two students’ sordid lives to their classmates. With their secrets inching into the light, popular kids Devon and Chiamaka need to find the leaker, known as Aces, before everyone learns what they’ve worked so hard to hide.
32 June 1
Set in 1926 Harlem, Nekesa Afia’s
Dead Dead Girls kicks off a mystery series that fans of the genre of sure to love. Kidnapping survivor Louise Lloyd is thrown into the middle of a murder case when she’s arrested and threatened with jail time — unless she help the cops find a killer who targets the city’s Black girls. 33 June 1
First published in South Korea in 2016, Choi Eunyoung’s debut story collection,
Shoko’s Smile, is finally headed to U.S. shelves this year. Centering on young women’s experiences in the author’s home country, this book is perfect for fans of Naoise Dolan and Cho Nam-joo. 34 June 1
Ashley C. Ford’s memoir recounts her fraught relationship with her father, who was incarcerated for the first 30 years of her life — and her journey towards selfhood.
35 June 1
Zakiya Delila Harris’ debut novel,
The Other Black Girl, takes place in the overwhelmingly white world of U.S. publishing. As her company’s sole Black employee, Nella is on the verge of quitting her job when Hazel, a Black woman born and raised in Harlem, arrives in the next cubicle over. Hazel quickly becomes the apple of the publishing house’s eye — just as a campaign designed to force Nella out of her job begins to heat up. 36 June 1
How do you reach all the “normal” high school milestones when you’re the only out gay kid you know? That’s the question that leads Jay to create his own “Gay Agenda”: a checklist of romantic to-dos. And when his family moves to the big city, Jay suddenly has a huge network of other LGBTQ+ students to mingle with… but he might not be able to complete his list the way he’d planned.
37 June 1
A genre-bending novel about found family, Joss Lake’s
Future Feeling centers on Pen, a trans man whose jealousy over an influencer’s transition causes him to accidentally banish a third trans man, Blithe, to an alternate world of pure emotional turmoil. Tasked with the rescue mission, Pen and Aiden — the influencer he intended to hex in the first place — track Blithe down, but saving him will take more than finding his body. 38 June 8
A memoir-in-letters from the author of
Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi’s Dear Senthuran is an intimate exploration of the author’s identity, relationships, and health. For their many fans, it’s not to be missed. 39 June 8
Harlow wants nothing more than to save West Finch, Maine from the next inevitable storm. But when her best friend’s twin brother survives a suicide attempt, Harlow finds herself drawn into their domestic drama
. 40 June 8
Winnie can see parallel universes, but she keeps her talents a secret from everyone — except her father. He wants her to use her gift to intervene in the war raging around them, and at first, she refuses. But when her father’s lab assistant is wounded, Winnie unintentionally slips into a world where he survives… and finds herself staring at her double.
41 June 8
Évike is the only pagan girl in her village to be born without magic, which makes her an easy target when a group of Woodsmen come to claim a sacrifice for the king. But when she and the Woodsmen’s captain, Gáspár, are the only survivors of a deadly battle, Évike learns that he’s just as different as she is, and on a mission of his own — and together, they set out to foil a coup
. 42 June 8
With a flood coming to destroy her world, one aerialist sets out on a mission to save herself and her sisters. Natasha and the other Royal Flyers don’t know whether they’ll be saved with the Kostrovian court or left to die with the peasants, but Natasha has a plan. If she can get Prince Nikolai to notice her, she might just have a shot at saving her found family.
43 June 8
When hidden past is revealed at a party, Allie is thrust into a cat-and-mouse game. She thought she’d left everything behind when she moved to D.C. with her family; now, the man who inexplicably knew her old nickname is dead, and the police insist they were having an affair. Someone’s impersonating her, and Allie must revisit her past if she wants to make it out alive.
44 June 15
When Krys Malcolm Belc’s partner adopted his young son, official paperwork used the phrase “the natural mother of the child” to refer to Belc, who is nonbinary and transmasculine. Containing a mix of previously published essays and new thinkpieces on Belc’s journey as a nonbinary parent,
The Natural Mother of the Child is a captivating memoir of family, identity, and experience. 45 June 15
Betty Roux just wants to escape. Unable to deal with the crushing weight of her father’s death, she runs away to New York City, where she falls in with Anthony — an up-and-coming indie filmmaker who wants to put her in his next picture. Against her family’s advice, Betty follows Anthony to a remote island getaway, where she intends to spend the next month filming with a handful of others. But things are not as they seem on Anthony’s movie set, and Betty may soon have no way back to the mainland
. 46 June 15
After Voya fails to pass a test that will grant her magical powers, she’s offered a second chance to receive her witch’s mantle… but at a steep cost. She must kill her first love, or else her whole family will be stripped of their magic. Voya has never been in love, but she’s not letting that stop her. She signs up for a brand-new matchmaking service and is paired with Luc, a guy she can’t conceive of falling in love with. But with the clock ticking, Voya will need to fall in love,
fast, or find something else to sacrifice . 47 June 15
Caitlin Wahrer’s compelling debut novel,
The Damage, is set in small-town New England. After a young man is brutally assaulted, and the rapist is allowed to walk free until his trial, one family is pulled into a taut drama that may have dire consequences for them all. 48 June 15
Flight attendant Ava could have gone the rest of her life without meeting Jack again, but, as luck would have it, her nemesis has turned up as a passenger on the final flight of her career. Things go from bad to worse when their plane is forced to make an unexpected weekend pitstop in Belize, leaving Ava to deal with Jack’s infuriating presence for far longer than she ever anticipated. But now that they’re surrounded by the sun and the surf, Jack’s starting to look better and better...
49 June 22
Abigail and Caroline have always lived in the spotlight, as the children of a megachurch pastor who went viral with a sermon on sexual purity. Abigail, the sermon’s co-author, is gearing up for the wedding of her dreams when her father’s extramarital affair comes to light. She flees from the scandal with Caroline, who has been having her own crisis of faith, to the safety of their late grandmother’s ranch. But as Abigail’s big day draws nearer, the sisters must decide where they stand on matters of faith and family
. 50 June 22
Still reeling from the loss of her long-running TV gig, Sloane gets a welcome respite from the terror of unemployment when her family asks her to produce their next film. What they fail to mention is that the movie’s leading man is none other than Joseph, the guy Sloane swore she’d never work with again. But then, at least they aren’t co-stars this time… that is, until the leading lady is fired and Sloane’s called upon to replace her.
51 June 29
Courtney Cook opens up about living with borderline personality disorder in her illustrated debut memoir. Capturing the highs and lows of BPD,
The Way She Feels is a tender, relatable book from a commanding new voice.