Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
All the way at the end of the Purple metro line in a sprawling Indian city lies a jumble of tin-roofed homes where nine-year-old Jai lives with his family. When his classmates begin to go missing, readers witness the unfolding of a tragedy through the eyes of a child as he has his first perilous collision with an unjust and complicated wider world.
Such a Fun Age
This Reese Book Club pick is a page-turning story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter and her well-intentioned employer. Emira Tucker is watching Alix Chamberlain’s toddler and accused of kidnapping—just for being at a supermarket. A crowd gathers and the encounter is filmed. Emira is furious, and Alix resolves to make things right. The video unearths someone from Alix’s past and the connection threatens to undo them both.
How Much of These Hills Is Gold
C Pam Zhang
This novel of two siblings on the run, set against the twilight of the American gold rush, will haunt readers. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam, are suddenly alone in a land that refutes them. As they flee the threats of their western mining town to bury their father, secrets are revealed in a stunning story of survival and a search for home.
August is an average twelve-year-old who likes dogs, fishing, and helping out on his family’s Michigan dairy farm. But following his parents’ divorce, his mother decides that she and August need to start over somewhere new. There, his role in an act of violence throws him off course, so he flees to a ranch in rural Montana where he learns that even the smallest communities have dark secrets.
A group of college friends reunite in a remote inn after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance. When Julie went missing, no one believed she would return—except Elise, who knows her better than anyone. But when Julie does return—with no memory of what’s happened—something is wrong. As the weekend unfurls, it becomes clear that the Julie who vanished is not the Julie who came back.
The Prized Girl
Amy K. Green
When teen pageant queen Jenny is found murdered, her small town grieves alongside her picture-perfect parents. The most obvious suspect is one of her fans, an older man who may have gotten too close for comfort. But Jenny’s half-sister, Virginia—the sarcastic black sheep of the family—isn’t so sure, and takes matters into her own hands to find the killer.
Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, feels at odds with the Midwestern university town where he studies biochem. Wallace is distant even with his circle of friends. But a series of confrontations and an encounter with a young straight man fractures his defenses.
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Adunni, a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl, knows what she wants: an education. This, says her mother, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her future. When her father sells her to be the wife of a local man, she runs away, and while misfortunes muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it.
A Good Man
Thomas Martin was a devoted family man who had all the trappings of an enviable life. He thought he was a good man, but after committing a horrific deed—that he can never undo—Thomas grapples with his sense of self. Is he a victim or a monster?
Jess Walker travels to the east of England for one reason: to be taught by Dr. Lorna Clay, whose seminars transform Jess’s thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna’s thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly knit group of rule-breakers. But the dynamic between the friends soon darkens and a tragedy reveals a terrible secret.
Secrets rock small communities, and acts of violence force lives to swerve. A young Nigerian woman is determined to get an education and find her voice, and immigrant siblings search for home as they struggle to survive during the American gold rush.
These are just some of the themes of ten dazzling 2020 debut novels that herald fresh, electric, and diverse new voices in fiction. In settings that transport readers from the American West, to India, Nigeria, and the east of England, these stories will at turns break your heart, make you laugh, frighten and inspire you. Each promises to enthrall, mesmerize, and expand your perspective. And if you’re looking for gifts for the readers in your life, check out our list of Best Literary Fiction Books to Give as Gifts.
Featured image by Robert Driscoll