Kicking off the new year over at Top Ten Tuesday, it’s debut sharing season! Here are my top ten picks from the Class of 2014… all of them YA. How did that happen? Didn’t I swear to read more adult? Ah well, they have a lot of cross-genre appeal, so let’s hope they count.

1. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Goodreads – April 1st 2014 by Greenwillow

Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family.

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean.

This is a sweeping and harrowing novel about a girl who can’t read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. What choices will she make? How will she build a future on an earth ravaged by climate change?

Named by the American Booksellers Association as a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick.

 

2. Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson

Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. LarsonGoodreads – January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

 

3. The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings

The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay CummingsGoodreads – June 10th 2014 by Greenwillow / HarperCollins

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

 

4. Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither

Falls the Shadow by Stefanie GaitherGoodreads – September 16th 2014 by Simon and Schuster BFYR

When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died.

Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and it was like nothing had ever happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to grant their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth. So this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and crazy anti-cloning protesters want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to standing up for her sister too, and she’s determined to prove her innocence now—at whatever the cost. But the deeper she digs for the truth, the further Cate’s carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, unveiling a world filled with copies and lies, where nothing and no one—not even her sister— is completely what they seem.

In a pulse pounding debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?

 

5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeGoodreads – January 28th 2014 by Balzer & Bray

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

 

6. Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Dear Killer by Katherine EwellGoodreads – April 1st 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

 

7. The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika JohansenGoodreads – July 8th 2014 by Harper

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

The Queen of the Tearling introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of The Hunger Games, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of The Game of Thrones, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

 

8. Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne

Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia BlackburneGoodreads – July 8th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner—and danger is a way of life.

 

9. Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Trust Me, Im Lying by Mary Elizabeth SummerGoodreads – October 2014 by Delacorte

Fans of Ally Carter, especially her Heist Society readers, will love this teen mystery/thriller with sarcastic wit, a hint of romance, and Ocean’s Eleven–inspired action.

Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

 

10. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonGoodreads – March 25th 2014 by Candlewick Press

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

 

There are some absolutely stunning covers in this selection – I am particularly in love with Walton’s and Cumming’s covers. Well done publishers! These books don’t scream typical YA to me, so let’s hope for some crossover appeal. 🙂

Check out my Pinterest Debut Author Board or my Goodreads shelf for more 2014 debuts. Can’t wait to see what y’all have spotted!

Kay

Your ghost host at Dead Book Darling
Kay's been blogging about urban fantasy, young adult and werewolves since 2009. She's a firm believer in the many uses of the towel, the science of deduction and other fandom in-jokes. To support her book-buying habit, Kay keeps up a day-job as a science journalist (so feel free to ask her about Physics).

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