August is First Fiction Month on! Click here to read all our First Fiction coverage on the blog; click here to read our most recent coverage of debut novels. 

Publishers are always on the lookout for the next big thing, which means plenty of choice for fans of new voices. After highlighting four outstanding August debuts in our print issue, it's time to take a look back at the year as a whole. Here are our 12 most notable first novels of the year (so far!).


The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating by Carol Radziwill 

For fans of: Jennifer Weiner, Emma Straub, Jonathan Tropper

About the book: A young widow who's always lived in the shadow of her famous husband must take a new tack on life after his unexpected and sudden death. This story of self-discovery is fun, relatable and poignant.

About the author: Radziwill is a star on "The Real Housewives of New York," who honed her writing chops with a best-selling memoir, What Remains, which explores her own widowhood. 

Read more: Check out the review from our February issue.

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller

For fans of: Maggie Shipstead, Rachel Kushner, Jonathan Franzen

About the book: A family of four leaves their home in Alabama to reach the California coast by the time the Rapture arrives. Teenaged Jess and her older sister, Elise, have plenty of earthly problems to deal with along the way—and they're not as sure as their parents that the end is near.

About the author: Miller, who grew up in Mississippi, is currently the John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at Ole Miss. She published a short story collection, Big World, in 2009.

Read more: Check out the review from our February issue and our Q&A with Mary Miller.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

For fans of: Nick Hornby, Larry McMurtry, John Irving 

About the book: Told in the voices of five very different childhood friends, Butler's debut is a paean to small-town Midwestern life and an exploration of how friendships can change over time. Bonus: One of the characters just might be kinda-sorta based on a famous Wisconsin musician who went to high school with Butler.

About the author: A Wisconsin native, Butler attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop and lived in the Twin Cities before moving back home to Fall Creek with his wife, an attorney, and their two children.

Read more: Check out the interview from our March issue.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

For fans of: Daniel Woodrell, Tana French, Lisa Tucker

About the book: Set in a small town in the Ozarks, McHugh's debut follows a young girl whose friend's disappearance stirs up questions—and secrets—relating to her own missing mother.

About the author: McHugh drew inspiration from her own experience of moving with her family to the Ozarks as a teen—where she first discovered that small-town life didn't necessarily mean an idyllic life—as well as from the real-life disappearance of a Missouri teen.

Read more: Check out the review from our March issue, and our Q&A with McHugh.

remember me like this jacketRemember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

For fans of: Leah Stewart, Chris Bohjalian, Jacquelyn Mitchard

About the book: The story begins four years after then-11-year-old Justin Campbell was kidnapped—on the day that his father, Eric, receives a phone call saying Justin is coming home. Though they're overjoyed, the Campbells soon discover that putting their family back together might be just as painful as having it ripped apart.

About the author: Johnston is the current Director of Creative Writing at Harvard, and he was one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" in 2005. 

Read more: Check out the review from our May issue.

elizabeth is missing jacketElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

For fans of: Elizabeth L. Silver, Tatiana de Rosnay, Lisa Genova

About the book: Maud is worried about her best friend, Elizabeth, whom she hasn't seen in what feels like ages. But her daughter, and Elizabeth's son, blame Maud's worry on her increasing dementia. It soon becomes clear to the reader that Elizabeth's disappearance is bringing long-buried memories to the surface of Maud's now-cloudy mind, and the reader is completely involved in this double mystery.

About the author: Healey not only writes books—she knows how to bind them, having completed a book-binding degree in London before getting her MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Read more: Check out the review from our June issue.

what is visible jacketWhat Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins

For fans of: Geraldine Brooks, Tracy Chevalier

About the book: A forgotten American life takes center stage in this compelling debut, which tells the story of Laura Bridgman, a deaf, blind and mute woman who was born in the early 1800s. She was the first person to learn to communicate by finger-spell, a language that was later taught to Helen Keller. 

About the author: Elkins is a screenwriter, playwright and essayist who has lived in cities around the globe. She has degrees from Duke, Boston University and Florida State.

Read more: Check out the review from our June issue and our Q&A with Kimberly Elkins.

The Quick by Lauren Owen

For fans of: John Harwood, Susanna Clarke, Michel Faber

About the book: This homage to all things Gothic is the rare book that both feels completely grounded in its period setting and completely relevant to our modern times—and puts a creative twist on the somewhat tired vampire trend.

About the author: British author Owen is currently completing her doctorate in English Literature at Durham University. 

Read more: Check out the review from our July issue or our interview with Lauren Owen.

California by Edan Lepucki

For fans of: Karen Thompson Walker, Kazuo Ishiguro

About the book: After the apocalypse, a young couple finds all the society they need in each other—until Frida realizes she's pregnant. Their search for civilization leads them to a mysterious settlement that may or may not provide the sanctuary they seek.

About the author: A graduate of Oberlin and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Lepucki has worked as a staff writer for The Millions.

Read more: Check out the review from our July issue.

land of love and drowningLand of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

For fans of: Edwidge Danticat, Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison

About the book: Decades of colorful Caribbean history come to life in this engaging first novel, which follows the fortunes of one family after their arrival in the Virgin Islands and includes a touch of magic.

About the author: Yanique is a native of the Virgin Islands and now lives with her family in Brooklyn. She has received a Fulbright scholarship for her writing. 

Read more: Check out the review from our July issue and Tiphanie Yanique's behind the book essay.

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

For fans of: Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Tropper 

About the book: Research scientist David Leveraux starts to wonder whether the artificial sweetener he's created in his lab—and unleashed on the world—has a dark side.

About the author: Born in Germany to a Norwegian mother and Texan father, Clark has lived in five states and five countries. He is the author of a short story collection, Vladimir's Mustache, and currently teaches writing at Augsburg College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Read more: Check out the review from our August issue.

The Home Place by Carrie La Seur

For fans of: Paulette Jiles, Jennifer Haigh, Larry McMurtry  

About the book: Alma thinks she has left her small-town past behind her, but when her troubled younger sister is found dead on the side of the road, she is pulled back to Montana to discover the truth—and care for her orphaned young niece.

About the author: Like her main character, La Seur is a lawyer who left her home state of Montana to practice in the big city.

Read more: Check out the review from our August issue or read our Q&A with Carrie La Seur.


Agree? Disagree? let us know in the comments!


Related in BookPage: Check out our 2013 list of noteworthy debuts.

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