My Favorite 2011 Debut Authors

I’ve been reading YA lit non-stop since the end of college, but since I started blogging and reviewing the books I read, I’ve really kicked it up a notch.  I’ve gone from reading around 40 books a year, to over 80 last year, and now I’m over 100 this year!  Blogging this past year and a half has really opened me up to a wonderful network of teachers, librarians, bloggers, and authors.

I really can’t praise the debut authors of 2011 enough.  They’ve been incredibly generous and approachable on top of being crazy talented.  If you haven’t checked them out yet, the Class of 2K11 can be found here and The Elevensies can be found here.

I’ve read over 40 2011 debuts, so I decided to compile a list of my favorite debut authors.  These are the top 10 authors that have left me eager to read more of their work, whether it’s a sequel to their debut or something fresh.  And because I could never order these by favorite, I’m listing them in the order I read their books 🙂

Gae Polisner–Gae’s wonderful debut is The Pull of Gravity and she’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve been exposed to so many debut authors.  She helped me create and start my Students Want to Know feature.  Gae is also the first author to contact me and ask me to review her book.  I read TPoG in November 2010 and really loved it.  This past summer I wrote the teachers guide for it and am now teaching it with Of Mice and Men to the freshmen at our high school.  Besides all of this, Gae is an excellent writer plain and simple.  TPoG is a quiet novel, but it’s one that will stand the test of time.  I really can’t wait to read what she publishes next!

Lorraine Zago Rosenthal–Lorraine’s beautiful debut is Other Words for Love.  Lorraine contacted me a the end of 2010 to see if I’d like to be part of her blog tour for her novel’s debut this past January.  I received an ARC to read before my part of the blog tour and couldn’t put it down (My review).  It’s become one of the most popular novels in my classroom library.  Lorraine is truly talented and really knows how to create a character and connect both reader and character.  I hope she has a new book releasing soon.

Geoff Herbach–Stupid Fast is one of the best books with guy appeal that I’ve read in a long time.  Geoff Herbach really knows how to connect with guys that feel like they don’t quite fit in or where they’re heading.  Not only is Stupid Fast highly entertaining and funny, it has a wonderful message for its readers about family, friends, and being yourself.  Geoff has a sequel to Stupid Fast that’s set to release in the spring titled Nothing Special.  I’m beyond excited to read it!

Sara Bennett Wealer–My students read Sara’s debut Rival before interviewing her for our Students Want to Know post.  So many of the girls brought the book back to me raving about it and telling me that I need to read it.  One or two even ruined the ending on accident thinking that I had already read it.  One weekend I finally picked it up for myself and couldn’t get enough of it.  I knew the ending, but it didn’t matter because I was so connected to the characters and their stories.  Sara really knows how to develop layered characters that stick with you long after finishing the novel.  I haven’t heard much about a new novel in the works, but I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Veronica Roth–I heard so many rave reviews for Divergent that I knew it was a must read.  During the summer Veronica was part of an author tour that made a stop at Schuler Books & Music in Lansing that I attended with my friend and alumni book club.  Listening to her speak about the book really solidified my need to read Divergent.  I’ll admit that it took me a little bit to get into her debut, but once I did I couldn’t put it down!  Tris is a strong and admirable protagonist living in a dystopian world.  The ending of Divergent left me saying “Wow!” and begging for the sequel, Insurgent.

Amy Fellner Dominy–I love it when students come up to me, a book in hand, to tell me how much I need to read that book.  A couple of my students did that with OyMG after reading it for the interview with Amy Fellner Dominy.  I read OyMG this summer and couldn’t put it down. It’s a sweet, humorous book that packs a wonderful message.  Amy’s a talented author and I know she’s going to write more wonderful novels.

Carrie Harris–I’m not a zombie fan. I don’t watch The Walking Dead or anything like that.  Carrie’s debut novel is a zombie book titled Bad Taste in Boys.  I absolutely loved it!  Bad Taste in Boys is laugh out loud funny.  It is gross at times, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.  I’m pretty sure Carrie is writing either a sequel or a companion, so you better believe I’ll be reading it!

Kirsten Hubbard–Kelly at Stacked is a go-to librarian and blogger.  And when she highly recommends a book, in particular contemporary fiction, you read it.  I think all but one of the books she recommended have been rated highly by me.  So when Kelly told me how much she enjoyed Like Mandarin I knew I needed to read it sooner than I planned to.  Like Mandarin is a debut that I want to put in the hands of all of my female students, especially the freshmen.  I often felt like Grace, wishing to be like other girls and living in my head.  I see girls like Grace all the time at school.  Kirsten Hubbard is simply outstanding and really knows how to develop complex characters.  Her new book, Wanderlove, releases  on March 13th.  I have an ARC from NCTE which I can’t wait to read.

Jessica Martinez–The opening pages of Virtuosity grabbed me and never let go.  What a beginning!  What a fantastic debut!  To be honest, I should have included a tie in my Favorite Books of 2011 post because Virtuosity is really one of my favorites of the year.  I started reading it late in the afternoon this past summer and didn’t put it down until I finished it.  I sat there awe-struck wanting to read it again and read another book written by Jessica Martinez all at the same time.  I’m not involved in music in any way, at least not since middle school when I stopped taking band, but even then I never considered my instrument to be a part of me.  Carmen has so much going on in her life that’s causing her to make some difficult decisions, both morally and personally.  This story stayed with me for a while after reading it.  I’ve heard that Jessica Martinez has a new novel in the works, but that’s all I know.

Kendare Blake–Just like with zombies, I’m not a horror fan.  I’ll sometimes wake up from nightmares about horror movies I watched when I was eight.  It’s just not my thing.  Kendare signed up for my Students Want to Know feature, so I offered her debut to some of my students to read prior to the interview.  One of my boys in class came back about a week later telling me that Anna Dressed in Blood is the best book he’s ever read.  Well, any time a student tells me this I know I have to read it.  I did just that the following weekend and ended up positively loving Anna Dressed in Blood.  Is it gruesome at times?  Yes.  Is there humor?  Yes!  Is there a love story?  Yes.  Is this a book that will appeal to both guys and girls?  Yes!!  Almost every one of my students that has read Anna Dressed in Blood has returned it with rave reviews.  Kendare Blake has the perfect balance of humor and horror.  And not only that, she did an excellent job writing from a guy’s point of view.  Will I be reading the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, this summer?  Yes!!


  1. Soo many good books on this list! I loved Bad Taste in Boys!

  2. Great list. There were a lot of great debuts this year.
    -FABR Steph@FiveAlarmBookReviews

  3. Thanks for this, Sarah! It is such a huge compliment to be included here in a year when there were so many stellar debuts. You ARE the teacher every kid should be so lucky to have. Thanks for bringing me into your school and classroom. There is no higher award, nor compliment. ♥

    – gae

  4. Alec Bachman says:

    The books on this list that stand out most to me are Stupid Fast and Anna Dressed in Blood. Stupid fast seems like its right up my ally and the type of book I could get into, and anna dressed in blood seems very intdresting.

  5. Jordan Franklin says:

    Out of all of these books the most book I would read is Divergent. It seems like a really interesting book to read. I read the little summary about it & I was hooked instantly. At some point I will find time to read it, because I am currently reading at least four books. Also another that caught my was Anna Dressed in Blood. I haven’t read the summary over the book yet, but I think I will get to it sooner or later.

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